How much of all the information that crosses a senior casino marketing exec’s desk is really relevant?

I’ve gotten a lot of feedback on my new book, “Conrad on Casino Marketing”. Most of it has been positive, and that has been gratifying. But one comment still gnaws at me a little - it was from a good friend, but it came to me accidentally, so I know he was being candid: “Light reading,” he said, “but good at reminding you of the simple things that you’ve forgotten.”

Light reading? Simple things? Certainly the book hadn’t intended to be a mathematical financial marketing model. But “light reading?” This “senior strategist’s” pride was stung. Light reading?

But the comment got me to thinking about “hard” marketing (ratios, reinvestment rates, ROIs, cluster analysis, CRM applications, etc.) versus “soft” marketing (leadership, relationship building, customer service, creating “fun,” etc.). And then I got to thinking of all that information that crosses the senior casino marketing exec’s desk (or doesn’t) and how much of it is really relevant. Which leads me to some “light” comments on the marketing information that really matters - and that which doesn’t.

As an operator or marketer you should always have the following information at your fingertips:

• Total tracked play and carded head count over the last day, week, month and year - so that you can tell if the frequent players who like you enough to give you this juicy tracking and contact information continue to like you.

• Active players report - depending on your type of gaming market this is the report that tells you over the last six, 12, 18 or 24 months (set your own time frame) how many players have visited at least once. Be sure to continually add new players and drop off inactive players and this will tell you if your player base is growing or shrinking.

• Host production reports - these are reports that will tell you if your hosts are finding players of worth, whether they are growing (or maintaining) business from their hosted players, and whether essentially they are business builders or just highly paid glad-handers.

• Marketing event and program financial pro formas, prior- and post-analysis - this will tell you if all that money you spent on those direct-mail offers, VIP events, cash giveaways, big name entertainment, etc., was worth it.

Any empirical data (cost per response, number of new players club signups, etc.) that can help shed light on possible return on investment on your advertising. Your advertising will never have 100 percent measurability (although it should), but having some meaningful measurement will tell you if your advertising is really driving revenue or just making your ad agency happy.

• Individual player reports - the types of these reports vary, but they should identify the spending patterns of your customers, which cash registers they give you the money at, and whether their spending is “inclining” (up), “declining” (down) or “maintaining” (holding steady). To do this really well takes a big investment in technology and software.

• Budget reports for marketing - yes, I believe these are important, but don’t make them your gospel if you can find ways to make money by spending money (and exceed that budget).

• Customer service scores in all departments - but only if done with the right customers (your top 10 percent), done scientifically and consistently and used as an important basis for reward, identification of training and improvement opportunities and organizational change.

• Customer and employee suggestions - this is an area of important information to which most casinos pay lip service with perfunctory “suggestion boxes”. These suggestions need to be aggressively sought, rewarded, communicated and implemented to be meaningful.

There are probably a few good marketing information sources that I am neglecting to mention, but let me switch to the information that I find mostly meaningless:

• Head count (bodies in the building) reports - usually done by security at the front door or by taking hourly “counting strolls”.

• Reports on competitors - these are worthless unless you want to base your marketing strategy and tactics on what your competitors are doing. Now, if you want to have your senior executives go visit the competition as real customers (most of them will hate it), then that’s a different story. You should get all kinds of great ideas from the customer perspective.

• Point Liability Reports (reports on how many points players club members have earned and not redeemed yet). - let the bean counters have this one and needlessly agonize over it.

• Weather impact, year over year - this is usually used to justify revenue shortfalls caused ostensibly by weather. A worthless CYA report. So there, you have my thoughts on useful marketing information. Don’t take them lightly.