MARKETING: Underappreciated casino marketing tools
February 21, 2012
Casinos spend a lot of money on marketing. Other industries would kill to have the typical casino’s marketing budget.
Some might argue that casinos spend too much on marketing. After consulting with scores of casinos, I don’t know if that’s true, but I do believe there are areas where casinos tend to overspend, like in advertising and in offering free play.
But I also believe there are numerous marketing tools and tactics that are underappreciated and underutilized by most casinos in North America. I’m not advocating you drop your entire strategic marketing plan and start using the following marketing suggestions willy-nilly. But I do think you will find real value if you cherry pick some of the following:
• Senior executive events - this is not where the general manager shows up to shake a few hands at a casino special event, but is the entire focus of the VIP affair, like a GM’s Sweepstakes Drawing or Dinner with the GM.
• Letters from frontline employees - this tactic involves personal notes from real employees (who the guests actually encounter) asking if they enjoyed their stay, thanking them for joining the players club, or reminding them that they have unredeemed points in their players club account.
• Bring a friend - encourage existing customers to bring a friend on their next visit to the casino and giving them an incentive to do so (discounted entry into a tournament, point credit equal to points earned by the friend, free amenity, etc.).
• Tee shirt, coffee mug and other assorted tsotchke offerings - don’t ask me why cheap trinket giveaways drive business, but they do. Make the quantities limited, put your casino’s logo on them and make your customers do something simple that has revenue value to you.
• Collectible offers - similar to the tsotchke giveaway above, these collectibles (commemorative coins, figurines, kitchen settings, etc.) are typically higher quality and have to be earned over time as part of a collectible set. Make your guests do a little more to earn them. They will.
• The killer lobster buffet -whether on special nights or every night, the “all you can eat lobster buffet” will drive throngs of people to the casino, if the seafood is great and the cost is attention grabbing.
• Free sports contests - whether it’s a free contest to pick the weekly NFL games, the Kentucky Derby, NASCAR races or Academy Award winners, “free contests” will drive sports and affinity event enthusiasts through the doors.
• Free play offers on new slot machines - I continue to believe that every good slot customer should be allowed a “free trial” on every new slot game that hits the casino floor. Isn’t that how Costco does it?
• Continuous new table game trials - but only if there is a plan to market them and dealers are motivated (and incentivized) to teach and promote them.
• Tribute artists - you have to be careful to book high quality acts, but I know tribute artists to Michael Jackson, Fleetwood Mac, Bruce Springsteen, ABBA, Elvis and others will draw crowds to the casino.
• Food service for customers wagering on the casino floor- forget the food and beverage director’s complaints, menu service at slots and tables will keep players in action and make for happier guests. Ask Barona Resort & Casino.
• Co-op marketing with vendor partners - Pepsi, Budweiser, bottled water companies and others all have dollars for co-op marketing. If you can offer them a compelling reason to do so, they will spend it with you to drive your business and theirs.
• Desirable first-day incentives for new players club members-don’t just give them $10 in free play for joining the club, give them incentives to reach increasingly valuable prizes based on how many points they earn on their first day of membership.
• “Play this $20 on me” promotion - just as it sounds, this tactic involves casino managers and supervisors giving money to losing players at the slot machines. Just be sure to feed the money into the bill validator with genuine words of consolation and encouragement.
• Free Thanksgiving pumpkin pies - Station Casinos does this every year. You’ll run out of pies and your slot revenues will be cooking. I guarantee it.
Underappreciated casino marketing tactics - there are a ton of them. I encourage you to try a few.