Randy Fine has been in the news for his turnaround efforts at Revel in Atlantic City, but he also has more than two dozen other active clients and has worked as consultant with 60 casinos, this after helping build Total Rewards at Harrah’s Entertainment when he started in gaming over a decade ago. So when he put some markers down about casino marketing strategy at the Casino Marketing Conference in late July, it was worth writing them down. Here they are:

• Your customers go away unhappy 75 percent of the time: No matter what you do, it is a mathematical certainty that you’re going to disappoint you customers. “Our business is built on 25 percent of the people winning when they show up and 75 percent who don’t,” said Fine. “No matter what we do as marketers, customers are probably going to get sick of us or our property after a while. Customers continue to buy what it is we have to sell, but they go and buy it from somebody else.”

• Every gambler gambles everywhere: Five years ago, Fine had dinner with clients and asked who their 10 largest customers were. “My theory was they were the same and they said it was impossible because their 10 largest customers were worth millions of dollars a year,” he recalled. “Eight of the ten were the same and they didn’t think one would be same. The remainders were in the top 20. It gets back to the first principle; they move around because they want to change their luck. That’s one of the things that Harrah’s Total Rewards had going for it. But even there, people say ‘I’ve had enough Total Rewards, I’m going to go gamble at the Bellagio.’” 

• Nothing we do in marketing is sustainable, nor is it ever lost:At the beginning of every month, customers decide where they’re going to go. They look at your marketing offers, your direct mail and your promotions and say, “Am I going to go to Casino A or B?” So every month, you have to go out and fight for the business. “Nothing we do is sustainable,” said Fine. “The negative here is that if you increase market share and you stop fighting for the business, you’ll go right back down.”

• Promotions: Go big or go home. The worst promotional calendars are all promotional calendars. “The reason a lot of people know about [Revel] is because we did one thing; we went big,” said Fine, of the property’s $100,000 July slot loss rebate promo. “We didn’t say 10x rewards credits on Thursdays and towel promotions on Tuesdays. We said we’re going to do one thing; we’re going to do it big and we’re going to do it from the first of the month to the end of the month. You’ve got to cut through the clutter. We get so wrapped up in this business that we over-program. All these little things don’t work; they get lost in the noise.”

• Direct mail: Segmentation is a failure. There are all kinds of things that make us individually different. When you segment into buckets, all you do is take them from one bucket and put them into a few. “We don’t do that anymore,” said Fine. “We make sure every customer has an offer that is uniquely developed for them. If you have 100,000 customers, you have 100,000 segments, where every dollar that is spent on each individual customer is perfectly targeted to that customer’s needs. It’s hard to do and it’s complicated, but it works.”

• Advertising: Be who you are, or who you can be. Ugly people get married too, said Fine. “We don’t all have to be the nicest, fanciest, shiniest place,” he said. “Some people are more comfortable in the not-nice place, especially if you create value that the fancy, shiny place doesn’t offer. Brand marketing has to be consistent with the facility that you have. Photographers can take the nastiest hotel room and make it look nice on the Internet. Then the customer shows up and sees what it is.”

 • Don’t be Captain Ahab: Ahab was obsessed with whales, and so many casinos are as well. “But there are two issues; first, these players come with a lot of volatility,” said Fine. “A million-dollar player wants to bet $10,000 or $20,000 or $30,000 a hand. If he gets lucky, he could ruin your month. The bigger issue is that these are typically very sophisticated gamblers who ask for a lot of stuff: Pay for my private airplane, give me advantage play, etc. When you do all of this stuff, it’s very easy to get under water on that customer. We have to be careful.”