A key to future casino success likely lies in increased patronage and play from non-top customers
What if in some sci-fi style cataclysm, we were left with no new customers? All that remains are the customers we have right this very moment. What would we say to them? How could we keep them? What would we do to get back the customers who tried us out once or twice, but chose to go elsewhere?
As marketers, we are always looking to “fill the funnel” with new customers. This isn’t another article telling you that your slots won’t attract Millennials so you better think of some other way to get them. This isn’t about inbound marketing or sales pipelines. This is about nurturing the relationships we have right now, both those that are already strong and those that are barely breathing.
All of us know how to get new customers: advertising, free slot play for new sign-ups, rebates...we’ve seen them all. We’ve used them all. No one can argue that casino marketers do a great job at reinvesting in customers. We live and die if the mail is not in hand on time.
What I’m talking about is building the future with what we have in our hands right now as well as what is slipping away. No more new customers.
Marketers, especially those new to their positions, are trained to find the quick hits—things that show the boss has made the right decision and can rest easy. For most, this is achieved via acquisition marketing. Sometimes, those quick hits are cost cuts. I propose we look at creating increased revenue from the sources sitting right under our noses. Let’s turn our attention to the customers who are already within our grasp and find ways to generate more business from them. Those relationships are waiting to be nurtured and cultivated!
We typically leave retention up to the direct mail and the nurturing of high-worth relationships to player development teams. We generally accept the theory that 80 percent of our revenue comes from 20 percent of the customers, but does that mean we can’t drive more revenue from the remaining 80 percent of our customers? We’ve got the tools. Let’s use them.
Yes, I know that I tend to go on and on about employee engagement, but relationships need people. How we treat our people will determine how our people treat our relationships. Call centers are a great example of a waste of people power. Call centers are rewarded for resolving calls quickly. The faster the resolution, the more calls an operator can handle. The more calls an operator can handle, the lower our cost per call. But what if we thought about making the cost a cost per relationship? Would you want to short-change the time spent building a relationship?
You may not have a call center, but you certainly have lines forming at your buffet, at your cage, and at your players club. You most certainly want the line to move quickly, but does a couple of extra seconds spent giving a customer a smile, perhaps welcoming them back or wishing them the best of luck, really drive your costs or are they driving your relationships? Operating successfully for the long term most certainly requires a delicate balance of efficiency and effectiveness. Just remember that it is a balance and not all about efficiency.
CUSTOMER DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM
Most mature player development programs have a well-articulated set of goals for each member of the team. Typically, these include new member, reactivating customers and filling events, among others. More than likely, you’re giving your hosts these goals and basic information about customers: visits, ADT, preferred games, etc.
Robust CRM systems can turn a customer from an account number and ADT to a person with wants, needs and desires. Rather than using your systems to track number of calls, take a look at the information you’re collecting and how that might help make a future visit more rewarding to both the customer and the casino. Use your systems to understand and nurture those high-worth customers. Relationships must be defined by more than ADT.
There is gold in your database! Your decliners and inactives are your best source of revenue. Ask yourself, “How much revenue can you bring in if you get only 1 percent of those customers back for a visit?” What if you can get 2 percent? 5 percent? 10 percent?
This will take time and will absolutely be where your general manager’s patience is tested. For whatever reason, you have a segment of customers that have chosen to visit less often or not to return. It’s fair to assume they haven’t had a great experience. To regain this customer, you first need to do an internal audit of your offerings, services, facilities and staff... honestly. Then, audit your competitors. You must identify both the improvements you have made since their last visit(s) and the improvements you can make now.
This should be done before you drop an offer in the mail. Once you have a new story to tell, then bring in your direct mail team to understand what the optimal offer might be. Combine that with the right message to see an improvement in this segment.
GAMING OPTIONS CUSTOMERS WANT
Hear me out. I am a marketer, specifically, a brand marketer. I believe that every part of the experience is the brand promise. That belief typically puts me in a lonely spot during any slot hold discussion. Yes, I believe that customers cannot tell each time the hold is inched tighter and tighter. No, I do not believe that customers can tell you what the hold is. However, I am a consumer; and while I may not notice the price of milk going up a penny or that steak I love costing $1.00 more since my last visit, I can tell that I used to do something for X amount of dollars and now I pay more.
By the same token, I firmly believe that our customers know when their budget just doesn’t last as long as it used to. It’s the same “a dollar doesn’t go far anymore” feeling you get when you go shopping. Marketing may help ease the sting by offering free slot play, but then we pay the price when we start trimming those offers. And inevitably, we all know we will reduce offers.
When we start chasing the slot hold by using free play, we end up in what my friend used to call “the spiraling vortex of death.” Once again, I ask for balance. Slot hold should be a balance of desired revenue and continuous entertainment.
NON-GAMING OPTIONS THAT INSPIRE
Many casinos have buffets. It seems like it is SOP to have one, and, in truth, it is more than likely the outlet that feeds the vast majority of our customers. Some operators have invested a great deal of money in beautiful buffets with tall dessert displays and sizzling woks. The sizzle is great, but the taste is most important.
Are you buying the lowest priced food for the buffet because you find you end up with so much waste? Maybe you end up with waste because no one really wants seconds. Pardon the pun but it’s the chicken and the egg, my friends. Which came first?
My advice to you is to ask some friends who will be honest to visit your buffet over the different service times. Let them give you the honest truth about the food, the appearance and service. Use these mystery shoppers to develop the buffet that will keep them coming time and time again, with or without comps, because it’s worth it.
After you do this, start the same process in your restaurants, quick serves and bars as well as any other non-gaming offerings you have. We often get too close to what we sell—too close to see the real issues.
My entire career has been in marketing. I’ve had years of finance directors telling me all I know how to do is spend money. Don’t get me wrong. I can spend money like no one’s business; but I can also make money by getting to know the tools I have available and the customers I have, then finding a way to match them up. When you look inside (instead of outside) for marketing redemption, you’ll find more ways to generate business.