As budget season rolls around, executives are busy planning, calculating and justifying their proposed spending.

This process hopefully is top of mind throughout the year, so when it comes time to put the spreadsheet together, it is much less painful. It might sound crazy, but even though I am a marketer at heart, I love budget season! For me, budgeting is an ongoing process and is directly tied to the property’s overall strategic initiatives.

However, the reality is that with managing the day-to-day operations, it’s likely you’ve left this process to the last minute. Having sat in front of the board of directors making my pitch, I always wished there was a resource for inevitable questions such as “How does this budget compare to other properties?” and “What are other properties doing?”

The first question is a bit tricky to truly understand, but you can make some highly educated guesses if you are perusing the competition’s advertising, direct mail and players club. The second question can be easier, but it is still a guess.

Fortunately, Raving Consulting now has a resource that can help alleviate some of the uncertainty when it comes to planning casino marketing budgets, especially for tribal properties. Last year, we introduced the first Indian Gaming National Marketing Survey. The survey drew responses from 53 casinos of various sizes, roughly 11 percent of the total tribal casino marketplace, based throughout the U.S. in a mix of rural and urban areas. The respondents told us about their reinvestment ratios, percent of carded play, entertainment program performance, whether they’re working with Big Data, how they’re faring financially compared to their competitors, and much more.

As a marketer, access to this type of data is valuable for strategic planning. It is also a great tool for any general manager, CFO or board member who is interested in understanding marketing as a whole within the industry. Casinos that incorporate this type of information into its marketing strategy and budgeting process have an advantage. By using third-party data to evaluate your goals and objectives, you gain credibility.

It’s important that the information is used to compare your property goals and objectives, not copy the competition. What I mean is you need to avoid the tendency to follow the pack…. just because someone is doing it, doesn’t mean it is successful. However, understanding where you fall within the data set is powerful information you can use to create unique benchmarks for your specific market.

As you work on your marketing budgets for 2018, tribal and commercial casinos can use this survey information as another data source to improve and justify marketing budgets. This year the report is available at no charge to gaming organizations (both commercial and tribal) upon request. We only ask that any tribal casino that would like to take advantage of the information in the report, register to participate in this survey next year. You can help us improve this valuable industry tool by reviewing the current survey and providing us feedback on additional questions you would like us to include or clarify in our report. E-mail industrysurvey@ravingconsulting.com to access your free report and register your participation in this year’s survey.

Keep in mind that this survey should be only one source in developing a comprehensive budget plan; other action steps that should be considered include:

  • Reevaluating your existing marketing plan. Yes, dust it off and read it. Highlight the areas that are no longer relevant or add opportunities that have potential going forward.
  • Engage your accounting department and data analyst to help evaluate performance over the prior year. By spending time reviewing prior year results, you will discover trends that can even help you reduce spending in one area, allowing you to allocate it to a more profitable one.
  • Don’t forget to gain input from the rest of your team, and I am not talking about just the marketing department. It’s important that you ask your peers how they believe the marketing department is fulfilling the property’s objectives.

So even if you don’t love the budgeting part of the job, I hope you will take advantage of the additional resources that can help you create a budget that you will be eager to share with your board of directors.