New Year’s resolutions have become such an expected occurrence that we don’t flinch when we fail to stick to them. My resolutions will include being healthy and growing my knowledge base. Of course, now that I’ve shared them with the readers of this column, I’ll feel more pressure to meet them.
As marketers refining our plans for the upcoming year, we should consider some resolutions to fine tune our efforts and improve our businesses:
Make data actionable beyond your direct mail. It goes without saying that casinos are the beneficiary of a plethora of data. It is not unusual for us to use this data in determining offers, rewards and reinvestment to drive visits. But you can leverage data across many other programs. Use your database to identify targeted growth zip codes and neighborhoods. Identify where you can find quick hits and build a highly targeted and efficient media plan that you can track via your database. With this segmentation approach, you can match the highest growth and responsive audiences against media usage profiles. All media plans should include ongoing testing, measurement and optimization. If you’re not doing this now, resolve to do it in 2018.
Get to know your customers. The most successful businesses are those that know their customer’s needs, wants and desires. And while some may think that a monthly mailer builds loyalty, it is in fact understanding the customer and delivering the experience they desire. Surprisingly easy to do, it is often the step missed because it is deemed “expensive.” So, how do you get to know your customer in an inexpensive manner? In a word, “research”… look beyond your database to the customer’s journey while on property. What are their pain points? What are the elements that make an ordinary visit extraordinary? Focus groups and online surveys can give you a wealth of insights to help you build customer personas to drive your marketing programs. Building a relationship with your customer is essential to long-term growth; understanding your customer should be at the center of anything you do.
Spend time on the frontline. Speaking of getting to know people, get to know your frontline marketing team—those folks who, day-in and day-out, are communicating with your customers. Years ago, I used to include a week of on-property marketing experience for any new hires. We worked in the corporate office, and while many of us had operational experience, new hires often came from outside of the industry. I realize my directors of marketing had great fun hazing these folks a bit, but it allowed the people working in the advertising department to understand the flow of the business, how customers encounter our beautiful creative and how the frontline employees need to often explain programs. When you’re the person explaining a program for the 100th time, you realize you need to look at creative from a whole new perspective. That brings me to my next resolution for you.
Simplify your message. Please, I beg you... less is more. I had a boss who used to say that if his mother couldn’t understand a promotion, it was too complicated. He was joking, but what he said was very true. I once worked a promotion where small paper entries were used to determine one prize and larger paper entries used for a prize that was to be selected at a later date, with both requiring a card swipe to activate the entries. If you had to constantly explain that over and over again, you’d know why adding those layers was unnecessary to create the energy of a promotion. The same goes for your creative. White space is your friend, not a place to put more graphics or more copy. Multi-message ads? Please stop. Billboards are generally seen as you drive by; remember that when you’re developing your message.
Make a “We’ve Always Done it that Way” swear jar. This is my favorite and will be yours too. There are beliefs and operating structures that have become obsolete, and yet we continue to base our marketing programs on them even though we have no idea why. The next time you implement something because it’s always been done that way, throw $5 in the swear jar. I’ll guarantee you that after a few deposits you’ll either dig back into history to understand why these initiatives were initially instigated or someone will come up with a better, fresher idea. If there is one area of business that has proven itself to be independent of sacred cows, it is marketing. Remember when we used to do only paid advertising or the yellow pages? Marketing has changed more in the last two years than it has in the last 10, and continues to evolve. Keep an eye out for changes and trends outside of the industry.
Use your “Get Out of Jail Free Card” and try something bold. Years ago, I listened to a marketing hero of mine, Jeffrey Hayzlett, tell a story of a promotion he developed as chief marketing officer of Kodak. It was a massive misstep that cost more than most of us will spend in a year of marketing. His lesson to us was “no one is going to die from such a mistake.” I had a brand manager who loved that story and the line because it gave her permission to think creatively and develop some great marketing programs. Most business can sustain a little creative thinking. Test something out. Think it through but take the risk. With your manager’s permission, I’d like to give everyone a “Get Out of Jail Free Card” to try something bold and different. E-mail me your ideas; I’d love to hear them.
Track, measure, cut or repeat. The marketing department will always be known as the one that gets to spend money. Marketing and the channels used to talk to customers has evolved more in the last quite a bit recently; so it makes sense that we need to track what we do in order to understand which efforts drive the behavior we need to meet our business goals. In addition, tracking and measurement will be the tools you will need to defend (and maybe even grow) your budgets and marketing programs. As you pick your KPIs, I encourage you to pick indicators that are directly related to the business goals. Gone are the days when we can coast on vanity metrics. If you’re still counting page views, followers and page likes, stop right now! You need to measure revenue, cost for that revenue, conversion, etc. If you’re not measuring the things that are related to business goals, you’ll soon find yourself with nothing to measure.
Don’t forget the most important part of your marketing strategy, which is you. Pick an area you want to improve to make yourself a valuable part of your team, whether that is health and wellbeing or education. A few years ago, I picked three words (thank you Chris Brogan) to guide my year. One of them was “invest.” My resolution was to invest in myself and my future by reading and always being curious to learn something new. It was easier for me than committing to reading a new business book every month. Make a reinvestment in yourself.