Three key phases comprise building a strong brand strategy: discovery, articulation and deployment.

As always, the first step is not only the most important but sets a foundation for the brand you are building. The discovery is typically an in-depth analysis of the competition and the market, which, unfortunately, often lacks in one very important area: customer insight.

We’ve recently finished a couple of projects where we had the chance to work through buyer personas that proved to be both enlightening and somewhat fun. Understanding your customer as more than just average daily theoretical (ADT) and frequency can help you fine-tune both your marketing and operation.

Personas can help you know your customer as the multi-layered humans they are. These “pictures” of your customers are fictional, generalized representations of your customers. They help you understand them—and prospective customers—better and make it easier for you to tailor marketing efforts to the specific needs, behaviors and concerns of different groups.

Well-crafted personas can have the effect of aiding in the internalization of the customer—almost like knowing a friend, associate or family member. When you know a person well enough, you understand how to communicate with them more effectively and efficiently.

When outlining your marketing expectations, it’s impossible to have clarity without a defined audience. Yes, we are casinos, and we attract all sorts of people. However, at the end of the day, there will always exist an ideal guest that you hope to attract time and time again. There are also ideal customers that fill specific needs (i.e., Tuesday morning or Wednesday nights). It is a habit for us to define the perfect customer by ADT, but we also simultaneously understand that two $400 ADT customers can be very different in their visitation, how they gamble, and how they behave. Still, many of us continue to market to an entire ADT range in the same way, even though advances in printing and media have made it easier for us to do one-to-one marketing (or something very close to it).

Until you undergo a persona building process, you will never truly understand the nuances of your customer base. The process will create documentation that will be useful in tailoring communications (so they resonate) or in determining the overall message, the amenities you showcase, and even in the slot titles you purchase or capital expenses you may choose to explore.

A well-crafted buyer persona will shed light on:

  • How a customer might make decisions;
  • What challenges they have to overcome;
  • When, where and how they spend their time;
  • When they are most prone to visit you; and
  • The best messages and communications channels to reach them.

Consider how your business decisions, messages, and perhaps your channels might be influenced if you had this sort of knowledge.

CREATING PERSONAS

If you are a new business or a casino under construction, your persona work will more than likely have to depend on anecdotes and stories of competitor or sister properties. The most useful persona profiles, however, will be based on real customers and existing information as opposed to assumptions.

The strongest buyer personas are based on research and insights you gather from your database. More than likely, your company has done customer research reports. If you don’t have them now, you should get your hands on those reports. If those reports are a little dusty from sitting on the shelf for three or more years), then start talking to your customers. Whether on the floor or through a simple Survey Monkey or Google Forms survey, begin asking the questions that will help you get to know your customers a little better than what you see in your weekly reports. There is also much to be gathered from tools you are already working with—such as Facebook Insights and customer comments. You can upload a list to Facebook, and thanks to the information the platform already has, your customer profiles are expanded to include income ranges, spending habits, relationship status, job titles and more.

Start with some basics and then add more detailed data such as:

  •  Existing casino information: Frequency and value in your preferred way to categorize current customers.
  • Demographics: Male or female? Age? Children at home or empty nesters? Where do they live?
  • Employment: Working, retired or independently wealthy? Income range?
  • Casino personality: Life of the party? Always asking for comps? Prefers to play and go? First in line for every promotion? Complainer?
  • Daily life: What does a day look like from the time they wake until they close their eyes? What is challenging them every day? Who makes the entertainment/leisure decisions in the household? What influences those decisions?
  •  Values and/or fears: What’s important to them? What keeps them up at night?
  • What casinos add to their lives: Why are they visiting? How can their visit be made better or more memorable?
  • When do they visit: Can we alter the pattern in any way (add a day or lengthen their stay)?

For more color, you can add common complaints, real quotes and ideal marketing messages (even if the words are not an exact match to the advertising) and the channels that would reach them most efficiently and effectively.

Finally, I always recommend giving your personas names and faces to make them real to everyone. Please print them and add them to your conference room walls so that your customers are always front and center when decisions and plans are made.

Depending on your property and market, you could have as few as one or two personas, or as many as 10 or 20. (Note: If you’re new to personas, start small… you can always develop more personas later if needed.) As an example, I have three. I call them Mary Marketer, Vic Vendor, Jim GM and Sally SVP. Can you guess which you fall into?

For most casinos, the Pareto Principal is relatively a given—80 percent of business will typically come from 20 percent of customers. So, my recommendation is to start with the 20 percent. Then, start working down through your database.

Whenever you get all of this detail down, ask yourself “why?” or challenge your assumption by asking “so what?” Avoid the temptation to take everything at face value; you have to look below the surface. You want to understand what makes each person “tick.”

Each time I attend a meeting or a conference, I reevaluate my personas to ensure they are still valid or adjust as needed. As competitors enter our markets or economies start to shift, personas will need reevaluation. Demographics and spending habits change over time. Our industry is experiencing much of these changes as we look to continuously fill the funnel or add new ways of gambling (such as sports betting) in mature markets.

A WORD OF WARNING

As with many marketing tools, personas are only as valuable as the use they have. So, before you start this process, you must understand how the personas will play a role in meeting your goals. For these to be actionable, they must align with your strategy. If your strategy is dependent on growth in a particular segment, start with that one first. If you are going to make changes, you have to understand the customers that are most going to be affected by those changes. Tying personas into business strategy is vital to turning these into useful and usable tools.

Additionally, take some time to outline how these personas play a role in departments, even those considered to be support departments. One technique to doing this is designing engagement scenarios for personas to prepare teams to interact with customers in various circumstances.

It’s an exciting time to be a marketing professional in the casino industry. It’s easier than ever to get to know your customer so that you can create the brand experiences and messages they like and want. Building personas gets us even closer to the customer.