Don’t get me wrong, I liked being on the operator side at previous G2Es—I got invited to parties and had fun the entire week. But today I walk the other side of the aisle, and now have to start preparing for G2E well in advance. I have to create a list of people I want face time with and develop the topics of conversation that will benefit both of us.
This year, I had a full schedule of meetings. Every one of them was enlightening and eye-opening. As I reviewed my notes, I came to realize some marketers are still struggling to get a handle on the ever-changing marketing landscape, new technology and new ways customers are getting information.
These challenges are not specific to casino size, years of tenure or budget. It’s because we are so busy just getting the basics taken care of that we seldom find time for development. Through those meetings, as mentioned earlier, I was able to identify the skills digital casino marketers will need to be successful and solidify their positions.
In addition to G2E meetings, the annual release of the “Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic” from Martech aided me in developing this skills list. When Scott Brinker initially presented the graphic, it was a kaleidoscope of all of the marketing technology companies influencing marketing. The year was 2011, and the graphic consisted of over 100 logos—a veritable explosion of marketing software. I remember sitting in our conference room with our agency, imploring others to jump on the digital bandwagon. Each year, Brinker updates (and better organizes) the graphic. A few years ago, the graphic had grown to include about 5,000 logos. The 2019 edition included a whopping 7,040 logos. Marketers now have over 7,000 tools and solutions at their disposal. Decision-making can get mind-numbing.
How marketers handle the explosion of tools, the burst of consumer power, and their goals and budgets is at a critical point. What follows are some required critical digital marketing skills we can’t afford to shortcut:
Search engine optimization—If you create great content, but no one sees it, did you ever really create it? Search engine optimization (SEO) has become integral to all areas of digital marketing. At a minimum, marketers must have a baseline understanding. While SEO (and search engine marketing) were once only crucial to your website, SEO now informs your entire digital strategy on both a data and content level. However, SEO has become so complicated that marketers can quickly lose confidence that they or their agencies are making the right decisions. Although you can leave the expert technical aspects to others, you must have a baseline understanding of best practices. Understanding some basics can give you the information you need to:
- Develop your digital strategies;
- Recognize trends in traffic; and
- Increase your page and domain authority.
Leaving such an essential element of your digital marketing up to others can leave you vulnerable to slick-talking charlatans. I tried to describe them a little kinder, but the truth is the truth. I’ve seen too many people become mesmerized because of a lack of understanding. They’ve spent a lot of money and received nothing in return.
Jill Manty of MantyWeb designs says the key to making the most of your digital dollars is by being a better consumer. Learning how your customers are searching for information and inspiration will be the key to staying on top of those search results. Gartner is predicting that 30 percent of searches will be voice-activated by 2020. Depending on when you read this, you could be looking at less than 30 days. This shift will profoundly change search strategies and tactics. Marketers must have the skills to make these shifts today.
Social media—Social media can no longer be a “nice to have.” The debates surrounding it have quieted significantly, yet some of us are still relegating social media to some of the most junior staff or adding it to a long list already on someone’s full desk. And those that have dedicated staff are often not providing the necessary tools. Worst of all, some are not thinking in terms of community management.
Because social media is very accessible, we can tend to think social media is also easy. We use it daily (if not hourly) in our personal lives, but there is more to social media than posting regularly. Social media marketers must understand paid and organic, hashtags, groups and more to develop relationships and communities rather than adding followers and likes.
Social media platforms provide comprehensive tools to target audiences effectively, but without a firm understanding, you could be wasting dollars and resources. Skills such as targeting custom audiences in the same granular way we deliver direct mail offers, creative testing and experimentation are a must.
Community management—Community management on review sites requires listening and empathy. These skills can also assist you in understanding the strengths, weaknesses and opportunities in a competitive environment because you have access to a competitor’s focus group of reviewers.
E-mail marketing—I once read an article that likened e-mail marketing to a head of cabbage: the concept of e-mail seems simple, but it is made up of many layers. To become a great e-mail marketer, you have to understand all of the layers. E-mail marketers must understand deliverability and getting emails through a myriad of walls into the customer’s inbox. You must understand how to get your e-mails opened once they land there. E-mail marketers are regularly cleaning and segmenting their lists to increase the chance of deliverability.
Then you have to understand subscriber engagement and nurturing your list. Sprinkle in list building, social media integrations, CTAs, automation, and segmentation, and you have a sophisticated assortment of necessary skills.
Design thinking—Design thinking refers to a way of approaching problems from a user perspective. The approach is meant to encourage a human-centered way of solving more significant issues, but I believe it is precisely the mindset we need in casino marketing.
As digital marketers, our job is to attract, engage and convert customers through some user interface—whether that be our websites, e-mails or social media. Your digital look and feel can either quickly inspire or quickly turn off.
We always needed to design with the customer in mind. How we inform guests about promotions and offers in our ads, mail and signage is critical. How we create our properties for ease of enjoyment is always top of mind, but today even accessibility in website design is becoming a legal requirement.
Over 150 digital accessibility lawsuits were filed in the month of June 2018, targeting a wide array of businesses. More recently, nearly 600 website accessibility complaints have been filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act against companies such as Activision Blizzard Inc., Dominos and Ralph Lauren Corp. Taking a proverbial walk in the customer shoes needs to be an ongoing exercise.
As always, data and analytics—Last (but never least), we come to data and analytics. Once a skill only needed by database marketers, it is now a requirement for all. Your website, your social media, e-mails, and even some traditional mediums are providing an overwhelming amount of data.
Marketers can no longer rely on visits and likes for proof of performance. We need to understand how to analyze the data and connect it to the business goals by assessing the effectiveness of digital initiatives, evaluating tools, optimizing campaigns and tracking reactions and conversions.
Paralleling the explosion in digital marketing tools noted in the Brinker Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic is an explosion in the amount of data being generated. The purpose of digital analytics is to show the performance of your digital activities. Digital analytics can compare channel performance, track customer journeys, and attribute actions to revenue. A smart digital marketer will not get lost in data but rather understand which points are meaningful and actionable. They will know which efforts and data advance the business goals and which simply waste energy. More importantly, they will understand how to take this often unstructured data and tell the story that your executive team will understand and appreciate.
We must all be tech-savvy. Our industry and our lives are technology-driven. For some of us, having a decent understanding of technology is second nature. For some, it’s a muscle we have to stretch and condition. But don’t forget your soft skills. As you move forward into new positions, leveraging those skills becomes just as important.