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Getting a ‘yes’ when you need it

Are you constantly tracking down your executives and managers to get approval for your marketing projects? Do you spend more time getting the “yes” than it took you to put your programs together? Effective, efficient and productive marketing requires group consensus. Even the most experienced, organized marketing executive needs participation and input from the executive team, all marketing staff, other department managers, frontline employees and yes, even customers. Not only is involvement and buy-in necessary and critical, but before any program can be implemented, a series of approvals must be obtained. Successfully circumnavigating the maze that is the approval process is often a marketing professional’s personal albatross.

Every marketing program, be it direct mail, promotions, VIP events, entertainment, players club loyalty benefits, or customer service, requires approval from above. The graphic designer needs approval on all collateral before it goes to print. The promotions manager has to get an OK from operations and the gaming commission. The food and beverage department wants to sign-off on every comped dining voucher. The GM won’t let any mail go out the door without his or her signature. The tribal chairman reserves the right to veto weekend entertainment choices.

How many people have to approve your marketing strategies before they are implemented? As frustrating as it can sometimes be, the gaming industry, like any business, is filled with checks and balances which lead to an endless series of people that have the power (and responsibility) of approval. In fact, if you’re a marketing manager, you must already be thinking of the endless string of supervisors, managers, directors and executives throughout your organization who need to approve everything you do. They all want something different before they make the decision. In fact, now that you think about it, how do you get anything done?

You can’t eliminate the approval processes at your property. But there are specific actions you can take to ensure that the process goes more smoothly, that you can meet deadlines, and that will help streamline the task and allow you to work smarter, more efficiently, and more effectively.

Action No. 1: Do the math and include the numbers. Virtually every marketing program you implement has costs associated with it and is designed to drive revenue. Even a special event whose goal is to thank your best and most loyal players has an underlying agenda to drive incremental revenue while those guests are on your property. Management wants to see how the marketing programs being planned are going to affect the bottom line. The pro forma and post forma, reporting spreadsheets that organize all expenses generated in developing a program, should also include revenue projections and actual revenue results. While nobody knows exactly how an event will turn out (will you have 230 or 280 slot tournament participants?), it is still possible to develop a reasonable revenue estimate of the desired outcome. Here’s a simple calculation you can use:

Number of expected participants x average theoretical win for the time of their visit = expected revenue.

If you’re inviting 100 of your best players, you should be able to access their average daily theoretical (ADT) from your player tracking reports and multiply by 100.

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If you’re holding a week-long promotion for the entire casino, you can look at the percentage of increase in attendance you’d like to see and check similar days during which promotions weren’t offered. If it will take 200 additional customers to pay for the cost of the event and result in a 15 percent increase in headcount, you can multiply 200 by the ADT for all carded players on a similar day. That’s your projected incremental revenue.

Providing expected results and showing management that marketing understands both the expense and the revenue side of the balance sheet will undoubtedly help in securing approvals.

Action No. 2: Organize an approval checklist. You don’t always have the luxury of waiting two weeks for every interested party to approve your floor signage or monthly newsletter. Attach a cover memo to all printed samples distributed to the necessary parties. Include the names of all managers from whom you require signatures. Note the deadline date for all responses. Add the time information was delivered to each manager and a space to note the time returned. Provide an area for all comments, changes and suggestions. Your ability to keep management to a timely approval schedule will be enhanced if everyone knows what is expected of them.

Action No. 3: Share timelines. Once a marketing project is in its final planning stages, create calendars and timelines that clearly detail when each part of the process needs to be completed and by whom. Here’s a real case study: A casino client was having communication issues with its ad agency. Although the agency was providing lists of the project components being worked on, it was not defining timelines for due dates for information, draft reviews, final proof approvals, printing and mailing. Once clear timelines were set and shared with all responsible parties, it became easier to adhere to expected deadlines. When management understood that missing deadlines meant printing or other project delays and additional rush costs, they were able to respond on a timely basis.

Action No. 4: Plan ahead. The most frequent reason given for delays in approvals is that everything is done at the last minute. Planning not only ensures a more successful marketing campaign, but allows those responsible for approving projects enough time to review the information, ask any questions and discuss any issues, and return the approval. Executives are busy with their own job responsibilities. They aren’t sitting around waiting for your marketing plans. Expect to be put on the back burner when you’re the one creating the fires that need to be put out.

So take action. … put appropriate processes in place and you CAN turn stress into “Yes!”

Toby O’Brien, vice president of marketing and client services since 2001 for Raving Consulting Company, provides marketing expertise, mentoring and training to Native American, commercial and government casinos. O’Brien helps gaming organizations develop and implement customer-focused, strategic marketing plans aimed at driving revenue and creating an outstanding entertainment experience.