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O'Brien: Gaining property-wide support for your marketing efforts

Nearing the end of your fiscal year? Then it’s time to develop your annual Strategic Marketing Plan. And once again you worry. … implementing it is a big job, you only have a small department, and who is going to do all the work?

When you try to get help executing promotions, installing signage, recruiting new players club members, redeeming direct mail coupons, and managing a variety of marketing tactics on the gaming floor, you get the usual resistance from members of other casino departments: “It’s not my job,” “The marketing people always expect the slot attendants to do their work,” “We have no time to get involved in that stuff.”

You know that getting buy-in from the operations departments and their frontline employees will create more excitement and participation from players and drive more revenue for the business. The question is, how can you get everyone to join in the marketing process, leading to more engaged customers and employees and increases for all revenue producers?

Here are some effective motivational and sales tactics casinos use to engage all team members/employees/staff in their marketing efforts.

Communicate with departments and employees

Many casinos produce an employee newsletter and share the details of upcoming promotions and events. Some even put copies of the player newsletter in the employee break room or near the time clock. But how many casinos mail an adapted version of their player newsletter to the home of every team member so they know what’s going on before their customers do? And if you’re concerned about the coupons, here’s what casinos that have used this tactic successfully have done. Simple solution: Fill the blanks with ideas for how employees can help get the word out on upcoming events. Better solution: Tweak the same coupons by adding a line that reads “A gift from (your name here).” Employees can bestow those coupons on any players they choose. … a gift from them to their customers.

Do you invite operations managers to your marketing meetings? Are they asked to share their ideas or just listen in? Getting them involved in the decision making process will generate buy-in and also have them planning in advance. Do you attend other departments’ meetings? Ask for an invitation to a slot, table game, security or cashier department meeting and share what’s happening in marketing. And don’t forget to ask for ideas and suggestions from the attendees. You can avoid many logistical nightmares by gathering this input from the folks who actually implement your marketing programs on the floor with the customers.

Hold daily “buzz meetings.” Casinos with some of the most effective and cooperative programs between marketing and operations start each shift with short, individual department meetings right on the casino floor. A service concept for the day, a fun ice-breaker, and updates on the latest promos and marketing programs keep everyone in the loop and on top of their game.

Hold team brainstorming sessions

Casino employees are more creative and talented than you can imagine. Give them a chance to be part of the planning process and you’ll not only find new and exciting ways to implement your marketing tactics, but you’ll be motivating buy-in from the front lines. How do you get this process started? Display a sign-up sheet in the employee break room with an invitation to a 90-minute pizza party to plan the upcoming Halloween celebration, or whatever your next themed event might be. Limit participation to about 10 volunteers from an assortment of employees from various departments. … you’ll be surprised at the level of interest. Then, hold a brainstorming session (use a flip chart and markers) that follows this rule: All ideas go on the list (no censoring). Let the team narrow down the choices, select the best ones, and then fill in the details, from design to budget to execution. Recognize the participants and let all casino employees know who came up with the great concepts.

Offer sales training – selling the players club

It’s easy for marketing staff to assume that everyone knows how things work. However, players clubs, often the most effective marketing tool for customer retention, are complicated programs that can be difficult to sell. Want frontline staff to help you recruit and sign-up new players? Teach them how it’s done. A good “Selling the Players Club” training program includes how the card works, how points are earned, what the value of the points are, what the benefits of membership are, how tier levels are achieved and maintained, and provides suggestions for overcoming the most common player objections for not joining the club or using their cards. And make it fun with a little interactive role-playing.

Add an employee segment to promotions

Why not let casino employees enjoy the same kind of fun that your customers do when participating in promotions? They’ll better learn the intricacies of participation and understand the excitement of winning if they get a hands-on experience, rather than just something in writing. Giving away an assortment of vehicles in a drawing (ATV, motorcycle, car)? Hold separate drawings for employees to win gas, bikes and scooters. One of my favorite customer/employee-participation promotions was developed a number of years ago by a Native American casino in Washington State.

To introduce their new hotel and restaurant while driving gaming revenue in January, a week-long promotion was designed around the concept of “Cabin Fever. … Get out of your cabin and come to ours.” Customers earned “Cabin Cards” by hitting designated slot jackpot levels (you could also set point levels for earning Cabin Cards). Cards were redeemed by players for dining certificates, hotel rooms or suites, or gas at the tribal service station. All casino executives and managers joined frontline staff to distribute Cabin Cards on the gaming floor and promote the event to players throughout the week. A VIP Campfire Cookout was held in the new banquet facilities for top-level players club members, and all employees were invited to a Cabin Fever Breakfast Buffet staffed by casino management to introduce the upcoming promotion. And, for offering outstanding customer service, employees earned cabin stickers, too, which were exchanged for free meals, hotel stays and gas. Every employee was involved, was rewarded for promoting the event, and the casino experienced a 30 percent increase in gaming revenue during the promotion week.

Encourage “best employee” leadership

Want to kick-start building property-wide support? Then get your casino’s best employees on board. Who are they? Come on, I’ll bet you know. Think about all casino employees you would consider STARS. The ones who always take part in employee events, have great relationships with customers and other staff members, have fun with everything they do, step up without being asked. Who are the best folks in marketing, slots, table games, housekeeping, security, food and beverage? Now, invite them to be part of your “marketing sales team,” to serve on your brainstorming committees, to visit department meetings and communicate the marketing message. Start with the best to set an example and the rest will follow.

Not sure where to begin? Try this: Pick a promotion you’d like to implement later this year and designate it your working model. Find a way to include employees in its implementation using some of the ideas above. … hold an employee brainstorming session to devise a fun employee promotion that matches the customer promotion, use buzz meetings to let all employees know about the promotion, post informational signs in employee break rooms, let employees give out prizes on the floor, and be sure to recognize every employee who participates. You’ll find you’ve built yourself a real support team.

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.