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The power of (almost) free marketing

Not all marketing has to cost the proverbial arm and leg. Wouldn’t it be advantageous if you could S-T-R-E-T-C-H your marketing dollars and get more mileage for little or no cost? How wonderful it would be to have the CFO smile down upon the marketing department for a change, while you look like a hero, magically leveraging more for less.

What might surprise you is that I’m not just talking customer service here (although that certainly is an excellent and cost-effective marketing tool). These are actually five belt-tightening but powerful marketing tactics that can help you maximize your marketing efforts, while you minimize your budget in challenging economic times. All you have to do is believe in the revenue-driving value of truly developing relationships with your guests and creating an exciting entertainment environment for your guests.

The Power of Winning

Leverage your existing promotions for more excitement value. Since most people lose when they play slots and tables (seriously, the industry average is about 75 percent on any given day), any opportunity to make them feel like winners goes far in motivating them to want to return to your property.

If you do hot seat promotions (usually random drawings of players using players club cards or selection by seat or machine number), do you ask the winners to come to the Players Club booth to get the prize? Well, what about delivering the prize to the winners at their gaming seats? Then, everyone gets to see winning taking place. Do it with a few employees dressed in themed costumes (your official gaming mascots) and magnify the magic.

When you do drawings, do you just give a check to the winner? How about adding a fun activity like choosing an envelope, popping a balloon, picking a gift box, or playing a game? The more interactive the win, the more memorable the experience, and the more likely you are to drive another visit. You don’t have to spend more on the prize. … it’s the excitement of the delivery that counts.

The Power of The Tower

That would be the Ivory Tower. Get members of your executive team and your tribal council out of their offices and onto the floor talking to customers and you’ll see how much rubbing shoulders with the Top Dogs means to them. Invite your best customers to an open forum (breakfast, lunch, a cocktail or mocktail party, high tea) with the GM and let them ask questions, vent their frustrations and share good ideas for property improvements. Your guests will be happy you’re listening to them. They’ll feel important. They’ll feel more connected to your casino. And, you’ll learn tons of great stuff that can positively influence your success. The best part? Listening is FREE. (Deal with the minimal cost of light refreshments. Remember, while your good players are at the property, they’re likely to play.)

The Power of Memorable Moments

You’ve heard it a thousand times. … a picture is worth a thousand words. Maybe it’s even worth a thousand bucks. Not as a blackmail pay-off (good grief, what’s wrong with you!), but as a reminder of a great experience. If you’re taking photos of your winners (jackpots, prize drawings) and giving them a copy at the casino, good for you. But, send them another copy by mail or by e-mail a week later, with a nice congratulations message, and you’ll trigger that positive memory, and perhaps inspire an incremental visit. Even people who hate having pictures taken enjoy seeing themselves looking happy. And, what’s happier than winning? If you’ve got some wiggle room in the budget, send a bounce-back offer at the same time. “You’re a winner, try again!” is an exceptionally motivating message. Another visit. More revenue. It’s a win-win situation that makes your players (and you) want to smile for the camera,

The Power of Participation

One of the best marketing tactics available to you really is free. Give your employees reasons to promote your property to your customers via positive “word-of-mouth.” They won’t do it because they’re told to; they’ll only do it because they want to. How do you encourage happy talk? Let them participate in your promotions and they’ll be chatting them up. Create an employee version of your car giveaway. … every employee gets a chance to spin the wheel and win some free gas. If customers can take home a gift by earning a certain number of club points in a day, let employees earn that gift by answering the employee newsletter quiz about the promotion or being spotted giving outstanding service.

And, participation doesn’t have to mean getting something. … it can mean giving something, as well. Everyone thinks marketing people have all the fun, so invite employees to brainstorm and share their ideas for improving promotions or special events or for creating new ones. Throw a pizza on the table, pull out a flip-chart, and start gathering creative input. The marketing department won’t have to come up with every fresh idea, and the employees who participate will buy into the process and enthusiastically talk-up your events to all your guests.

The Power of Recognition

When was the last time you actually said thank you to one of your employees? For doing a really good job. For helping with something outside of their job description. For taking exceptional care of a customer. For simply being a nice person. And, when was the last time you said thank you to one of your bosses? For giving you a chance to learn something new. For speaking up for and supporting you in a sticky situation. Just because you enjoy working with them.

On that same note, when was the last time you or anyone on your staff said thank you to a customer? For coming to visit that day. For sharing their luck with a nice tip. For being friendly to employees. For being a loyal player.

The process doesn’t have to be formal. It could be part of a casual conversation on the gaming floor. It could be in a private meeting in your office. It could be a quickly jotted e-mail or a personal, hand-written note.

People feel happy when they’re thanked and recognized. Happy frontline employees, happy supervisors, happy managers, mean happy customers. And happy customers mean better business. “Thank you” is inexpensive. It drives loyalty, and loyalty equals revenue.

So, if you’re looking for ways to stretch your marketing budget, try some of these relationship-generating and excitement-building techniques. Thanks for reading and remember. … the power is in your hands.

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.