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The Real Challenge of Casino Marketing in Indian Country
by By Dennis Conrad

The Real Challenge of Casino Marketing in Indian Country
By Dennis Conrad

I have seen several challenges in Indian Country that relate to marketing the tribal casino. Finding qualified marketing professionals to come work at the often remote Indian casino location can be a challenge. It can be a challenge to understand what advertising expenditures are producing for a tribal casino. Challenges also exist in finding effective casino promotions and getting employees to understand and support them.

But the fundamental (and least discussed) challenge that I see in Indian gaming marketing involves the cultural issue of an Indian organization needing to cater to the wants and desires of a mostly non-Indian customer base.

Native Americans who have built casinos are rightfully proud of what gaming has done for their tribe's well being. In some cases they have done this themselves, in some cases they have utilized outside management and consulting teams. What few of these organizations has asked, however, is the key question, "How do we maximize the revenue potential of our casinos by understanding the needs of our non-Indian customers, so that we can offer products and services that makes them loyal purchasers of our tribal gaming entertainment?"

In my opinion, the following are areas where Indian casinos can enhance earning potential from their non-Indian customers by taking the customer's perspective:

1. Market research — This is just a fancy name for asking your customers what they like and dislike about you. It can be done formally or informally, but the important thing is that it is done regularly and that the information is used to make changes that your guests want. I have seen much too little of this "listening to the guest" in Indian Country.

2. Tribal councils — While every tribal council is indeed different from every other, what seems consistent is that there are usually one or two key members who drive decisions about the casino operations. This is not necessarily bad, but when the decision comes about because of what one or two tribal council members want, instead of what the customer wants, you are hurting your gaming business. Book Willie Nelson in your events center because your customers are Willie Nelson fans, not because your tribal chairperson likes him or because a tribal council member has a deal with the entertainment agent.

3. Hiring and training — The concept of "Indian time" is largely unknown to most non-Native American gaming employees or customers, but many services in a fast-paced casino environment run counter to this concept. Some job roles in a casino (hosts, greeters, etc.) call for extremely outgoing personalities that may not fit the easy-going, introspective nature of many Native Americans. If you don't hire or train effectively to address these and other issues, you may find yourself with employees, both Indian and non-Indian alike, who may be able to do the physical aspects of a casino job, but may be the wrong type of personality from your customer's perspective.

4. Image — This is an extremely important and sensitive issue. All Indian casinos have certain images that they are trying to portray to their potential customers and in their surrounding communities. Often this image may include symbols or references to the tribe's history or heritage. It is only natural to be proud of this heritage and to want to shout it in advertising and PR. However, casino customers only care about what's in it for them in any communications, so the more you can present an image of fun and winning and service, the more you will be hitting your customers’ hot buttons. The trick is to craft a message that says, “A casino where you can win” (which just happens to be an Indian casino) rather than “An Indian casino” (which just happens to be a place where you can win).

View everything in your Indian casino operation from the perspective of your customers and you will find that these challenges are nothing more than disguised opportunities, which will help you create more loyal customers and more casino profits.

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Dennis Conrad is the President and Chief Strategist of Raving Consulting Company, a full service marketing company specializing in assisting gaming organizations. He has just released his second book, “Conrad on Casino Marketing,” which is loaded with more of his casino marketing wisdom and common sense customer focus. Order your copy today by calling (775) 329-7864, or you can e-mail Dennis at dennis@ravingconsulting.com. Visit Raving’s Web site at www.ravingconsulting.com.

Date Posted: 14-Jun-2009

Dennis Conrad is the President and Chief Strategist of Raving Consulting Company, a full service marketing company specializing in assisting gaming organizations. He has just released his second book, “Conrad on Casino Marketing,” which is loaded with more of his casino marketing wisdom and common sense customer focus. Order your copy today by calling (775) 329-7864, or you can e-mail Dennis at dennis@ravingconsulting.com. Visit Raving’s Web site at www.ravingconsulting.com

 
 
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