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The Enduring Priciples of Casino Marketing
by Dennis Conrad

I have a confession to make. Actually, it's more of an acknowledgement than a confession.
I've changed.
Let me explain.

I used to think that marketing was all about finding "lightning in a bottle", about discovering those 6 or 8 high powered "things" (promotions, programs, strategies, etc.) that could make immediate and discernible impact on a casino's business fortunes. To make things worse, I actually stumbled onto some casino marketing "home runs" that only deepened this conviction and made me mine even more frantically for more of those veins of gold. Maybe it was the two and a half years of grappling with a flat market against more formidable competitors. Maybe it was the wisdom that comes with age. But whatever the case, I'm here to tell you now that it's not about finding the SECRETS of marketing. It's all about identifying and leveraging the ENDURING PRINCIPLES. And while I may not have found all of them yet, I'd like to share now those that I have found.


1. IT'S THE CUSTOMER, STUPID - I hate to inform you of this, but it's not about managing limited budgets, or making the General Manager (or even the stockholders) happy or being the most creative marketing organization since time began. It's about KNOWING WHAT YOUR CUSTOMER WANTS AND THEN DELIVERING IT. Period.
This is the mother of all enduring principles. All of the other principles are secondary to it or flow from it.

2. YOUR MOST IMPORTANT CUSTOMER IS RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU - do you see that middle aged lady on your Wheel of Fortune machine? Or that twenty-something man at your blackjack table? Or that cooing couple in your gourmet restaurant? Well, they ARE your business. And until you've invested every last scintilla of energy (and available money) finding out WHO these people are, what you can do for them to improve their experience NOW, and HOW you might be able to offer them additional ways to spend even more money with you, then you are missing out on the most immediate and impactful marketing opportunity available to you. These people do not need a cheery letter from your General Manager inviting them back, a discounted room offer in an out of town newspaper, an invitation to your fun-filled slot tournament or a phone call asking, "Where the hell have you been?" What do they need? Don't ask me, ask them!!!

3. LEAD THE LEARNING - it's not as much WHAT you do, but more WHAT YOU LEARN from what you do. I've always felt that every business should have a Department of Learning to insure that the entire organization has systematic, scientific ways of understanding the outcomes of both individual and group decisions. I know, I know, you'll get laughed off the property for suggesting a Department of Learning, but you can take the following learning steps now: - Begin sharing learning materials across your property. This includes information from gaming periodicals ("Casino Executive", "Las Vegas Advisor", "Blackjack Forum", "Gaming and Wagering Business"), non-gaming periodicals ("Harvard Business Review", "Sloan Management Review", "Tom Peters' newsletter", etc.), management and marketing books (Marketing the Invisible, Raving Fans, Gung Ho, On Great Service, The Leadership Challenge) and a host of other audio and visual materials. If you learned something from it, so will everyone else.
- Make learning a significant part of your management style and insure that all of the people that you supervise have a chance to learn and grow and are always being challenged.
- Start asking questions that force learning, like "What did we learn from our CASH BACK program?", "What did our customers like and dislike about our VIP party?", "How can we create better, more meaningful measurements on the effectiveness of our marketing dollars?"
- Become a zealot about all learning gained from your customers, including that from letters, surveys, comment cards, observations, employee feedback, and live, face to face conversations.

4. TRY AND FAIL, TRY AND FAIL, TRY AND...SUCCEED! - this enduring principle goes hand in hand with the LEARNING principle and needs to be part of every marketing activity you do. TRY something. Try something else. Try something again. If you don't have two or three dozen "tries" going on at once, well, you're just not trying. What if you gave your CASH BACK right at the slot machine? What if you had portable VIP card making machines on your casino floor? What if you served food at your blackjack tables? What if you hired comedians and magicians as your bartenders? What if you gave your customers the screwdriver you used to unjam their slot machine? Let "WHAT IF" become your mantra!

5. IF YOU WORK IN A "COMMAND AND CONTROL" ORGANIZATION, LEAVE! - or at the very least, insist on the top salary available. Hey, it's hard work keeping your mouth shut and your brain turned off! It's also an enduring principle.

Date Posted: 30-Mar-2000

DENNIS CONRAD is the president of Raving Consulting Co. which specializes in Common Sense, Customer Focused, Marketing Consulting for the gaming industry.
He can be reached at:
475 Hill Street, Suite G, Reno, NV 89501
· (775) 329-7864
· fax (775) 329-4947
· email: TheRadcon@aol.com

 
 
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