If Your Digital Marketing Sucks … Your Social Casino Will Too


By Justin Shank, Raving Partner, Social Gaming and Marketing
Maybe it’s not quite as dramatic as my headline suggests, but it is important for our marketing and operations teams to understand that digital marketing is essential for the success of the social gaming platform. To manage the expectations of your team to drive new users to the social gaming experience effectively, you should evaluate your email marketing program, digital advertising, social media insights, website analytics, mobile app performance, and other digital marketing efforts.

Social gaming platforms (for the most part) take great care of users once they enter the experience. They will work with your team to create and host in-game promotions and events, along with incentives to make purchases. Opportunities are made available to users once they are in the social gaming experience; meaning they have signed up with their email address, phone number, and/or loyalty card number to receive information. Automated email marketing programs, mobile app push notifications, text messages, and social media posts keep your users up to speed and provide incentives to enter the social casino.

The success of your social casino is contingent on effectively driving new users into the platform. By taking the following steps, you will be more equipped to understand and manage expectations for your social gaming platform:

  1. Complete an extensive website audit and analyze your site performance – Is your website easy to navigate and mobile-friendly? Who is visiting and where do they live?
  2. Evaluate your mobile app – How many active users do you have? How effective are your push notifications? Are you geo-targeting users?
  3. Social Media review – Which social sites are you actively utilizing? What types of content are most engaging for your users? What are your engagement rates and average post reach?
  4. Digital advertising – Are you running SEO, PPC, Banner Ads, Pandora, Social Media, or other digital advertising programs? How effectively are these driving visits? How much are you spending? 
  1. Evaluate email and SMS marketing programs – What are your open rates, bounce rates, and click-through rates? How many active records do you have in your database? What is the frequency of your messaging?

While completing a full digital marketing audit is not a requirement to launch a social gaming platform at your property, it is a valuable step that will provide insights and action items for your team. I hope this handful of questions provide a helpful start to evaluating your digital marketing program and if you’re interested in a full digital marketing audit, please contact Amy Hergenrother.

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About the author

Justin Shank

Justin is a marketing expert specializing in social gaming and digital strategy. He helps clients integrate social gaming into their overall marketing plan by considering partnerships with vendors, staff training, and choosing the right platform to meet their goals. If you’re interested in a full digital marketing audit, please contact Amy Hergenrother.

Nerd Knowledge: Tax Season Advice from an Accountant


By Kevin Huddleston, CPA, CGMA, CFF, Strategic Raving Partner, Accounting and Auditing, and Partner, Finley & Cook

Everyone’s favorite season has just kicked-off! Wait, football season is over!? That’s right; it’s tax season (collective groan). Even us accountants have a bit of dread for tax season. No doubt players club team members, hosts and slot attendants have a similar dread. Every year there are guests that are unhappy about the tax-related information they received or didn’t receive from the casino. Dealing with these guests is often a no-win situation. Even when you’re right, you’re wrong. I don’t have any magic formula to help you make the angry guest happy, but I can equip you with some nerd knowledge that might help explain things and diffuse the situation.

Why am I getting a 1099?

One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard is from guests who don’t understand why they received a 1099 and who are certain they didn’t win that much. 1099 forms must be mailed no later than January 31st each year. Income reported on form 1099 is a cumulative total for the calendar year. $600 is the tipping point where reporting is required. The amount reported has nothing to do with jackpot wins, but prizes won in contests and drawings. Casinos usually set a threshold between $50 and $100 where they begin to log these transactions so they can determine at the end of the year who they are required to send a 1099. Handling these issues confidently and swiftly is key in getting the guest to a happier place. To that end, it’s important that access to the detail of dates, amounts, and promotions that put them at $600 or more be readily available to team members in key guest contact positions. A preventative step that casinos can take to avoid these issues is to have a statement on your prize forms stating that “cumulative prize winnings of $600 or more in a calendar year will be reported to you and the IRS on form 1099.” If the guests see this throughout the year, then it shouldn’t be a shock to them when they receive the form in the mail. It also gives them an opportunity throughout the year to ask questions and gain a better understanding.

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Incorporating Evidence-Based Decision Making Into Your Business Model


By Deana Scott, Raving CEO
Lately, I have been evaluating how successful businesses incorporate an evidence-based decision making process to increase profits in a highly competitive economy where old business models are dying.

What is it?

Evidence-based decision making is a process for making decisions about business practices, strategies and policy developments that are founded on research and evidence from the field and relevant, contextual information. This method allows us to make decisions that are actionable and measurable.

Fierce competition from disruptive new technology and increasing online services are creating a high level of financial uncertainty for many businesses including the casino industry. So, in this fast-paced evolving business climate, does using research as a foundation to make evidence-based decisions improve financial performance?

According to a Harvard Business Review study, companies who create a “Culture of evidence-based decision making have all seen improvements in business performance.” And more alarming, in the study of 51 companies, they found those who use data are rare.

How does that compare to the casino gaming industry?

According to Raving’s 2016 Annual Indian Gaming National Marketing Survey*, a majority of properties reported that they conduct numerous types of research.  However, this does not answer the question as to whether they use it.

We know we need it, and we say we are conducting it, but is there a gap between conducting it and using it to make evidence-based decisions? After interviewing numerous casino operators and two of our industry’s leading market researchers, the answer is “no.” Some level of data is collected, but typically it isn’t sufficient to credibly implement a culture of an evidence-based, decision making process.

As an example, I worked with a property with an 1100-seat bingo hall located in an area with under 30,000 people. The bingo manager was tasked with filling the hall seven days a week with matinee sessions on Saturday and Sunday. After a couple of years of losing about $250K a year and not filling the room, I was asked to help “fix” bingo. I was told that the room should be packed nightly. My first question was, “Do you have the research or feasibility study that was done to base this expectation on?” The answer stunned me, “No, we built the room this big for future gaming expansion, but we should be able to fill it because Foxwoods does and they are in a similar rural location.” Yes, the property was remote, but it was not located anywhere near the population surrounding Foxwoods. So, for two years, the property lost over a million dollars based on a flawed assumption.

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How Do You Tap Into Your Players’ Passions?


By Nicole Barker, Senior Raving Partner, Database & Loyalty Marketing 


When you tap into passion, technology becomes a vehicle, not an impediment. People of all ages, demographics, and socio-economic backgrounds will find a way to connect, to engage, and to further their exploration if passion is at play. Before you think your patrons aren’t ready to jump online or go mobile, get your knitting cap on.
Let me introduce you to Karen Cross. She’s a knitter and a friend in both quilt guilds that I belong to. She’s in trouble with me. Big trouble. She introduced me to something. It’s all her fault. She was trying to help, but instead, she was my enabler.
Here’s the situation:
I have three tubs of yarn…and I don’t know how to knit. This is a common problem for knitters and quilters. We are like squirrels with nuts – we live to create a stash of materials. We live in a world of abundance of creative intent, but not necessarily the follow-through to gain credibility as artists within our own families.
Karen introduced me to Ravelry. It’s a website. I signed up for an account, built a personal profile, and now spend hours immersed in searching, finding, and chatting with people of like minds. It’s a community of hobbyists with common interests. My personal dilemma: I have yarn that I love, but lack the skills to complete a project. Within this site, I can search for patterns that feature the yarn in my stash. Then, I can narrow the search by style. Behind each post is a person who has completed a project with a link to the pattern she used. I have created a folder of patterns using my yarn. Oddly enough, I narrowed my search by featuring patterns of scarves that have been worn in the Starz drama series Outlander.

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How to Deliver on Brand Promise


By Mark Astone, Strategic Raving Partner, Branding, Advertising and Media Services and CEO, Catalyst Marketing Company
Your best chance at meeting (let alone exceeding) your customers’ expectations is to effectively manage their expectations from the very beginning. What your customers believe about their relationship and experience with your casino begins with your Brand Promise.

Your Brand Promise is more than a clever marketing tagline and even more than a company philosophy. It is your 360-degree experience. What your customers experience, associate and remember about your casino at every touchpoint is the bulk of your brand promise. How your employees, owners, partners, and vendors interact, represent and experience your casino is the rest of your brand promise.

(Assumption) We all know Apple’s marketing campaign. Think Different. While an advertising tagline is not the same thing as a Brand Promise, it must (if the campaign is to be successful) represent the brand promise. As we look at Apple’s products, their launch strategies, how they operate their stores, etc. it is safe to say amongst their competitive set, they do represent a Think Different approach.

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How Effective Are Your Outbound Calls? Take This Quiz


By Daniel Wood, Strategic Raving Partner, Phone Based Marketing Solutions and VP of Business Development at Engagex
If you utilize outbound callers to engage with your players and encourage additional spending, you likely understand the value and the revenue potential of personal phone contacting. After all, it makes financial sense to assign hosts to create relationships with high-value clients, right? Why wouldn’t the same principles apply to large-scale calling programs? Whether you’ve recently implemented your call team or have been doing it for a while, how is it going? Are you increasing trip frequency, theoretical, and revenue like you hoped? Below is a quick quiz to assess how well you are doing: 

1. How many dials per hour does your team need to make to be effective?
    a. Less than 15  
    b. 15 – 25 
    c. 25 – 35 
    d. More than 35 

Answer: D. If you construct a program carefully and your script is succinct enough, your callers should be able to make 35+ calls per hour. This is an accepted outbound calling industry benchmark.

2. What technology is required to maximize efficiencies? (Choose all that apply)    
    a. Office phone
    b. Click-to-call software
    c. Headsets
    d. Comfy chairs

Answer: B, C, and maybe D. Anything you can do to reduce caller fatigue and minimize the number of physical dials required by your callers will be appreciated and improve your efficiency. Click to call software may be the single most helpful tool in increasing your dials per hour, recording call results, and scheduling future calls.

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Raving’s Solutions Magazine January 2018 Issue

Your New Raving Strategic Solutions Magazine has arrived!

Check out what's inside!


Are you joining the Raving team at the end of the month in Durant, OK for the 20th National Indian Gaming Analytics & Marketing Conference? Be sure to pick up your free copy of the magazine at registration! 

From your favorite columnists:

Read More

How Casinos Can Turn Social Gaming into a Revenue Stream – For Free


Dear Ravers,
If you don’t hop on your phone to play social games, then I bet you know someone who does. I’m even pretty sure that you know someone that spends money on some type of online or social gaming. From role-playing games, match three, tap-shooter, blackjack and video poker games, our society is hooked.
The numbers don’t lie – in 2017 it was estimated that the social online games market in the United States was worth 2.15 billion. And it’s growing.
But yet, most casinos have not found a way to integrate this type of gaming into their product mix. It’s time to begin to capture your share of this market.
And I’m not talking about using social games as an integrated part of your players club or promotions; I’m talking about using social gaming purely as an additional revenue stream for your property.
At Raving, we’re always looking for solutions for our gaming clients to not only increase their revenue streams but to diversify them. Enter Ryan Cullins with Zero 8 Studios who I met about six months ago.  

As a game developer, he’s created a social gaming platform that gives properties the opportunity to increase revenue through social gaming with, really, no risk.  So I’m thinking, why not?

We’ve been talking about social gaming for years at our conferences, but there has been a slow adoption rate at gaming properties.

And why is that?

I believe we’re making it more complicated than it needs to be.  Properties can benefit from social gaming if they don’t get hung up on needing a fully embedded solution. Complex and costly integration time has always been an issue, especially for smaller properties who don’t have the personnel, time or the financial resources to take this route.

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How Non-Engaged Employees Affect Your Bottom Line


By Deana Scott, Raving CEO

My son graduated from college this year and recently landed his first “adult” job. It was amazing to watch him enter this next stage of his life. (And yes, paying the last tuition bill did provide a greater reason to rejoice!) I observed his anticipation of his first day. He shared his excitement of seeing his first workspace, his office computer, He told me about his first meeting and his new hire training. And then I began to wonder when this “honeymoon period” would wear off. You know what I mean, right? It’s that span of time where possibilities and expectations of changing the world and making a positive impact are endless. Having hired hundreds of employees over the years, I can tell when a new hire has moved from the “honeymoon period” to the “reality stage.” At first, everything is new, and they are eager to engage, and then it happens, not showing up as early, asking fewer questions, boredom, and complaining about the free lunch in the EDR.

According to a recent Gallup State of the Workplace Survey, only 33% of employees are engaged at work, which means 67% of our employees are checked out. According to Gallup, “Employee engagement is the outcome of actively engaging employees through a strategy that drives improvement.” The difference between an engaged employee and a non-engaged employee is huge. Engaged employees are proactive and looking for ways to improve the guest experience or innovate. A non-engaged employee is disengaged and is actively sabotaging the organization.

This issue becomes even more complex as many regions are facing record low unemployment rates making it even more difficult to hire people with experience.

The question is, does this problem lie with the employee or the culture of the organization?

I realize it is easier to blame the issue on the employee by saying things like, “We can’t get good employees in this area,” “Nobody stays because we don’t pay enough,” “The workforce today is lazy,” and so on. I believe it is this attitude that is responsible for the lack of engagement. If we instantly find a way to justify the situation it will never be completely resolved. These excuses are ways to justify the lack of performance and prevent us from truly creating a strategic plan to improve the culture of the organization. Yes, a strategic plan. Labor is our highest controllable expense, and more importantly, these are the people who are responsible for direct communication with our guests and ultimately creating our brand experience.

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Who’s in that Santa Suit?

By Chris Faria, Raving VP of Marketing
Hey Ravers! It’s been awhile -- I’ve missed writing to you about all those things that inspire and challenge us outside of work.
See, it’s been a little crazy around here …

Just a little over a year ago, our team was having our annual holiday dinner here in Reno. It was snowing and the roads were very icy. We had just started on our appetizers when Santa and an elf came walking through the door.

Backstory – for many years, Dennis dressed as Santa and played our zany host until he got too hot and had to take the get-up off. But not this year.

This “new” Santa was Deana Scott and the elf, Brady Scott. They made it through a blizzard (without the aid of Rudolph) from their home in Oregon. This is how the team found out that Deana was our new CEO and Raving’s future owner. Dennis thought it would be a great surprise. Well, he was right. We had heard conversations, but we didn’t know it was a done deal.

There was a new Santa in town.

Now, twelve months later, Raving is a Native-owned company. Brady, a Coquille Tribal member, brings not only his culture to us, but together with Deana, they add a wealth of experience in Tribal economic development. During these last several months we have expanded our services to not only commercial casinos, but we’re working on more ways to assist Tribes in ways that Raving hasn’t done before. This old dog is learning a lot of new things.

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