Living Large with a Giant Competitor – Five Ways Smaller Properties Can Own Markets

By Tom Osiecki, Raving Partner, Advanced Operations and Marketing

Goliath blocks the sun.

You stand staring into the sun shining from behind golden mirrored hotel windows.

The buildings stretch out forever. Casino building, multiple hotels, golf courses, spas, tennis courts, restaurant complex, entertainment center, pools … even a wedding chapel.

You’re the VP of Marketing for a smaller competitor.

You think ... how are you going to compete against Goliath? Throw a rock?

Almost every market has its Goliath property. And yours is the competition.

Small to mid-sized properties compete in every possible setting.  Your competition could be newer, closer to the market, or a gigantic, amenity-rich, resort destination. While the size of a Goliath property varies by market, the problem is the same.

How can small to mid-sized casinos compete against Goliath casinos that have bigger budgets, bigger staffs and bigger amenities?

In casino competitive strategy, there’s always a market you can make your own.

  1. Know What You Are … Know What to Become

The defining step in competitive strategy is to know your property. You should know the key market differentiators that set your casino apart and create a competitive advantage.

First step, understand your brand using surveys, guest/team member interactions, focus groups, competitive analysis, social media research, and your own observations. Once you understand your brand, you can select the deliverables and key elements that offer an advantage over the Goliath property.

There are millions of strategic variations that can make your property competitive against Goliath. Here are some of the most pertinent strategic niches:

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Raving’s Solutions Magazine July 2018 Issue

Your New Raving Strategic Solutions Magazine has arrived!

Check out what's inside!


Will you be attending the Casino Marketing & Technology Conference next week? Pick up your free copy of the magazine at our booth (#105).

From your favorite columnists:

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Ghostbusters for Promotions Past

Five ways to help keep your promotional schedule generating incremental revenue

By Tom Osiecki, Raving Partner, Advanced Operations and Marketing

We all have ghosts.

Ghosts of promotions past we wish we never met.

After years in casino marketing, I have my own special ghosts.  I take full responsibility for my ghosts.

Take the Groundhog Day promotion. A brilliant concept, I thought.

We got our guests to swipe at the kiosk and select whether the Groundhog will see, or not see his shadow. A fifty/fifty choice.

Players who chose correctly were given a reward on the big day when Punxsutawney Phil did his annual forecast.

Even as company President, I was enthused enough to step into a ratty, smelly and scary Groundhog suit and hand out entries.

Did the promotion work? Did the guests care.


But, in true Groundhog Day form, we did the same promotion again. A Ghost Promotion.

This leads me to the question. Why do so many casino marketing departments hold onto promotional ghosts?

We’ve all done it.

We keep promotions going, sometimes for years, well beyond their usefulness, like walking dead or zombie promotions.

Maybe the Tribal Council likes the promotion; or the owner insists you keep running a promotion longer than it is productive. I get that.

Over and over I see casinos in a repetitive cycle of generating similar promotions. Sometimes it’s the same promotion and sometimes it’s the same promotion with different skins or branding.

How many times can a hot seat shape shift into a new theme and not burn out?

Five Ghostbusters

Let’s look at five ways to help keep your promotional schedule generating incremental revenue.

1. Analysis If you do anything as a casino marketer, insist on tracking all promotions. Tracking promotions gives you the opportunity to develop analysis that can reveal the difference between profitable and not profitable programs.
Comparing each promotion with a pro and post forma is a good start that can lead to comprehensive month over month, year over year promotional tracking.

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Asking the Right Questions About Variable Printing


By Tami Jones, Strategic Raving Partner, Direct Mail and Director of Sales and Marketing, CSG Direct 

As a savvy marketing director, your goal is to get your variable mailers printed for a competitive price and with a provider that gives you excellent service, right? And the more you know about your printing options, the more you can compare apples to apples on pricing, print time and flexibility from different vendors.

That’s right, you may use a fully digital product (dry toner applied with heat) that takes a blank piece of paper and prints all your variable data and full color graphics in one print pass or you can print a static mailer on an offset press (wet ink on paper) and then come back in a second digital pass to apply your variable offers in specified locations on the mailer.

Which is better, full color digital print or variable laser print on an offset shell? The answer is YES! Both methods create an opportunity for personalization and that is always better in direct mail. Let’s take a look at both options and compare.

Print Quality

Digital Print – Excellent photo-like quality on every piece.

Offset Print – Excellent photo-like quality on every piece.

Cost Comparison

Digital Print – Typically lower in cost at low and mid-range quantities due to fixed cost of clicks at all quantities. The reduction in cost per piece at high quantities may be lost.

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What Is the Middle Man Costing You?


By Mark Astone, Strategic Raving Partner, Branding, Advertising and Media Services and CEO, Catalyst Marketing Company

It is safe to say you are running some sort of digital advertising as part of your overall advertising plan (if not, maybe we should talk). What I love about digital is it can be highly targeted to your gamers and a gaming audience. The challenge is having someone implement your targeting. Despite the growing prevalence of digital targeted advertising, there are few digital marketers or agencies that do the actual digital media buy.

Across all the different digital advertising facets (SEM, Display, Pre-roll, etc.) many companies source the targeting and ad placement to a third party, including the added-value from your traditional media buys your media agency/team has secured for you. There is always a cost associated with this. I have seen casinos pay $1-3 per click on SEM when utilizing a third-party buyer. Often these casinos aren’t even aware their buy is being routed through a third party. Buying direct can bring the price per click down as low as $0.65. That is a big difference!

This “convenience fee” of having someone else buy your digital media is most certainly going to be taken out of your media (or added-value) budget. As stewards of our clients’ budgets, we are always looking for effective ways to gain market share for our clients while effectively stretching their budgets. Rather than pass and expense through to our clients’ budgets, we want to pass on savings. This is why Catalyst made the conscious decision to work with Demand-Side Platforms (DSP) to buy digital media directly from online advertising exchanges rather than outsource to other vendors.

Besides the obvious issue of the added expense of your digital media buy being outsourced, is the access and reliability of the data. Recently, we were asked to do a data analysis for a casino’s media buy. When we asked them how their website was performing they were quick to boast about how incredible the numbers were; their site visits were significantly higher than they had ever seen. The challenge was, they didn’t know where the site visits were coming from. Once we were able to pull the data from the third-party vendor their agency was using we learned the largest percentage of their new site visits were coming from a state that represented only 1% of their revenue/player database.

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Raving’s Solutions Magazine April 2018 Issue

Your New Raving Strategic Solutions Magazine has arrived!

Check out what's inside!


Will you be attending NIGA? Pick up your free copy of the magazine at our booth (#927) and join us at the fourth annual Native Strong Comedy Slam on April 19 - learn more about this fundraising event on page 20.

From your favorite columnists:

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Multi-Channel Marketing: Three Tools To Get the Response You Need

What can you do outside of a multi-million dollar television campaign? Turns out, a lot of things.

By Tami Jones, Strategic Raving Partner, Direct Mail and Digital Printing and Director of Sales and Marketing, CSG Direct
Marketing and advertising educators have always said the more you touch the consumer with your message, the more familiar they become with your brand. There should not be much protest to this point. After all, most of us don’t hesitate to grab a Kleenex when we are sick or to order a Coke at a restaurant. We don’t use the generic terms “tissue” or “brown carbonated drink.” These are, of course, huge national brands with much larger marketing and advertising budgets than most of the casinos we all represent. However, the principle still stands true and is applicable on a smaller level as well through additional, multiple, channels of communication.

So what can we do outside of a multi-million dollar television campaign? Lots of things through lots of different channels like direct mail, email, outbound calling, triggered automation and texting.

Direct Mail

Direct mail has always been, and still should be, the foundation of casino marketing programs. Just reference Raving’s 2nd Annual Indian Gaming Marketing Survey! But, as postage costs, paper costs and labor costs continue to rise, casino marketers are looking for ways to get better results, as in higher response rates, without spending more on direct mail alone. Less expensive channels like email have become great tools to augment and support direct mail efforts, either as a pre-mail notice to “watch your mailbox for your offers” or, as a follow-up reminder to a direct mail offer to “be sure to redeem your rewards.” A comprehensive email program may also be successful on its own.

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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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