First, what is digital marketing? This is a big topic, so let’s start by defining exactly what we mean when we talk about digital marketing. Digital marketing is an umbrella term for online marketing efforts—in this article, casino-specific online marketing efforts.
Many properties use digital channels like social media, email, online advertising, Google search, and, of course, their websites to connect with existing and potential players and guests. With the current market challenges, many casinos are cutting their traditional media budgets for investments such as outdoor billboards, mainstream media, and TV or traditional radio, and have started doubling down on their digital marketing investment. Here are the top four reasons to leverage this approach during the current challenging economic conditions which will support your property to thrive during the pandemic.
- Target the right people, in the right place, at the right time.
Digital allows properties to reach their target audiences where they’re already spending most of their time right now—online. The targeting of technology precision is astounding, and has grown by leaps and bounds over just the last couple of the years with ever-changing innovations always on the horizon.
Don’t believe me? Check out The Social Dilemma on Netflix. Your mind will be blown. With an online presence, you can target far more of the right people than you can by marketing your company solely offline. For example, you can target people based on propensity to game or likelihood of being a high-spend, high-profit hotel guest. And if you do it the right way, you can get in front of the people who are likely to become visitors at the right moment in their guest journey.
Direct mail and cold calling are still reliable approaches, but are the most powerful when combined with digital marketing tactics. For example, a host’s call is much more powerful when the host has access to information about the recent page visits on the website and can personalize the conversation based on that information.
It is the difference between a call that sounds like “Hi, Big Baller Barry. How have you been? Want to book a trip?” versus a call that is personalized based on Barry’s website activity that shows time spent on the steakhouse page and pool page: “Hi Barry. I want to invite you in for a visit. We have a cabana I can prepare for you at the pool and a VIP table overlooking the city at our steakhouse.”
The second version is pretty compelling, right? Some properties leverage historical trip data to customize their conversations with players like this, but that information isn’t as valid as their real-time interests provided to the player development team seconds after the player visited the property’s website.
- Lower cost and higher value than traditional media.
A frequent objection to leveraging cutting-edge technology is “Yeah, that sounds great but pricey.” Leveraging sophisticated online targeting approaches used to be complex and pricey, but it isn’t anymore. One of the great equalizers when comparing marketing types and mediums is the cost to target 1,000 people, also known as cost per mile or CPM.
The price to target audiences is drastically lower in digital market platforms compared to traditional media. Of course, many variables affect each medium’s cost, but here is a breakdown to give you a rough idea of the cost difference.
Yes, there are additional costs associated with each medium. With TV and radio, you have to consider the increase in prices during peak time slots to advertise (traffic or popular shows). Billboard prices can also vary based on the quality of location and volume of traffic.
As for digital marketing, time is the only “hidden” or fixed cost. Whether it is your time, employees, or an agency’s time, you must think of this as a cost. This cost doesn’t depend on as many variables, such as traditional media.
- It offers a high level of trackability and personalization for optimal impact.
Another huge benefit is that digital marketing allows marketers to see accurate results in real time. If you’ve ever run an ad in a newspaper, you know it’s impossible to measure the impact it has on your property—especially fast enough to pivot the content or the buy after the trigger is pulled.
On the other hand, with digital marketing, you can measure the ROI of any aspect of your marketing efforts using analytics. The trick with measurement is to apply the same measurement approaches that have traditionally been used to direct marketing programs to digital marketing. Don’t treat digital marketing like electronic versions of traditional advertising platforms.
Marketing has always been about evoking emotion so strong within the target audience that they act. This is no easy feat, since individuals are unique, and different things evoke strong emotions with different people. That’s why personalization has such a high impact when targeting current or prospective guests.
The more personalized you make the communication to the player, the better. Personalized can be based on demographics, lifestyle characteristics, location, historical visit behaviors, and, powerfully, what is on their mind right now based on their search activity and social media behavior. Some key ways to leverage this approach:
- Personalized ads based on search history
- Geo-targeting capabilities (people who recently visited a competitor’s location)
- Targeting by play and revenue segments at your property
- Engaging social media ads based on likes and interests
- Unique email marketing campaigns based on guest behavior
- It allows you to respond faster to changing market conditions.
With market conditions and government rules and regulations changing
frequently, your property marketing has to as well. It would be best if you could dial up your outreach volume or dial it down based on various factors that are growing increasingly complex. Digital marketing allows for that flexibility.
We all know that once traditional direct mail goes out, you can’t un-ring that bell, and if you over- or under-shoot with criteria, reinvestment rates, or other factors, you are stuck with that decision. Digital marketing allows you freedom and flexibility that traditional media doesn’t. Not only do you know immediately how a marketing effort is performing without having to wait for billboard production or an ad distribution in a magazine, but you can take that information and adjust based on the volume of traffic you want to yield.
Need less player volume? Hit the “Deactivate” button on the Facebook offer. Need higher player volume? Double the current players you are targeting and make an offer or Google ad live within minutes. Digital marketing allows companies to be nimble in a way they never imagined was possible.
Digital Marketing vs. Inbound Marketing
Michael Marino, the senior vice president of marketing and chief experience officer at Caesars Entertainment, has talked about the “closed-loop marketing” strategy he employs at his properties. In Marino’s explanation of closed-loop marketing, he describes it as leveraging behavioral data on the property level and customizing outbound marketing based on that information for a more personalized, higher-impact marketing experience.
The inbound marketing approach leverages closed-loop marketing but takes it one step farther. Marketers who employ digital inbound tactics use online content to attract their target customers onto their websites by focusing on being helpful to them—think of the five-star, guest service mentality but applied to marketing.
Meaning, every interaction is about the guest’s wants and needs, not the property’s. With this approach, the focus is on understanding the guest desires and serving those desires. How? With marketing information that meets their needs for the specific stage of the buyer’s journey they are in, ultimately, to get them to book their next visit with your property. Stages of the buyer’s journey are:
Awareness of a need or identification of a problem that needs to be solved. An upcoming anniversary that needs to be celebrated, for example.
Consideration of options to fulfill the need or solve the problem. For an anniversary celebration, options considered could be a trip to Vegas, a trip to a local native casino, a nice dinner and a favorite neighborhood restaurant or a trip to the coast.
Decision finalized based on all of the options considered. In the consideration stage, options are typically narrowed down to one genre of solutions—a trip to Vegas, for example. Then, in the decision stage, specific properties will be considered and a final decision will be made on the trip location.
The stage your target audience has reached in the buyer’s journey is important because at each stage, different types of marketing messaging will be relevant. One of the simplest yet most powerful inbound digital marketing assets is a blog, which allows your website to capitalize on the terms your ideal customers are searching for on Google and other search engines.
So, what is the difference between general digital marketing and inbound marketing? Ultimately, inbound marketing is a complete methodology that uses digital marketing assets that work together to attract, convert, close, and delight customers by focusing on being helpful and adding value.
It is player-centric rather than property-centric. Digital marketing, on the other hand, is simply an umbrella term to describe online marketing tactics of any kind, regardless of whether they’re considered inbound or outbound. Many execs hear of large corporations using the advanced approach and think it must be expensive and out of reach if you aren’t part of a large casino conglomerate. Not true.
Information and software to hit the ground running with this approach has become widely available and inexpensive. Harnessing the power of this strategy isn’t cost-intensive; but it does take time, grit, determination, and execution discipline. That is why most of your competitors won’t do it successfully, and why it can give you a major competitive advantage.
A Warning Label
The most significant negative feedback I hear about digital marketing efforts is, “We have tried that, there just isn’t an ROI,” to which I respond, “That’s because you are doing it wrong.”
Many markers with a traditional mass media background (or properties using a conventional mass media agency that tacks on digital marketing services) fail to realize that digital marketing is not an electronic version of a mass media platform. When digital marketing first started to make headway many years ago, the truth is, it was. That is how folks with traditional advertising backgrounds got put in charge of digital marketing efforts.
Now, with the highly sophisticated targeting approaches, personalization opportunities, analytical capabilities and offer formats available to leverage, digital marketing has more in common with direct response marketing (direct mail) than it does with traditional advertising.
It also requires many of the same skills used in direct response marketing—criteria identification, A/B testing, control group structuring, offer development, tracking, etc. If you use digital marketing as a direct response medium, then the ROI yielded from your efforts will be huge. Using digital marketing for traditional advertising principles such as branding and PR is still important, but should be blended with the highly powerful direct response approaches available now.
What’s The First Step?
The most crucial first step to ensure your digital marketing efforts are as high impact as possible is to ensure that the right talent is in the mix and the right strategy is leveraged.
- Are direct response approaches, targeting and offers being used in current digital marketing efforts?
- Is anyone involved (both on the property side and the agency side) with a direct response background to ensure campaigns are trackable and high-impact?
- How are we using the targeting and personalization capabilities of digital marketing platforms?
- Are we leveraging key principles in “closed-loop” marketing? Are we taking it a step farther with an inbound marketing approach?
Now you know the ins and outs of digital marketing, why it is higher value and higher impact than traditional media and how it can benefit your property. You even know a digital marketing strategy, inbound marketing, that isn’t widely used in the industry.
I hope you choose to take your digital marketing efforts to the next level by leveraging sophisticated targeting, direct response capabilities and the inbound marketing methodology. Life rewards action. Go forth and prosper. Happy (digital) marketing!
For more digital marketing expertise visit: www.thrivemarketingscience.com