It’s that time of the year. You’re happily sitting at work. You just had a killer July, and August numbers are looking great, too. And then, all of a sudden, you get an email from your CFO that is simply titled “2017 Budgets.” Your smile fades as you slowly slump into your chair. Thoughts start racing through your mind, “How is it budget season already?! The year is barely half over! And I’m trying to get October approved!” Take a deep breath. Exhale.
Winter is coming.
GIF Courtesy of Giphy.com
Time to prepare for battle. But who has the time?! You’re so busy trying to get tomorrow’s promotion approved and next month’s newsletter in the mail that the thought of finding time to write a 50+ page strategic document is the last thing you want to think about. It doesn’t have to be an exercise in pain. Developing the marketing plan should be treated as a process of comprehensive annual review and analysis.
The goal of creating your marketing plan should be to establish an aggressive yet realistic guideline to making as much money as you possibly can in 2017. You might be thinking, “How am I supposed to write a series of strategies to make money next year when I’m knee-deep in planning October’s promotions?” And that’s a valid point. The process of market planning doesn’t have to be a torturous task that you get through as quickly as possible once a year. If structured and executed correctly, market planning can be both an enlightening and empowering experience for both you and your team.
Here are some tips to help you efficiently develop a strategic marketing plan that justifies the insane amount of money you’re asking for in 2017.
Have a plan to make the plan.
Do not expect the magic to happen the moment you gather people to meet. Constructive meetings and planning sessions with your management team are only as productive and insightful as the person leading them. Have an agenda, share the agenda ahead of time, and establish deliverables with deadlines before you leave each session.
Create a structured series of planning sessions, each with specific agendas, that outline goals to accomplish. Developing a marketing plan can easily get off topic or out of scope without strategic and specific planning guidelines in place.
Utilize your Team.
Create a unified team approach by incorporating your management team in the process. One of the biggest mistakes that a VP or Director of Marketing can make is to not include their managers in the planning process. By allowing your team to take part in the development of goals and initiatives, they will become personally invested in these strategies and be more likely to succeed at executing them.
Identify roles of your planning team.
Who is facilitating the meeting? Who is taking notes? Who is responsible for booking the meeting? Who’s in charge of drinks and snacks? Who’s bringing the Q1 reports? The financials? Make sure that each one of your team members is aware of their roles and responsibilities in the marketing planning process. Designate clearly defined duties beforehand, and your life will be much easier.
Think conceptually, then drill down.
A lot of people struggle with strategic planning and critical thinking because it’s easy to get lost in the sea of details that is casino marketing. Don’t overthink it! Always come back to the fundamentals of the player life cycle: acquisition, growth, retention, and reactivation:
How am I going to acquire new players?
What am I going to do to grow current players?
How do I create loyalty in current players and retain their patronage?
What am I going to do to bring in players who haven’t visited in a while?
Keeping these fundamental goals top-of-mind will not only help streamline your strategic planning process, but also strengthen the quality of your marketing department’s action plans.
Make friends with the finance people.
They probably have reports that you need but don’t know you need. They can also give you a heads-up on what next year’s revenue forecasting strategies look like and how likely (or unlikely) you are to get your “wish list” items.
Meet at a location off property.
Meetings are easily disrupted when they’re held in the casino conference room right next to the General Manager’s office. Go off property for a more productive setting.
Don’t expect to have a productive market planning meeting when you get to the foundational topic of “So what worked and what didn’t?” and you didn’t bring any of your reporting. You will need to rely heavily on your management team for the detailed answers to these questions. Make sure your team members know they are individually responsible for bringing this substantial piece of the puzzle to the table, within their respective areas.
Know how much you spent (or didn’t spend) this year so you know what’s realistic to budget for next year.
Figure out what you want to do before you make your budget.
Listen to what your market is telling you and what trends you’re seeing. Do not simply ask for more money if you don’t have a strategic, well thought-out plan on how you’re going to use that money to make more money. Do you really need to increase ad spend for a market that you’re already saturated in? Or would those dollars be better allocated in the print/postage budget? Would you rather budget for live DJs five nights a week or invest in player development training or software for your hosts?
Track your KPIs. Execution is everything.
Establishing Key Performance Indicators just for the purpose of putting pen to paper on an annual marketing plan is not productive. Measure your KPIs and integrate them into your annual performance assessments for your managers.
Execution is everything. The best idea in the entire world can easily fail if poorly executed. Tracking your KPIs creates a work environment that lives and dies by pre and post-performance analysis of your marketing efforts.
Always remember: Marketing = Data = Revenue!
You and I both know that marketing is what drives casino revenue and also controls the casino’s most valuable asset…the player database. Never forget how important your role in marketing is to your property’s success. Laugh at the jokes that IT or Food & Beverage make about marketing. Heck — make your own jokes! Just remember: if you are in casino marketing you have the potential to influence revenue, and that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Call Red Circle!
Bonus Tip: When all else fails, and you’re just too busy trying to make today’s numbers and planning for tomorrow’s promotion, give us a call. We have a dedicated team of experienced casino strategy professionals who live for this stuff. Contact us here.