Anyone who’s had a marketing class or two will be well aware of the importance of word of mouth marketing. If you’re into clichés then you might say that it’s the sort of marketing that money can’t buy.
Internet 2.0 and it’s blogs, forums, social media and review sites has given a new lease of life to word of mouth marketing as potential customers are able to gauge the overall experiences had by those who’ve already been there. Few people now book a holiday without checking out their hotel on TripAdvisor (other hotels are available) and this trend is spreading to other industries.
In Australia, restaurants have recognised the importance of online reviews to the point that trade body Restaurant and Catering Australia has contacted the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission regarding them. Their concerns centre around online review sites that they claim include fake reviews, are unfair and have an absence of accountability.
This highlights just how important the online review should be to land-based businesses. For casinos, it should be doubly so. While people seeking restaurants or holidays cannot actually partake in the activity they require online, potential casino patrons in many places are able to. Having positive reviews online is what may be the difference between persuading a person that it is worth the 45 minute drive to visit a land-based casino.
Martin Baird, of Robinson and Associates, Inc, runs Casino Customer Service, a consultancy that helps clients to improve the quality of their service. He explains that while the resources that casinos currently put into their digital footprint do vary, for the most there’s plenty more to be done.
“Many casinos see social media and online marketing as part of their overall marketing mix, but many are still thinking website search engine optimisation when they should be focused on casino reviews and casino reputation,” he explains.
“Too many casinos are stuck thinking that billboards and newspaper ads will keep guests flocking to their property. In today’s environment, that is old-school marketing.”
An increase in competition
It would certainly be naive of any company to simply stick to traditional marketing and there shouldn’t be many that do. But for so long search engine marketing was the be all and end all of any digital activity. While it remains important across the board, for land-based casinos it’s perhaps less so. Apart from casinos situated in clusters such as Las Vegas, Macau and others, searches will predominantly focus on brand names and be exact matches.
Although that’s good for them at the moment, should new markets continue to become regulated for online gambling then they could be in for a bit of a shock. Competition will go through the roof as online operators will be savvy enough to learn what potential customers of land-based casinos are searching for and target those phrases.
But with Sheldon Adelson and others hardly making it a secret that they’re opposed to online gambling, Baird offers a more pragmatic approach.
He explains: “With online gaming, casino customers will no longer need to get in their car and drive to a casino when it’s 100 degrees hot or 40 degrees below zero. If guests can stay home and play, yes it will have an impact on land-based casinos.
“We’ve already started telling casinos that they better improve their casino customer service now if they want to be prepared for what is coming. The online games will look the same as they do in the casino. The only real difference will be casino customer service.”
Just like how 32Red and bet365 have been able to make a name for themselves with customer service, the same obviously counts in the bricks and mortar world, if not more so. You’ll be hard pushed to find a single review site (regardless of what affiliate deal they’re on), player forum or B2B forum where a bad word is said about their customer service – or even the operators in general.
It’s certainly no coincidence that this good reputation coincides with the fact that both companies continue to go from strength to strength – bet365 revealed that profits leaped by a third in their last financial year last month while 32Red’s full year revenues rose 28%.
So when it comes to ensuring that similar reputations are maintained for land-based casinos, there shouldn’t be much more motivation needed. However, Baird reveals that not enough is currently being done.
He explains: “Most casinos are monitoring and following what is being said about them in some way. But most don’t have comprehensive monthly reporting across all the sites that they should be watching. It’s also surprising that few of them monitor reviews about their competition.
“We see casino reputation as a cornerstone of casino marketing. The world has changed because of the avalanche of communication created by the Internet and social media. Word gets around quickly. Reputation truly matters.”
Of course reputation is something that no company can control but Baird is keen to show that there are ways in which casinos are able to sway their online reputation. One of these ways is by simply encouraging more positive reviews.
“Research shows that people most often post negative reviews. The way to change this is to be proactive and make it more likely guests will post positive reviews,” he says.
“We offer a service called Simply Share in which casino customers can use their smartphone or table to scan a bar code, key in answers to a few simple questions and submit them to the casino while they are still on the floor. The service gives casinos the ability to respond to a problem before the guest walks out the door.”
This is just the start of what needs to be a lot of hard work if land-based casinos are going to ward off what some see as the threat of online gambling. By being able to offer a complete entertainment package the ball is in their court but just one slip up could lose a customer for good. The trick will be getting these customers back onside before they’re able to share their bad experiences with many more.