Lee Davy shares his online poker experience and his belief that the art of storytelling is the key to modern marketing.
I downloaded the software, signed up, deposited money that didn’t belong to me, and promptly lost it.
I tried again, this time on a different site. The same happened, only over a longer period.
“You should try this new site,” said a friend of mine.
I downloaded the software, signed up, deposited money that didn’t belong to me, and I won.
I kept winning.
The site rewarded me with deposit bonuses.
I fell in love.
And then, I encountered a problem.
I stopped clicking and went looking for someone to fix it.
How to create an online poker room
Back in the day, online poker rooms lived in a Field of Dreams build it, and they will come mentality.
They all possessed the same mod cons. Your devotion came out of a love of liquidity, better software, better bonus schemes, or some other psychological nonsensical reason such as running hot.
And so they built them.
But how do you get them to come?
I belong to numerous online poker rooms, casinos, and sports books. They share a similar marketing strategy – they shout at me.
“Click this big red shiny button to find another deposit bonus!”
I send it to the trash.
They are loud and obnoxious ads. They are trying to talk to me, of that I am sure, but they don’t understand my language. Communication is lazy, lacklustre, and belongs in the cat’s litter box.
I am a big fan of the James Altucher podcast. I love it because it was free of ads. Everyone was selling out, but not James. And then, he did it. He sold out. He changed my experience. He used to talk to me. Now, he is shouting at me. He is giving me a headache.
Companies need customers to drop everything, tune in and listen. Only then will you see and hear us.
Why story is so important
In 2014, Hollywood movies grossed $36 billion worldwide in box office spondoolas; not including DVD, merchandise, and TV spin-off revenue.
People love the movies because they connect and identify with the story, and that’s the key to great marketing.
If you want to run a successful business, then sell great stories. Online poker rooms fail miserably. Instead of appealing to human emotion, they aim for human intellect. A great story is dripping with an emotionally charged connection. I don’t feel that when I turn on my e-mail and see the jackpot, I am never going to win increased by another $10,000.
Understand your audience
When another piece of online poker e-mail marketing drivel hits my inbox, it doesn’t speak to me. It’s created to appeal to the masses, and I like to feel special, unique and loved.
I keep waiting for a personal connection. Until I feel it, all online poker rooms look the same to me. They are money making machines who don’t care about my needs, wants, or desires. I am not an e-mail inbox. I’m flesh and blood. I feel, I want, and I have a fuckton of problems created by your site. Stop trying to treat me like I am a simpleton. I am a highly evolved multifaceted and complicated character.
I am the owner of the Alcohol & Addiction Podcast created to help those suffering from addiction. Before my interviews, I thoroughly research enabling me to connect with the person on the other end of the microphone.
People within addiction circles have similarities, but everyone has a unique set of foibles and furry balls. I need to understand what makes each guest tick. By doing the work, and listening, I can adjust my questions more appropriately to elicit the best emotional response for the listener. The deeper our emotional connection, the more valuable the experience becomes for the audience.
The E-Mail Sequence
Instead of firing promotional material at me like I am a dartboard, spend your time understanding who I am. Then you can create a story based e-mail series that speaks to me. The heart of every story is universal: there needs to be characters, desire, and lots of conflicts, and if you can’t find that triumvirate in an online poker community then you are blind.
Why is it, after years of personal experience with online poker rooms, none of them talk to me about losing money on their site? Wouldn’t you think that would be one of the primary topics of discussion, considering that’s what will happen to most of their customers?
It’s one of many insurmountable problems that I have, and you don’t seem to be fixing any of them. And with social media providing customers with access to a much wider mass of people than ever before surely you would want to get these things right before word of mouth spreads like foot and mouth.
And the story begins with you.
What is your story?
Sit down next to my bed, stroke my hair, and turn a page.
Layer the story with emotion. Create empathy. Make me believe that you understand how I feel when I have lost my kid’s college fund on your site.
Take me down that road, and then rescue me. Give me hope. Give me an opportunity. Give me an experience that has never happened to me before.
If you want to be successful you can’t just be different; you’ve got to create a difference. Airbnb doesn’t offer cheaper hotel rooms with a kitchen. They provide you with an entirely unique experience. Ikea didn’t create the Knapper mirror because wanted to know who was the fairest of them all.
The flat packing champions of the world are one of the masters of understanding their customer. They watched and listened. They saw people struggling to get out of the house in the morning. The Knapper mirror was created to help you over this obstacle by giving you space to hang your clothes on the back, the previous night.
Companies like Airbnb and Ikea don’t go to war with the competition; they create brand new experiences. The product doesn’t come first; the truth comes first.
When was the last time you looked at your backyard?
When I worked on the iron road, my primary customer was the steel giant Corus. They were going through a torrid time. Personal accident statistics were going through the roof. People were dying.
A revolutionary with balls of steel called Phil Dryden was in charge at the time and after yet another employee fatality he drew a line in the iron filings. Things needed to change, and he knew he had to be the catalyst for an entirely new experience.
He created a behavioural change process called ‘The Journey’. All of his employees and primary customers, thousands of people, were invited to sporting arenas around Wales for a presentation that would begin this journey.
They sat in their chairs and watched video footage of steelworks some of them had worked in for 30-years. Only this time, everything looked different. People had become so used to the horrific working conditions it had become the norm.
“This is our backyard!” Dryden shouted like Braveheart at his troops. “This has to change! If we keep on doing what we have always done, we will keep on getting the same results.”
Corus embarked on a remarkable change after that. There was pride within the workforce. Safety statistics improved. Smiles came out to play on the dirty faces of South Wales finest working class heroes.
I often wonder if online poker rooms see their backyard as we see it, and that includes the noise that gets pushed through my cyber letterbox on a daily basis.
I never did find someone to fix my problem.
All I found was excuses.
They were willing to give me deposit bonuses, not because it was what I wanted, but because it was a good revenue earner.
The minute I needed someone to understand me, find empathy, and solve my problems, everyone vanished.
And so, I left, to find a different backyard. I never went back.
Now tell me, what is a company without customers?