erinwootan

In celebration for acheiving AAA Five Diamond status for the third year running, The Venetian Las Vegas and the Palazzo Las Vegas, owned by Las Vegas Sands, are running a “Five Day Five Diamond” promotion through social media. All you have to do to join is follow @VenetianVegas and @PalazzoLasVegas on twitter and throughout the week this week they will be tweeting clues with the hashtag #5day5diamond about where on their properties you can find a “diamond.” Then, you have to snap a photo of yourself with the diamond when you find it and post it to Twitter with the hashtag and the Twitter handles of one of the properties. Prizes include high end gifts like a diamond necklace, spa getaway and free hotel stays at either property.

I think this is a pretty clever promotion. I am loving the use of social media to get cusomers involved. Yesterday, there were¬†a series of clues posted such as, “#5day5diamond Scavenger Hunt – Hint #1 looking for this Diamond might involve water. Hope you don’t get seasick. Rules: http://t.co/wItq1Wy” Yesterday, they included 4 separate clues, and based on the posted picures I saw, the diamond was somewhere along the canal, I believe in the Venetian, on a light post. If I lived in Vegas, I’d probably take a day this week to go scope out the property and try to find the diamond. It’s also a great way to promote the fact that your company just earned such a prestigious award. It gets people through the doors that may not already be venturing there, and it’s a good way to get your name buzzing on Twitter.

Overall, a solid promotion. Who doesn’t love diamonds?

There’s a lot of buzz these days about social media and its use in business. In casino marketing, email blasts are beginning to replace the old standard of postcards and self-mailers to invite guests to special events. Room offers are being sent through email. Special deals are being “tweeted” and “facebooked” (sidebar: interesting that tweeted and facebooked are now very well known verbs in the English language) so friends and followers can obtain the same deals, or maybe better deals, than loyal gaming customers. However, because social media has become such an overnight success, I am left to wonder if anyone has really taken the time to evaluate whether these online tactics are actually more beneficial, or have a higher response/success rate than snail mail?

I came across an article that addressed this point. At a recent Casino Marketing Conference, three marketing professionals argued that social media is not worth all the hype it is receiving. When it comes down to what your customer really wants, the most important things are as follows:

1. Program Transparency: Every casino tracks and rewards players differently, and customers want to know how they can maximize their rewards. The most successful tracking systems allow customers to readily view and track their points and comps. In a tiered system, they want to know how to reach the next level. And when they receive rewards or offers, they want an easy way to redeem their offers, rather than a bogged down system full of long lines and paperwork.

2. Free stuff: Ok, clearly everyone likes free stuff. But, for example, having a free tournament with a decent prize structure versus having a tournament where a guest has to pay, but with a higher payoff will end up being more attractive to the majority of guests, and will not cost you as much. Focus on the free. What kind of promotions can you run that will benefit the most guests and will still not cost you an arm and a leg to execute. Which leads me to…

3. Creativity: This goes back to one of my previous posts about chasing your competitors. Customers want something new and different. They like new ideas and creative promotions, rather than the same ideas that your competitors are promoting down the street. Simply copying an idea that you think is successful won’t cut it with gaming customers who have so many choices in the marketplace.

4. Direct mail vs. social media: It seems that direct mail is the way to go. Customers value room offers and offers with high dollar values. They also like calendars, so they can plan their trips in advance. Of the almost 40 million people who check social media sites and email several times a day, few are actually gaming customers and even fewer actually hold value for your business. Also, casino databases do not have comprehensive email information for their customers, and often many of the email addresses are incorrect.

Do you think that social media will eventually phase out traditional “snail mail” direct mail campaigns? Or do you think that direct mail will always be an important part of the casino business?

This can become...

I just came across a very interesting article by David Schwartz from the Las Vegas Business Press about cost strategies for companies in the hospitality industry and it got me to thinking about the most logical and effective ways to deal with costs when the economy is not running at full strength. The obvious choice would be cut, cut, cut. Logically, if revenues are down, the easiest way to help boost margins is to cut costs. Many of the cost cutting strategies affect your front line employees, but this may not be the best way to approach your cost strategy. Eliminating the need for overtime, running skeleton crews during off-peak times and even eliminating free meals for employees (to name a few) can greatly affect the moral of your employees. And if they’re unhappy, you can bet at least some of that unhappiness will be passed along to your customers. In the years since the recession began in 2007, I’ve seen a few waves of layoffs and position eliminations as a cost cutting strategy. It’s very hard to be productive when positions are being cut left and right and you’re left wondering if you’re next. I’m not saying that this is a completely unnecessary strategy, but it seems to be the first place companies go to reduce costs and it’s often the most detrimental to the attitudes of the employees who are left behind. As a result of layoffs and position eliminations, remaining employees are also left with a greater workload for the same or sometimes less money than before. Yet another way companies are not helping the attitudes of employees.

...this faster than you may intend.

I haven’t even mentioned the cost cutting strategies that directly affect your customers such as reduction in comps or, like a Las Vegas casino recently did, elimination of comps and even revocation of comps. It doesn’t make sense to alienate your customers or scare them away just so the CFO can sh

ow improvement on the bottom line. There has to be a point at which upper management starts realizing that these cost cutting strategies may not be the best long term solution, and hopefully that does not happen before it’s too late and your customers have gone looking for greener pastures. As I’ve mentioned before, the gaming industry is experiencing a stagnation, and in some cases decline, and any strategy that sends your customers to a competitor because you’ve committed to a cost cutting strategy that negatively affects their bottom line is definitely not the smartest move in my opinion. Why should your customers wait in longer lines, or go to dirty restrooms just because you’ve cut your staff to levels that no longer make your organization as efficient as it can and should be?

It would be pretty naive to assume that cost cutting measures are always efficient, effective and full of sunshine and rainbows, but I would hope there are better ways to look at the BIG picture, rather than going for the most obvious choices that can seriously harm your most basic business practices. Using the charts above, using innovation to improve business rather than simply cutting costs or spending money on things that are simply sustaining the business can greatly help the bottom line and can put you a step ahead of your competitors.

Trust me, this is NOT where you want your business to end up.

It’s definitely important to be knowledgeable of what your competitors are up to, but how much time, energy and cash should your company devote to chasing them? With the recent declining economy and especially the hard hit the casino industry has taken, it is very important to stay on top of your game and fight for customers. In markets like Reno, and to a lesser extent, Las Vegas, it’s a fight with the guy down the street for business. But, I’m left wondering how much attention a company should focus on what the competitor is doing, and how much time a company should spend actually coming up with their own ideas or perfecting on ideas that are currently working?

For example, if a certain event or promotion is doing well down the street, should you spend tons of time and effort trying to copy that idea? Or just create your own idea and blow the guy down the street out of the water? I tend to lean towards the latter. Being innovative and creative is SO important when your industry is suffering as the casino industry is. I mean, to draw a parallel, if McDonald’s launches a new salad line, should Burger King IMMEDIATELY scramble to launch a competing salad line? Or should they try something new, like a new smoothie line (assuming that McDonalds has not already taken that approach). You get what I’m saying. I strongly feel that creativity is the key to success. Being innovative. Trying something new and different, not just copying someone else.

In the technology industry, the newest thing is tablets. Well, who created tablets? Apple of course. They came out with the iPad. Then, HP had a tablet. Then, Sony had a tablet. And so on and so on. Apple is the only one who did it right! They came up with the idea, did it right, and everyone else is left catching up. When Apple came out with the iPhone, it was super innovative, and the other companies I mentioned above followed suit and came up with new touch screen smart phones to imitate the iPhone. Then, Apple spent the next few years creating the iPad. If even ONE of these companies had skipped the step of the smart phone and basically INVENTED the tablet concept, they’d have a huge head start. But instead, technology companies are just waiting for Apple to come out with the newest, greatest thing and then they follow suit. Of course, I’m leaving out the fact that Apple is very trendy, and very good at what they do. They have incredible brand loyalty as well which is also very important. But the concept remains. When should a company forge their own course and stop following their competitors so closely?

The answer I’m sure is very complicated, and involves needing very smart, dedicated people on staff. What do you think about this situation? When is it prudent to be a follower and when is it more valuable to be an industry leader?

As some of you may know, I participated in a Leadership in Arts class for a week in New York City in June. Not only did I absolutely fall in LOVE with the city, but I actually learned a few things as well! Shocking, I know…

In any case, below you will find a journey through pictures of my trip and some of the things I learned about New York City.

What would a post about leadership be without first talking about George Washington? The first of many great leaders in this country. We came across this statue on our first full day in New York, in Union Square I think. During the class, we also talked about another great president, Woodrow Wilson, and his views on leadership and the role of government. A lot of the things he said about the role of government in America still hold true today.

Here you see the inside of Trinity Church. This is the church that is right across the street from the World Trade Center site. Many of the volunteers, rescue workers and victims families of 9/11 used this church as their safe haven during the days and weeks following 9/11. Miraculously, the church ended up with barely any damage even though it was in such close proximity to the Towers. The inside of this church and the memorial and history that it holds is very moving. Rescue workers and volunteers aren’t usually viewed as “leaders” in the traditional sense of the word, but the people of New York who helped following 9/11 are as much leaders and should be held in the same high regard as leaders such as George Washington as seen above.

The United Nations is the definition of leadership. Leaders from nations all over the world gather here in the General Council Chambers to discuss world issues of all kinds. Just days after we were here, the General Council met to discuss AIDS and its worldwide impact. The UN was one of the coolest things we saw on the trip, and it’s something that not many people are able to see. We got to peek through a window to see the Security Council chamber, but were not permitted to take photos.

Here you see the mural that extends on the whole wall of the Audubon Ballroom where Malcom X was assassinated. During the class, we learned and discussed the lives of Malcom X and MLK. While they each have their own history, and are remembered for being very different people, they share many leadership qualities. They were both very charismatic speakers and their followers were very loyal. They also both fought to the death for what they believed in. Towards the end of their lives, their goals became dramatically different, but both men were willing to stand up for what they believed in and were willing to even die for what they believed in.

Ok, this really doesn’t have a lot to do with leadership, but how cool is it that we were able to be on a billboard in Times Square?! Great marketing idea from American Eagle. If you purchase something from their Times Square storefront, you can get your photo taken upstairs in the store and it is posted within 5 minutes on the HUGE electronic billboard right in times square. It ends up re-posting several times and we felt pretty darn cool…

Um, what would a trip to New York be without heading to Yankee Stadium baby!!!

And, that about does it for Leadership in New York. Obviously, in ten days I saw way more than this, but unfortunately I cannot find my camera cord and could only upload what I had on my phone. If I get those other photos uploaded, prepare for part 2!!

Well, faithful followers, I have returned. I must apologize for my absence, but between graduation, getting a new place, a summer school class and ten days in New York City (ah-mazing by the way, thanks for asking), life has been a little hectic. I have finally pressed the pause button on life and slowed things down enough to get back to the blog-o-sphere.

Today, I’d like to talk (again!) about some of the great things I’m discovering about the Total Rewards program at Harrah’s! Harrah’s as a company has a long, successful history, but as of late have kind of fallen off the radar in terms of hotels and casinos. They have gone through some financial hardships since 2007 and are not generally mentioned when people talk about great places to visit, especially in Reno. But man, they are stepping up their game in the Total Rewards department. The newest feature is called Total Rewards Marketplace. Now, in addition to gambling, spending money in Harrah’s restaurants and other outlets and booking a convention at a Harrah’s property, you can now earn Total Rewards points by shopping at some of your favorite retail outlets. Yep, you heard me right. Now, by spending money at places like Apple, Barnes and Noble and Target online. All you have to do is log into the Total Rewards Marketplace with your Total Rewards account number and let the shopping begin. You will earn 1 point for every $1 spent and 2 points for every $1 spent if you shop with your Total Rewards Visa card. I think this is another great way to get the Harrah’s and Total Rewards name out there. I’m going to dig my Total Rewards card out and use it the next time I need to shop online. Earn points while shopping for things I would have bought anyway? Yes please!

Hello all.

No, I haven’t forgotten about you, just been roaming the streets of New York City for a little over a week and haven’t had the Internet connection or the time to blog. But rest assured, I’ll be back home Tuesday and will pick up right back where I left off!

Tomorrow, I plan on trying to visit either Aquaduct or Yonkers Raceway, so I look forward to offering a different perspective on what the racinos look like up here and what’s new.

Thanks for following, and I look forward to getting back to blogging shortly!

Cheers from the Big Apple!

About Me

This blog is devoted to the gaming industry news and information - keeping you up to date on the happenings in the gaming world. My personal expertise lies in event planning and entertainment in casinos.

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