Marketing in a Minute

by Ed Meyer

posted on March 12, 2014 in General Discussion, Handicapping, Horse Racing, | No Comments >>

The old saying that resonates in your noggin still begs the question. When you walk into a restaurant, store, or sports bar. There’s a concentrated effort to make you feel more welcome. I guess this rule applies everywhere in the world except the track. If there was a business that needed to focus on the target, they sure could afford to keep their eye on the ball.

#1 – I walked into a men’s store to buy a dress shirt. Immediately, I was greeted and offered a loyalty card to receive a special (20%) off the sale price. If I was a return customer with a purchase history, I would receive a BOGO offer on any shirt. Now, I didn’t come in to buy a new wardrobe, but the way they came up to me, and dissapeared until I needed assistance was perfect. They didn’t trail me, but grabbed me and turned me loose. Needless to say, I won’t be going anywhere else to buy dress shirts.

#2 – We were at a casino outside of Louisville. It was large and well-kept, and there were so many choices you would need two days to decide where to eat. My gal is a “big player” and has one of the top tier level loyalty cards. We sat down at a $5 poker machine, and as soon as she plugged her loyalty card. There was an executive host on the scene before the first button was pushed. He didn’t stay but one minute, and gave us his card. He said to call him if we wanted to stay another night, or have dinner anywhere in the casino. In the blink of an eye he was on his way and we had a contact.

#3 – There are three places I don’t go: weddings, funerals, and the mall. – But on this day she stopped by for a little makeup upgrade. As soon as we pulled in front of the store, her phone was texted a “special” (30%) off any store item today only! Talk about “guerrilla marketing” and the effect on the customer. She bought twice as planned, and felt like a VIP.

Race tracks love to talk a big game about customer service. Now that sounds like a plan, but how many gamblers want to be sold an idea when they are there to play the ponies ? – Those who take the time to miss two races are either really nice, or not much of a player. The new feel on the floor is ” find them, and try to satisfy.” – Normally that is a great idea, but with tracksters, you have a short window to get your message across. Long ago before technology was king, you had to burn a great deal of shoe leather. (I used to buy my shoes where I bought my special deal shirts.) – Here area few ideas that I used to employ to keep customers happy.

I had all access to our loyalty player system, and could see everywhere in the building. Nobody ever saw this except me, and it wasn’t going anywhere. The big tale told to players was that the track had no way of seeing if you were winning or losing. That wasn’t the truth in whole, but it wasn’t used to send offers or bother you with an junk load of email. I used it to see if big players were winning big or losing. New players could be rounded up for that 1 minute offer to join us for dinner. Reappearing players could be corralled with a visit or a bounce-back to get them coming back. In it’s infancy, this was pretty good info. I had the ability to roll out of my office, or deploy an intern to visit a player and hand them my card. They would be loaded with a response that kept the gamblers calling. This worked pretty well as everyone wants to have a special contact. Every guest is important, but they cannot all be rewarded on the same scale. Just giving directions or walking a player to the men’s room is not customer service. You have become a traffic cop, and are wasting time that could be better served with better lighted signage.

If big players were winning, I would stop by the bar and buy a round or two of drinks to celebrate. Or, if a gambler was losing his shirt, I would breeze by his table and offer he and his cohort an invitation for dinner. Either way, I stayed very low key and there was no “in your face” tactics. In and out in over a minute. They knew how to connect with me, and I didn’t take away from their track time. – New players could be incented with a free program or free valet parking, and I could keep them on the radar. – The player who appeared out of thin air was treated accordingly to how they have played. Small players would get a handshake and an offer to call me at the track if I could help assist them. Bigger players who came onto my radar screen would be greeted with open arms, and offered access to the big player room for the day.  All knew how to contact me, and I didn’t stay in their face. I hate the hard-sell tactics, and feel pinned down by an elephant as they pitch anything and everything. I never thought that customer service was giving away the house, and not everyone went to the champagne room. Everyone felt appreciated, and they knew my number by heart. Just like a cat burglar, in and out in less than a minute.

I’m hearing plans by local tracks to get in the face of the customer, and get them pointed in the right direction. – Bad news as it takes too much time, and can be insulting to others not receiving an offer. I used to say that everyone works in marketing, and if you see or deal with a good player, just give me a jingle and we’ll get them taken care of. Be sure to have a great relationship with mutuel clerks, ushers, program sellers, and servers in the restaurant. – Now we’re moving.  Not bad for a little shoe leather and a handful of business cards.

It’s not about glory days of doing my job. It’s about knowing when to step on the gas, and how fast. I cringe as I walk into a casino and greeted twenty times with “have a great day, or we hope you win tonight.” That’s cute if they are going to be wearing a long coat opening the door as you walk in. But usually not the case, and wouldn’t their time be better served walking around the facility offering directions, how to get to certain games, and letting you know there is a BOGO offer at the buffet for members. Information is king, and no matter how high-tech the industry becomes. There is nothing like having access to a roving group that can answer your questions, or get you the right person to make it happen. I have called it “guerrilla-marketing,” and it works. In and out in less than minute, and keep players moving without the hassle.

The next time you are corned by a customer service specialist who goes fifteen minutes about how glad they are to see you. They have lost your attention, patience, and loyalty. There is a fine line between service and becoming a pest. But racing has not learned the lesson. There are a handful of tracks that “get-it” but many don’t have a clue. If you want the customer to be king, you have to be available. I have seen the best, and they could talk their way out of a sunburn.  In and out, and be there when they call. Remember, they didn’t come to see you but if they did, it’s for the service that was promised. Make good on commitments, and follow through. Just stay out of the way, and you’ll find yourself busier than ever. It’s just business, and it can be good again if we use common sense. You don’t have to break the bank with offers, and you can take some of that wasted signage advertising and re-invest in your most valuable asset – Your patrons.