Money wheels. Tricked-out trucks. Holiday bonanzas. Cash tornadoes. Pulling off a successful club promotion is harder than it might look. Here are 13 tips and ideas to get you there, without breaking the bank. (Unless, of course, Break the Bank is your promotion of choice.)

  1. Start with planning.

It might be more fun to think about what kind of game show briefcase you’ll use in that “Deal or No Deal” promo, or how the balloons will drop on the new car, but if your promotional idea is going to be successful, you need to set the fun aside and first ask yourself: what, exactly, am I trying to do? Why am I running this promotion and what results do I want to achieve?  Is it to acquire new members? Reward loyal members? Increase spend? Increase visits? Increased length of stay?

A good marketing calendar has balance, a mixture of mass and targeted promotions. Sometimes the goal is to see a big bump in revenue across an area, and at other times the goal is to boost a certain demographic or time of day. By the way, it should never be because you’ve always had a promotion on that day or at that time. It needs to be a targeted, strategic and measurable reason.

One other thing: Do not start with how much you should, or have to, spend. Expense should be planned in line with potential revenue or return on investment, and you’re not going to know that until you define what you’re trying to achieve.

  1. Determine how you’ll measure success.

You’ll need to know what “success” means in order to achieve it. Be sure to isolate your base business, as sometimes traffic isn’t driven by promotions. And in addition to traditional ROI calculations, you may want to check in on other less-obvious factors like customer satisfaction or conversion. Just be sure to define how you’ll measure those in advance.

  1. Know your target audience – and go “duck hunting in the duck season”.   

In order to know the right day, the right way to spread the word or even the right briefcase for that game show promotion, make sure you know your audience as well as you possibly can. Because no matter how enticing you may think your promotion is, if your audience hasn’t heard about it, or isn’t interested, or can’t come, it’s going to be a flop.

If for example, drive time is short and your identified target audience isn’t employed full-time, you may be able to bump that 50% gaming floor occupancy on a Tuesday. Or, your audience demographics may tell you the smartest day to make the biggest bang for your buck is Friday – after all, a 5% increase on your biggest trading day is going to mean a whole lot more than a 5% increase on your slowest day.

It’s a whole lot harder to get people to come to your club on a day or time that they don’t normally do than it is to get them to stay a little longer when they are already there.  And we all know people are usually more cashed up towards the end of the week than they are at the beginning.  So, maximise the time when your players are at the venue.  Remember that old adage – go duck hunting in the duck season. You get more ducks that way.

  1. Keep your members close and your competition closer.

The more you know about your competition, the better you can react or better still, act proactively. Keep an eye on competitor’s websites, Facebook pages, newsletters and mailers. Identify timing and details on promotional events big and small, as well as competitive strengths, weaknesses, and potential impact on your business. And then act.

Say, for example, your competitor has their big monthly giveaway on a Saturday. Knowing your audience has limited discretionary income, you could encourage they spend that money on the Friday preceding the giveaway with an enticing offer.

Technology makes competitive tactics much easier. Let’s say one of your high-value members is entering your competitor’s parking lot, headed to their Big Bucks promotion. You can send a real-time text that says, “Get over to our club in the next half hour and get a GUARANTEED 50 big bucks in points or the gift card of your choice.”

  1. Know when enough is enough.

A promotional calendar that’s filled to the brim with exciting giveaways, gifts, and games will produce more profits than a calendar that has sporadic promotions, right? Not necessarily.

A constant merry-go-round of promotions and those ponies lose their lustre. Guests are no longer excited. And, if you’re always in promo mode, how can you calculate the bump a particular promotion creates? When you spend money you can no longer measure, you stop being able to adjust, react, and improve your bottom line.

That goes for loyalty programs as well. Because if you’re not careful, those happy, excited members become angry, entitled members who wonder where their free meal or free show ticket is, or what happened to their 80% discount on everything.

When it comes to promotions, choose quality over quantity. Go back to the drawing board and remind yourself of your objectives. Then evaluate if and when each promotion fills their objectives and get ahead of the game.

  1. Brand it.

If your promo name looks and sounds just like your competitor’s promo name, you just might just have spent your money giving them business. Brand colours, typeface, name, tone, personality — make sure that promotion speaks to guests in your voice. And the more unmistakably yours, the better.

  1. Limit time.

We humans are a predictable bunch and we tend to assign greater value to limited-time offers. From an old-fashioned circus barker’s “hurry, hurry, hurry” to today’s social media flash sales, time, or lack thereof, can create a buzz. And buzz creates action.

Choosing the right start and end dates can have a big impact on the success of your promotion. Don’t run the promotion long enough, and your members won’t have enough time to enter. Run it too long, and it loses its punch. It’s important to experiment with your particular target audience to find your “sweet spot”.

  1. Create a sense of mystery.

We know gamers by nature are risk-takers. So, while many of us love a good mystery, your target audience more than likely really loves a good mystery. Unlike a typical promotion, use mystery or surprise and delight, and you use a lever to create excitement separate from the actual prize. Through an intriguing, mysterious challenge or adventure, your guests can get more engaged and more motivated, which leads to higher participation.

Another benefit to using mystery in your promotions is cost containment. While a guest might not come in if he or she knows, statistically, she’s likely to win a small points prize, that same guest may decide to visit if she’s guaranteed a “mystery” prize (that turns out to be that same points prize).

  1. Use theatre.

These days members, hosts, staff, they’re all busy. What’s more, they’re also bombarded with lots and lots and lots of messages. So if you want to capture attention, generate enthusiasm, and otherwise engage, go a little wild and bring out the theatrics. A stage, an announcer, music, dancing, balloons, game show drama, whatever it takes. Out of the ordinary is the name of the memorability game. In addition to kick-butt promotion results, memorable experiences have the added benefits of building a positive brand, getting great word of mouth, and ultimately, creating a bigger audience for your next promotion.

  1. Who’s promoting the promotion?

The stakes are higher than you may think. If your staff buys in, understands, and is genuinely enthusiastic about a promotion, you just got yourself a lot of free PR. If on the other hand, staff perceives taking part in the promotion as a chore or they’re in the dark about the specifics, then no amount of promotional ad spend will make up for what happens when your members walk in the door.  The moral is: Promote your promotion. Sell your staff. In fact, treat your staff as your customer. If you do a good job, they, in turn, will pass on that enthusiasm, help create buzz, and be walking examples of your brand.

  1. Check goals against data.

After the promo, it’s time to dig into the data. Did the promotion create incremental revenue? Did you see a lift year over year? What type of members participated? Were expenses in line with revenue, or were they too high? Did the promotion attract new member signup on the day of the promotion? How was gaming floor occupancy? Did you get incremental spend in other areas like dining or bars during promotional times?  Quickly get to the bottom of what worked and what didn’t, so you can process the whole picture while it’s fresh.

  1. Debrief

The numbers are one thing, but there’s always more to the story. Within the week, while everything is still fresh, make sure to gather info from the people closest to the promotion – the members and staff.  Ask what worked and what didn’t. How were the lines? The weather? The logistics? The parking? Get the customer experience story that rounds out the numbers.


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