As the economy continues to reopen and casinos around the country press play on their operations, it is imperative to remain agile. The lyrics of Cha-Cha Slide by DJ Casper is an example of the incessant dance that those of us in the hospitality industry must perform to successfully navigate reopening. “Slide to the left” with new guidelines from health officials. “Take it back now, y’all,” with new guidance on mask requirements as cases continue to increase around the country at an alarming rate. “One hop this time” to communicate to your audience of the new operational changes. “Right foot, let’s stomp,” double down on your cleaning and sanitation processes to ensure guests feel safe. “Left foot, let’s stomp,” keep your team members engaged. “Cha Cha real smooth, then turn it out” and start all over again.
The pandemic is a new experience for all of us in the gaming industry; however, change and evolution are not. Remember the not too distant days of long-term planning in years and not months? Remember when we were eagerly anticipating the execution of the next big event? There is no other industry better positioned to provide the sense of escapism that our guests desire in the safest environment possible. As a whole, we are imaginative. Guests come to us to escape the real world and live a bit of fantasy. We provide a service like no other, and boy can we put on a show. But, have you frozen your marketing efforts? Do your guests know what is going on? Brian Bennett at MarketingProfs.com elaborated upon something that we all know - eliminating marketing efforts now might not be such a great idea. Marketing is the driver of revenue in casino resorts – that goes without question. What would happen to your business if you completely stopped all of your marketing? Your competitors would find the opportunity and exploit it. Take the time now to ask significant questions that will have a long-term impact and help you to fight the “freeze” reaction.
Ask yourself the following:
How do we come out of this pandemic stronger?
Do we have time to reach out personally to high-end players? When was the last time they heard from your brand? Are you reaching out to check on them? You should. Remember, your high-end players value your one-on-one relationship. Stay in touch. Let your other marketing program focus on one-to-many relationships.
Are we communicating enough with our team members, community, and guests? Designate someone to stay on top of operational changes and get the message out as quickly as possible. A clean email database is crucial during this time! Remember, your brand has value because of the trust consumers have placed in it. Don’t lose their trust because of a lack of communication; enhance it by being transparent and communicating effectively. In short, be interactive.
Where and what is the silver lining? How can we increase market share during this time? If your competitors halted all or part of marketing efforts then now is the time to seize the opportunity. You don’t have to overspend; but, now, more than ever, make every dollar count. Don’t outspend, outsmart. Realize that there is always a silver lining!
What long-term value can we develop for our brand? Are there strategic partnerships that we can take advantage of now that make more sense for us? A focus on guest and team member safety is essential.
What are other ways that we can deliver exceptional guest service with minimal contact? Simply giving operational information via phone can strengthen the bond between your brand and guests - a little goes a long way!
Are there other areas that we can make changes to positively impact our operations? Now is the time to sever ties with legacy amenities that do not generate revenue. Not many operators can say that they have excess cash to burn.
Can we make a process easier for our guests? Can we reduce contact in high-contact situations to help them feel safer? If so, make changes early on to demonstrate that you are designing and improving procedures with their safety in mind.
Do we have an updated contingency plan? No one wants to think about the possibility of another shutdown, but preparation at this moment in time is key. If your property is open, you now have historical data on which to make decisions, so use it to develop your plan.
Do we check in often enough with our team? The current situation is not normal and many may be out of sorts. Remember, they are experiencing extreme pressures from the pandemic as well. Be empathetic.
Operators have tremendous opportunities available to mitigate damage to their brands and businesses. Any opening plan or operating plan is temporary, a snapshot in time, as the current circumstances are still very fluid. Your brand should be ready to pivot at a moment’s notice. The “COVID Cha Cha Slide” is a dance we should all become accustomed to performing because inevitability there will be more changes to come.
Richard Picard, MBA, is an enrolled member of the Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana and is passionate about helping tribes realize economic sustainability through gaming operations. Picard currently serves at the Director of Public Relations & Advertising at Cypress Bayou Casino Hotel in Charenton, LA. In addition to his duties at Cypress Bayou Casino Hotel, he serves on the Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana’s Economic Development Committee and as a management committee member of Sitimaxa Holdings, LLC., an independently owned Tribal entity specializing in government contracting. In his role, he has successfully garnered millions of dollars in publicity, launched wildly successful marketing and public relations campaigns, increased tourism to the region, and, as part of a team, significantly improved property, and casino player profitability. He is an experienced marketing executive with a demonstrated history in the casino gaming industry. Picard is experienced in advertising, branding, digital marketing, direct marketing, social media marketing, public relations, event management, budgeting, strategic relations, sponsorships, management, and team building.
Picard received his master’s in business administration focusing in casino and hospitality management at Louisiana State University at Shreveport. He is a lifelong member of Sigma Alpha Pi and holds several professional designations.
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