Building Better Promotions

Pre and post-steps to build into your process

Marketing has a well-earned reputation for being the “fun” department. Many don’t realize how much work goes into planning all the fun that our guests and fellow teammates see! Yes, there’s the basics of determining the goal of the promotion, diving into the database, selecting the type of promotion, deciding what to give away, and developing the rules and regulations. But there are some things that should be done that often get overlooked. In the mix of being stressed and busy during daily life, many can forget a few details that can diminish the success of a promotion.

Pre-event proforma

So many miss this crucial step! Completing a proforma before the event will assist you with the focus of your promotion and identifying the best segments to involve. Aligning it with the four key marketing strategies (acquisition, retention, growth and reactivation) is an important step as well. Your promotion needs to have a purpose AND a focus. The great thing is that a promotion can support more than one strategy, depending on the segment.

For instance, a play and get gift promotion can be a retention strategy for your upper segments, but if set up correctly, it can function as a growth strategy for lower segments. When I set up a play and get gift promotion, I like to set a daily point threshold, along with a separate monthly point threshold. With a T-shirt play and get, the daily point threshold could be set at 250 points to earn the T-shirt, or earn 1,000 points in a month to earn a T-shirt. Your proforma (along with appropriate database analysis) will help you set the appropriate point thresholds.

The proforma will show you your best ROI and keep you focused on a projected outcome. If the numbers don’t add up, don’t do the promotion! So many times an idea is presented that sounds good, but the numbers don’t add up. The proforma will save you from wasting time and effort on an event or promotion that doesn’t meet your financial goals.


After you complete your proforma, it’s time for your first meeting. But we have TOO many meetings, you say! The type of meeting that I am suggesting rarely gets done, and it can cause a lot of dissension across the casino (and have a direct line to the ear of your guest!). Get feedback from every department in the casino. Create a committee of representatives from every department. Include frontline, management and back of house, and present the event/promotion to the group. No offense to the bigwigs, but they can sometimes be out of touch with the floor. I have seen promotions that looked good on paper, but failed miserably when implemented.

One promo that comes to mind involved all frontline employees distributing “casino cash” (funny money) every hour to guests actively gaming or eating in the casino. This was done over a considerable length of time (90+ days, 24/7), and depending on different scenarios, guests could get anything from $20 in casino cash to $10,000. The guests collected their money and, in the big finale, they could use the casino cash to bid on a wide variety of items. There were several problems with this promotion, but for this point, I will focus on how difficult this action was for the frontline staff. This was before TITO, so for the slot department, this was a nightmare! Especially on a busy night! It was also difficult for security, food and beverage, and the pit. They were required to drop everything and start handing out money. The other side of this was the guests who saw the loophole and would approach staff claiming that they hadn’t received their casino cash. Employees were stressed further, and guests had a bad experience. Not good!

The best part of this promotion is what we learned NOT to do moving forward. We developed a promotion committee with representatives as I described above. We presented all our promotion ideas to the committee, and would adjust them according to the recommendations. Not only did we solve most problems before they happened, making our promotions much more successful, but everyone loved to be included in the marketing FUN, which helped improve my next topic …


So many times we think that we are doing a great job in communicating our marketing efforts. Some of you may be, but some aren’t, and even for those who are doing a good job, there is always more that you can do! Emails don’t always get passed to the frontline staff, and even if a memo is printed and posted, it doesn’t always get read. So, what to do? Why not treat your employees like your guests?! Create back of the house rack cards, posters and mailers that focus on the information you want them to know. Figure out how to hold a similar promotion for your employees. If you are having a slot or table tournament, have one prior that’s just for the employees. The prizes don’t need to be identical. Use gift cards or leftover items from previous promotions … get creative! When your employees experience the same excitement and fun that your guests do, they will be great marketing ambassadors, thereby helping the communication with your guests! It is also a great way to test your promotion and fix any weak areas. Definitely a win-win-win!

Timelines and checklists

These help with organization and accountability! Having a detailed list of who does what, when and by what time is vital in planning and executing a successful promotion or event. I’m a big proponent of lists. As I have stated before, it is so easy to get overwhelmed, stressed and off-task with the day-to-day of working in a casino. Especially when those unexpected situations pop up! So the use of a timeline and checklist can help you stay on track.

Testing and cheating

I get a lot of weird looks when I tell people that I try to cheat my own promotions. It’s something that not everybody thinks about. As much as we want to see the best in people, there are plenty of scammers out there looking for an opportunity to take advantage of or beat the system. I have been to several cheating classes throughout the years and have always been fascinated by how many ways people come up with to cheat a casino, both internally and externally! Even with advances in technology, there are those people who will try to take advantage of the system. It is an important step to consider when designing a promotion. Talk with your security and surveillance people and have them assist with plugging loopholes in your promotions. Your operations people will also be an excellent resource. Make sure that you are doing everything you can to prevent any type of illegal activity.

In coordination with preventing cheating, test your promotion! As I mentioned before, holding employee-based promotions can assist in testing for weak areas in your promotion. Their feedback is like gold! Also, many of the system-based promotions can be easily tested before you go live with your guests. These tests help to ensure that all the settings are correct and prizes are set appropriately. A crucial step in the success of any promotion!


When all the balloons are popped, the prizes given away and the fun had, a follow-up meeting is important. Involve as many people from other departments as possible to get their feedback about what worked, what didn’t, and what can be done better. Compare the pre-event proforma with the post-event analysis that includes all costs associated with the promotion/event. Use the gathered information to improve future efforts! So many don’t take this step, and just go on to the next thing. Following up is as important as any other part of a promotion.

Take the time to cover every step of the promotion. It takes a lot of time and effort, but in the long run, your promotion will be better from the work your team put forth. One last bit of advice … KEEP IT SIMPLE AND HAVE FUN!

Janet Hawk 27 Articles