Cut the small marginal programs first
Eliminate fringe media advertising, excessively elaborate special events invites, duplicative events too close on the calendar, all expiring billboard contracts not absolutely defensible in worse case scenarios. Cut all courtesy advertising in local or regional media maintaining what may well be valued relationships, but which can’t justify themselves. Review all postage costs for your direct mail. Determine if you are overspending on internal signage production, excessive changing of light-boxes etc. Walk the property; observe all activities that regularly consume printing and paper. After you take the easy hits, total up the score. You might have done much better than originally estimated. Better yet, with money saved you might actually be able to save a valuable program your property really needs.
Review every program from top to bottom
Review each program but never in the light of its current profitability. Many good programs aren’t mature enough to pay back yet, but worth saving because to reinstate them during better times would waste your investment to date and add to its eventual profit hurdle. The best candidates? Mature programs with diminishing returns. Often they can cover huge costs, but profitability is diluted by time and competition. Never cut programs with increasingly improving profit margins even if the cost of running them is increasing. So long as margins are strong and getting stronger, keep committing the dollars.
Build a basket of core programs
These are your bread and butter marketing engines, the ones which can be tweaked downward during periods of revenue slide – but only in financial consonance with the slide. Whether it’s the bus business, or a tight productive VIP program, your objective here should be to improve margins by perhaps giving up on revenues with the longer term criteria of maintaining relative profit contribution.
Don’t play around with the customer service package
If there is one sure way to dry up that flow of guest traffic, it’s by pulling the rug out on quality assuredness and service. The economy may be tight, but a customer is a customer and their expectations haven’t changed. They are coming to have a good time. Polite, friendly and courteous employees are still the hallmark by which most of your guests will judge you. If anything, pump a little gas into your employee appreciation programs. Reward those “service superstars” who day after day, shift after shift deliver exceptional service. Don’t cheat the guest experience by eliminating a hotel desk clerk or that extra valet parking runner during peak times. If you “go cheap” the customer will notice and they will take their visit and money elsewhere.
Step up the research
Step up the inclusiveness of your most valuable players by letting them know that their business and their opinions matter. Don’t skimp on the focus group research budget just to save a few bucks. Keep the “voice of the customer” alive. Hear them out. Seek their opinion. Remain their primary entertainment option no matter how tight their gaming budgets become. Your loyalty to them will be paid off via their long-term loyalty to you.
While knowing what to and what not to cut in order to get your operational budget in line with expenses and the reality of revenues, by taking and exercising the healthy small steps to prevent major “marketing surgery” remember to think first. Always keep the customer in mind and call me in the morning.
By Joe Witterschein