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Marketing Casinos with Word-of-Mouth
by DESMOND LAM

Marketing Casinos with Word-of-Mouth

Word-of-mouth can be a powerful tool for and against marketing a good or service. Positive word-of-mouth about a casino can accelerate its acceptance and may significantly reduce its promotional expenditure. Negative word-of-mouth, on the other hand, can hamper its acceptance and erode its reputation. In service marketing, word-of-mouth represents any forms of communication among consumers concerning their consumption experiences and is a group phenomenon. To our customers, information about our services received through word-of-mouth is highly credible since the communicator is often seen to be most genuine and honest, certainly compared to any advertisements or sales personnel. People tend to trust others that they know personally over commercial messages. In fact, marketing with word-of-mouth has the advantage of rapid diffusion and broad reach across large population.

Despite the importance and influence of word-of-mouth, it has remained one of the most neglected marketing areas. Businesses are still struggling to develop effective marketing programs that encourage consumer word-of-mouth. Only a small proportion of word-of-mouth communications are stimulated by active and deliberate corporate promotional efforts. Few businesses have tried to harness the full potential of the power of word-of-mouth, which is often thought to be uncontrollable. In many cases, businesses believe that it is sufficient to stimulate positive customer word-of-mouth simply by positive product experiences.

Our customers engage in word-of-mouth because of a number of reasons. Satisfaction or dissatisfaction with a consumption experience often leads to word-of-mouth. A customer who is satisfied with his/her consumption experience with a service might recommend the service to other people. On the other hand, consumers often complain to their families or friends about services or companies that are bad or perceived as bad. A patron who is extremely dissatisfied with his consumption experience may seek revenge by condemning that casino operator. Customers also engage in discussions on interesting advertisements that caught their attention. They may pass along messages (positive or negative) about a casino simply because the messages themselves are interesting or intriguing.

It is important to note that word-of-mouth marketers do not create word-of-mouth. Word-of-mouth marketing is about managing word-of-mouth through encouragement and facilitation. In a typical word-of-mouth marketing campaign, marketers seek to encourage the creation and spreading of positive word-of-mouth by their customers and provide opportunities, tools or venues that allow them to do so. More importantly, professional word-of-mouth marketers understand that their customers are smart people who cannot be fooled and who constantly seek positive product experiences. Hence, there is no room for unethical tactics (e.g. sending out untrue information and using faked identities or stealth marketing tactics to deceive our customers) to create customer word-of-mouth. Word-of-mouth marketing is about having absolute confidence in ones product and unquestionable open honesty towards your customers.

There are many different techniques used in word-of-mouth marketing. Referral program is just one type of word-of-mouth marketing techniques. Other types of word-of-mouth marketing techniques include buzz marketing, viral marketing, and evangelist marketing. For starter, the philosophy behind this form of marketing is as important to its success as the actual techniques.

Firstly, word-of-mouth marketing advocates the importance of customer satisfaction. A satisfied customer, while may not be a loyal customer (i.e. in the form of re-purchase or re-patronage), is a potential source of positive word-of-mouth. Secondly, successful word-of-mouth marketing requires businesses to provide a venue or medium for their customers to share their buzz with others. Lastly, word-of-mouth marketing advocates the importance of active listening and prompt response to our customers.

How can a casino operator use word-of-mouth to build its business? Generally, word-of-mouth occurs naturally through positive consumption experiences. To promote natural word-of-mouth, a casino operator needs to focus its operations to generate positive customer satisfaction through positive product experiences. Of course, this can be done by improving overall service quality, listening and responding to customers concerns as well as criticisms promptly. In a successful word-of-mouth campaign, management and service staff truly appreciate the important of being customer-orientated and work closely together to ensure that every contact with a customer add value to his/her customers overall consumption experiences. In addition, casino operators can enhance or facilitate word-of-mouth among their customers through a number of activities. These activities may include forming communities (online or offline) such as casino gaming/fan club to facilitate opinion sharing, providing tools to satisfied casino patrons to allow them to share their views easily, identifying advocates among customers and motivating/helping them to share their positive experiences with others, and using traditional promotional methods to create buzz about the casino.

Date Posted: 29-Nov-2005

Biography
* DESMOND LAM is an Assistant Professor of Marketing at the University of Macau, China. Desmonds interests lie in gaming, cross-cultural decision-making process, and the role of word-of-mouth in customer and brand loyalty. He can be contacted at DesmondL@umac.mo.

 
 
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