Vahe Baloulian is the CEO at BetConstruct. He’ll be speaking at the two day Betting on Sports Conference late next week at London’s prestigious Grange Tower Bridge Hotel.
Vahe will be speaking on marketing and customer acquisition strategies alongside Pinnacle’s Harry Lang, Richard Hayler of IBAS, Jacob Lopez Curciel of Optima with Rebecca Jennings of Global Reviews as chair.
SBC: The method of acquiring players hasn’t changed much since the start of the industry – basically a sign up bonus. Is this method still viable?
Vahe: This method is still viable but it is boring, overused and sometimes quite expensive. What else is out there? Well, generally speaking, not much. The industry, and not only ours, is moving towards automating every possible task. On this path, we tend to look at our relationship with humans who contribute to our success – our players – as a technical issue we have to resolve with the technical tools we have.
Only when we again rediscover that players are humans and we try to address them through humans we employ, we will uncover a lot more ways to attract, engage and make them like us for what we are, not for the free bonuses we give.
SBC: What alternative methods of player acquisition have caught your eye?
Vahe: Recently, everything I see from the global brands boils down to free bonuses. In the past, there was a lot more acquisition through direct contact and interaction with players. Yes, the number of actual players who were touched by the operators was limited but word of mouth and publicity from these events did contribute enormously to acquisition efforts.
For example, we have a small number of operators that never used bonuses in their local markets amidst fierce competition and still are market leaders. They generate business the old-fashioned way – by concentrating on their players and doing the best possible job for them. The most powerful marketing anywhere is a satisfied customer.
SBC: Given there is so much focus on acquiring new players, is the industry missing a trick by not investing more in retention of players?
Vahe: Industry invests in retention but I think this investment often goes to buying tools that are supposed to help us retain players instead of investing in human interactions with players.
We have to treat players as our friends. Those of us who do – have no problem with retention. It’s hard to find great friends. And once players feel your genuine friendship – they stay. It is not easy to ditch a good friend. You don’t forget your real friends and you trust them. Building trust is a laborious process, but well worth the investment. The benefits are enormous. For me that’s the most obvious task for those involved in retention efforts – to make every player feel as a real friend.
That’s how you earn their loyalty – something that can’t be purchased with a free bonus.
SBC: Is the industry making the most of the channels available to it when reaching new players?
Vahe: I don’t know about the industry as a whole but we have operators who definitely value that approach.
For those who outsource their marketing efforts to us, we use social and legacy media, direct and digital mail, webcasts and live events to create expectations of positive consequences for joining their brands and, as a result, we acquire new customers. The most successful efforts are those where through creative symbiosis of all the channels we manage to deliver a uniquely powerful message of our partner’s brand.
We activate brand advocates and make sure the message is focused on the most important attributes of their brand, on their values.
We try to make players feel like our partner is next to them.
SBC: Can cross-selling other products and other channels be an effective way to retain custom?
Vahe: For cross-selling and reaching out through different channels to help your retention efforts, you first of all need to know who your players are. You can have a unique proposition, excellent content, and customer support ready to handle any question via all the channels. If you don’t know who you are talking to, all that effort will be irrelevant.
If you treat your players as faceless data points on your screen, you will have harder time retaining them. To retain you need to go to basics – know your customer and treat him or her the way they expect to be treated.
Who are they? How do they get entertained? What motivates and aspires them? What bothers or scares them? The human-to-human connection is the way to understand your customer. Without this you may trigger negative experiences and drive them into hands of your competitors.
Check out the full Betting on Sports agenda here.