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He Real Deal

Recruiting for online poker … offline!

It sounds like a half-baked idea, but it is a fast growing doctrine being adopted by the savvy internet poker platforms seeking to retain players for longer, maintain retain players for longer, maintain acceptable CPA’s and forge longer lasting relationships with their customers.

      Strangely, as a so called online marketing ‘expert’, I am now clearly focused on a far more traditional route to market.  That is to teach players to Playwin Poker in a face-to-face, chip in hand, cards on the table setting!  With the sole aim of making them better players online.
      I recall that my own ‘epiphany’ occurred at a small industry  gathering a year ago when I was invited to sit with a group of strangers at a poker table and was given a crash course in poker by a professional dealer.  I’d already been playing online for 8-months and thought that I had become reasonably proficient although my diminishing bankroll said otherwise! In only 30-minutes my poker world was shaken as my game was taken apart, and then over the next hour was professionally put back together again.

The offline Experience

12- months on and All in Poker Events Ltd., now delivers that same offline experience to hundreds of wannabe poker players on behalf of a select group of major online brands every month.  It’s not a hard sell when a prospective online player has spent 4-hours in the presence of professional dealers, Pro’s and Pro-celebrity players.  To be able to say they sat and played with a pro like Simon “Aces” Trumper, or an established celebrity player like Michael Grecco, is something that they will always remember and is an experience they directly attribute to the poker platform that gave them that experience.
      However, this is not just about simple sponsorship, endorsement or broad-based brand awareness campaigns.  This is a sales process that involves giving something of real value to a potential customer and the, in return, asking them for their business.  It is also not a one-off event as the program seeks to engage the player offline at key points in their life-cycle, thus reducing churn.


      It is not enough to hand out CD’s or brand up a few cards and cloths and expect offline players to sign up the minute they get home.  Online brands need to give prospective customers a reason to buy; a fundamental sales technique that is sadly being overlooked.

Crowded House

No, not the much admired singing Finn brothers from ‘down-under’,  but rather the ever growing list of platforms, networks and skins we see each day.  The online poker arena is a crowded space, and there is little to differentiate the products from one another.  As the sector becomes more crowded, online poker brands must not only protect the customers they have, but find new ways of recruiting long-term customers.  With the current rates of churn some brands are experience and the already high costs of acquisition rising, it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain a good marketing ROI.

Community

Let’s face the facts.  The online poker brands that can create unique points of difference and increase the number of ‘touch points’ with their audience are the ones that will retain customers longer and recruit more of them.  Those of us who were around in the heady days of the ‘dot.com’ boom will recall that the buzzword then was “community”.
      Now it seems that, in poker parlance, the button has come back around the online table and brands must learn to engage their community in as many ways as possible in order  to retain them.

Offline  Recruitment

Offline poker events, training schools, boot camps and celebrity poker events are amongst the tools that work.  These tools allow a brand to reach out to its online community using a series of regional, national and international initiatives to actually meet potential and existing customers in the flesh.


      Recruiting new players becomes easier, through a pre-defined process, with pre-registration and a clear understanding that they will be asked to become a customer.  Pre and post event analysis with players gives some measurable metrics and valuable feedback to the client.
      Existing customers can be engaged in the same way, through a reward and loyalty program.  Instead of offering monthly rebates and bonuses, how about a scheme that gives the player the chance to attend residential courses on Poker in their own town or city, or even in their own home?

Swimming with Sharks?

One of the burning questions I am constantly asked by friends and family is “Where do you go to learn to Playwin Poker?”
      Those of us who ‘learned’ online, playing for real money, were pretty much cannot fodder for the more experienced poker players for the first few weeks.  Those who tried to learn on the play for fun sites were lulled into a false sense of security as they quickly discovered that the fun game is very different.  Endless ‘all in’ showdowns, with 9-2 off suit, typify the poor standard of many of these games and anyone who believes that they are then ready for the cash tables may do well to invest in a good shark-cage before swimming off into un-chartered territory.

Bridging the Gap

Poker brands need to bridge, and close, the gap between the face-to-face experience and the online ‘click & chip” offering in order to create points of difference, increase retention and loyalty, and ultimately increase online rake.  Offline poker is an integral part of the online experience.  Our TV stations are full of hundreds of hours of poker tournaments each month and yet the cast majority of the viewers will never face-to-face.  They play along with each hand to see if they would have made the same decisions as they Ivey’s or Hellmuth’s of the poker world. 


      But the reality is that there is nothing online that can come close to matching the feeling of easing up the corners of two cards, on a real table, to reveal the ‘big slick’ or the monster ‘bullets’.
      We are still at the very beginning of the poker phenomenon in the UK and Europe and brands must look at a more holistic approach to gaining new players.  Embracing a new approach to gaining new players.  Embracing a new approach to offline interaction with players is without question becoming an integral part of the online marketing mix.

 

 

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