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Marketing amid Recession | Strategies for Online Poker Operators

20 November 2008

By Nicky Senyard

When an industry grows as quickly as online poker has, opportunity meets competition. The same growth that makes room in the market for new entrants also tends to saturate it.

With the current state of the economy, however, that competition becomes much fiercer. With players having less disposable income, capturing as many players as possible is more important than ever. This is why it’s imperative that during a recession, you don’t cut back on your marketing budget. With the prospect of declining revenues, however, it becomes all that much more important to get the greatest return out of your marketing spend.

Affiliate marketing represents a strategic opportunity for poker operators to get the greatest return on their marketing efforts. First, the performance-based model affords operators more control of their marketing spend. Second, because the poker player and poker affiliate communities have very similar dynamics, poker operators can benefit from affiliate marketing in ways that many other gaming verticals cannot. And finally, poker affiliates are particularly adept at turning casual poker player into online poker players.

Controlling Your Marketing Spend

Simply put, a performance-based marketing model means that advertising doesn’t cost you unless it actually converts. In this respect, affiliate marketing is like hiring an army of salesman that work only off of commission.

Through affiliate marketing, you can choose to pay your affiliates on a revenue-share model, cost-per-acquisition model or a blend of the two. This flexibility allows you to control your marketing spend according to your overall business model, the needs of special promotions and the performance of different affiliates -- that is, reward your most lucrative affiliate partnerships.

Since different poker products require different promotional campaigns with different budgets, getting the most out of each is paramount to remaining competitive. Affiliate marketing offers the model and the flexibility to do just that. An even more strategic benefit of affiliate marketing, however, is how similar the poker affiliate community is to the poker player community.

Symbiotic Marketing

Something that really sets online poker apart from other I-gaming markets is its players. Online poker players are known for being community-oriented. Affiliate marketing is particularly well-suited for promoting online poker because poker affiliates are also very community-oriented; many poker affiliates are, themselves, poker players; and poker affiliates are very good at converting regular poker players into online poker players.

Whenever you market a product, it’s imperative that you understand both how the market works and how its consumers think. Because poker affiliates exist and operate in online communities that are very similar to those of online poker players, they are able to promote poker products in a way that will appeal to those players.

All online communities have similar needs like energy and attention. The community should offer members an experience they can feel passionate about (energy) and should develop according to the needs of its members (attention). After all, a community is nothing more than the sum of its members’ interests. It’s these shared interests that provide an impetus for the community to form, and hold it together.

Being very community-oriented themselves, affiliate marketers understand how to add value to communities and build relationships within them. The respect and trust that comes out of those relationships is what allows poker affiliates to effectively refer players to a merchant’s site.

What really gives poker affiliates an edge in building those relationships, however, is that many of them are avid poker players themselves. This gives them insight into what poker players are actually interested in, and means they may already have a network of contacts within the online poker community. Consequently, when poker affiliates promote a product, players know that the endorsement is coming from a veritable peer, which makes it even more trustworthy.

Converting the Masses

Online poker rooms cater more to online poker players than regular poker players; poker affiliates, however, are very adept at targeting offline poker players and converting them into online poker players.

When online, offline poker players tend to be seeking information at how to become better poker players. Poker affiliates tend to build informational portals that feature tips and strategies. Weaved into that content are additional tips and strategies on how to play online poker.

As users are exposed to this content, they realize that the two games are one and the same, and that they can derive the same thrill and enjoyment from online games as they do from table games. Now that those users are looking for some online action, they turn to the same source they relied on to improve their offline game: the poker affiliate.

After all, it was the poker affiliate who offered them free advice when they wanted to become better poker players, and it was the poker affiliate who showed them how they could get the same kick online as they did offline. It’s only natural, then, for these offline players to defer to that same affiliate when they want to take their games online.

Three-Pronged Marketing

During a recession, consumers tend to cut buck on leisure expenditures and focus on necessities. The upside for online gaming operators is that consumers will also be likely to find their leisure at home rather than going out.

Nevertheless, consumers will still have less disposable income overall. This is why online gaming operators need to pay that much more attention to their marketing efforts: competition over fewer player deposits will become fiercer.

Affiliate marketing offers operators a strategy whereby they can step up their marketing efforts but maintain stricter control over their marketing budget. Online poker operators, moreover, are in a particularly opportune position to leverage this marketing channel.

While the performance-based model gives operators complete control over their marketing spend, poker affiliates themselves are particularly well-suited to refer new players. Poker affiliates are not only community-oriented and already active in the poker community as players themselves, but they are able to bring new players online, growing the market for both you and the industry.

Marketing amid Recession | Strategies for Online Poker Operators is republished from

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Nicky Senyard
Nicky Senyard