The lottery industry is a behemoth. In 2016 alone, U.S. lotteries generated $80 billion in revenue—more than the combined sales of movie and concert tickets. Keeping the industry relevant and growing is important since lotteries bring their revenue back to their local communities.
Maura McCann knows what it takes to drive growth in this business. As the marketing director of New Hampshire Lottery, the oldest legal lottery in the United States, Maura has seen first-hand some of the biggest transformations the industry has ever seen.
At La Fleur’s 2017 Lottery Symposium, Maura shared her insight on the role of player and retailer engagement in the lottery business. We recently spoke to Maura about her presentation and asked her about the biggest challenges facing lotteries and what it takes to thrive as a marketer in this industry.
What would you say are the three most urgent challenges in the lottery industry, and why?
The first challenge is technology. Lotteries want to offer the newest technologies, but those projects take time and money to implement.
Maximizing what you get from your marketing budget is another challenge. Today’s advertising dollar doesn't go as far as it used to; marketing budgets have also flatlined in the past several years. We’re making do with the same budget even if we have more channels to spend it on.
Quite simply, we need to do more marketing with less budget. And we have to do that within the confines of state government. If you want to sell a lottery product a certain way, your tactics and strategies are sometimes restricted by jurisdiction. For instance, online wagering is still not allowed in some states. In some jurisdictions, lotteries have to make sure that their point-of-sale marketing materials adhere to specific government rules.
Finally, we have to consider the competition. We can plan and look ahead, but we can’t afford to ignore the other things vying for the attention and interest of our players.
Regarding the first challenge, how do you determine whether a piece of technology is worth pursuing?
The biggest thing we consider is the value technology provides to our players. We want people to see the value that they’re getting from our products. Our goal is to maximize the entertainment experience. Beyond that, there are other considerations, including monetary and governmental constraints. We need to have the resources and the people to support new pieces of technology.
At the 2017 La Fleur’s Lottery Symposium, you talked about player and retailer engagement. Why is it important for lotteries to engage both parties?
When it comes to making better business decisions, there’s no better people to talk to than your audience. For lottery organizations, those people are your players and the retailers who sell the tickets.
Everything moves quickly these days, but it’s important to listen. We may think that we know what these groups want, but in reality, we may be off the mark. We wouldn’t want to invest the time, effort and money into a product, and find out later on that it falls flat in the market.
"When it comes to making better business decisions, there’s no better people to talk to than your audience."
One tool we use to engage our players and retailers is an insight community called the New Hampshire Lottery WINnovators. My favorite part about our community is the speed. Yes, we can talk in-person to players, do focus groups or send ad hoc surveys. But those traditional research methods take time—sometimes months. With older research methods, by the time you have all the data, you’re already late.
Within a few months of launching our insight community, we’ve already seen the impact on the speed of decision-making. We’re able to make quicker decisions with more confidence. In the future, we plan on using player and retailer feedback to improve products for our target market.
"Within a few months of launching our insight community, we’ve already seen the impact on the speed of decision-making."
We’ve been so thrilled with our insight community that we plan to invest more time not just in improving engagement, but also in digesting player and retailer insight.
What’s the biggest insight you’ve discovered about your players so far?
Recently, we had to make a decision regarding jackpot billboards. We only have three of these billboards across New Hampshire, but they take a large chunk of our marketing and advertising budget. Our contracts were up, and the prices were increasing, so we had to decide whether to renew. We engaged with WINnovator members before making this big decision. Insight from our players drove a business decision, saving us $70,000 in marketing costs.
Interestingly, after we let go of our former billboard agency, another media buyer came to us and offered a substantially better deal. The insight that we gleaned from our community gave us confidence in moving forward with the decisions about that as well.
What has been the response so far from players?
We’ve been blown away by the response from players in our community. In one study, 74 percent of our members responded to our request for feedback.
One thing we’re able to do with our insight community is to send out shorter activities. People in New Hampshire, being first in the nation for the Presidential elections, are often inundated with telephone surveys, which tend to be long. With our insight community, we have the ability to send shorter surveys and get answers back quickly. If we need to dig deeper, we can send out follow-up activities to relevant members.
"For us at New Hampshire Lottery, player engagement is a two-way street.
It's about giving back to our players as much as they're giving to us."
How did you get your start in the lottery industry?
It happened by accident. After graduating college, I didn’t have a job lined up.
I had worked for the New Hampshire Lottery the previous summer, selling tickets in the sales office. A contact of mine from the lottery reached out to see if I’m interested in coming back.
At that time, a new executive director to head the lottery came on board. He knew how to market a product, and he made an immediate impact on the organization. Other job opportunities came my way, but every time I went to tell the director that I was leaving, he’d convince me to stay.
In many ways, I just fell into a marketing role in this industry. I’m glad I did because it has been a blast the whole time.
What advice do you have for young marketers who want to build a career in this industry?
As I look back, it was so much easier then than it is now. In the past, marketers had to think about print ads, radio spots and maybe some television ads. But marketing and advertising have grown exponentially. It takes so much more today to sell a product. That’s true in the lottery business, but I think it’s true across the board.
If you’re new in marketing, make sure you develop a broad range of skills. You have to know a little bit of everything.
What's the best thing about working as a marketer in the lottery industry?
It never feels like a job, and I love the variety. The New Hampshire Lottery is small but mighty. Each employee wears many hats. Whether I'm reviewing radio copy, a point-of-sale piece or a press release, there’s always something new. I get up every day looking forward to my work.
Our thanks to Maura for sharing her time with us. Check out our Q&As for more insight and tips from marketing, customer experience and product innovation experts.