Build Customer Relationships that Last a Lifetime!

Does your business deal with customers, and you want to understand what makes them tick, then you owe it to yourself to glean some knowledge from someone who’s literally “been there, done that? Today, Rob Gallo, considered an expert in customer engagement and building in consumer brand loyalty, will share real-world stories of his 20+ years of successes and failures in the ultra-competitive casino business that translates into any industry which deals with customers as their lifeblood. So stop surfing the ‘Net for the next 15 minutes, and get ready to be enlightened and entertained.’


Josh Fonger (00:24 - 00:59): Welcome to the Work the System podcast where we help entrepreneurs make more and work less using systems. And I'm your host, Josh Fonger. Today we have a special guest. We've got Rob, Rob Gallo. Rob is an expert in customer engagement and in building consumer brand loyalty. He has a, he has real world stories from over 20 years experience in the ultra competitive casino industry, which we'll be unpacking today so you can apply them to your business. All right, so Rob, give us the backstory. How did you become an expert in customer engagement and brand loyalty?

Rob Gallo :  (01:00 – 02:32): All right, Josh. So it started in 97, I launched an online casino moved my whole family to Antiga. So that was a whole different story. But it was interesting, but so what happened was the company that we were licensing the technology from didn't have a loyalty program. And every casino, as most people know, you go in, you get a card, you stick it in the slot machine, or when you playing blackjack and they rate your play and they give you comps. So we built our own platform and it allowed people to earn points as they play it online and then redeem them for, you know, prizes or gifts or other rewards. So I sold that business in 2010 did pretty well. I retired, I'm quasi retired, found boredom in retirement. And then in 2016 my daughter graduated from business school, or 15 I think, and we looked to acquire a company in New York. It was called long Island loyalty and they had a neat concept. It was a coalition loyalty platform where you could buy from one location at one store and burn off at another store and they would store the value on this like little card. And they had about 250 merchants in their platform. And I thought it was neat. We wanted to take a digital, but we just couldn't come to terms with the owners. So we said, let's just build our own. So I went back to the guys that did the original work for us in the, in the loyalty space in the casino industry. And we built what's now called complinks comp is short for complimentary links is just linking the two together.

Josh Fonger : (02:33-02:45): So interesting. So is it with just online businesses or is it traditional businesses or a mix of anything or is it based on industry where you make the links work together?

Rob Gallo :   (02:46 – 03:46): So the easiest way to think of it as if you know what Ebates is, Ebates is a direct to consumer. I can go on their site and I can click a button and go through their site to let's say Walmart or target or, or home Depot and I can shop there and I can get commissioned back, right. I get, I get rewards. So we have the similar platform that we've built for our clients that they, we run it as a white label. So it has their look of their field, their logo. So think of it as a loyalty program beyond the four walls of whatever your loyalty program is. So if you're a casino, you give out loyalty for playing blackjack, video, poker slots, and when the customer is home or not at the casino, you're not really engaging with that customer. So the way it works is they can then go on this, your same portal and they can click a button and start shopping and then earn rewards that they can only redeem back at your casino.

Josh Fonger :  (03:47 – 04:11): So let's take it down to the the smaller level. You know, for the small business owner who, let's just say they have I don't know, they sell, they sell life insurance, will society sold life insurance and they have a practice. What do they need to know about customer loyalty or brand loyalty? Cause obviously you're working with larger companies. You mentioned this context. Are there some things they can gleam and apply to a smaller setting?

Rob Gallo :  (04:12 – 05:25) :Absolutely. So it really boils down to John. What it really boils to, Josh is customer engagement. So think of yourself as a consumer and you're dealing with a company regardless if it's a, a corner restaurant or a barber shop or it's Apple or a T and T or Microsoft, you have a vision of that company or a mental picture of what that company means to you and that builds your loyalty towards that brand. So taking the technology that we built out of the equation for a moment, and just thinking about user engagement, valuable user engagement that the user wants, and the users tell you what they want if you listen. So that means if you're a small business owner and you see that you have the ability to create an email list, right? By encouraging people to communicate with you via email and you find good success with it, keep doing it, but then you might want to touch them through their cell phone, right? Everybody's got their mobile phone and you can get their SMS number, you know, their, their mobile number and send a text message, then you can engage with them that way and verify the difference between those two. Right?

Josh Fonger :  (05:26 – 05:54): So what's the the fine line between giving them value and just annoying them. And so here's, here's an example, personal. So we've got a pool company that cleans our pool and my wife wants to switch to another company because they send you updates and what kind of things they did, email each week, you know, chemicals and pH, all this stuff. And like how far should you go in your business and how far is too far, how far is just, you know, it's kind of ridiculous to give him so much information.

Rob Gallo :   (05:55 – 06:28): Yeah. Well, again, you want to come up with information overload where it's too much, but you gauge and ask, just ask if your pool company asks you, Josh, listen, we want to be able to send you this, this, this. Is this interesting to you? And you say yes or no, then, you know, I mean, but, but a lot of times you're too busy to even answer, right? And they're just going to send you stuff and then eventually you're just going to hit unsubscribe. Right? So that's the difficult balance. But, but the first step for a small business owner is to ask your customers.

Josh Fonger : (06:29 – 06:54)   okay, so you ask, okay, now there's probably techniques you learn from the casino industry. Let's say you are in a business like a dental. Let's say you have some dental practices and you know, you have some loyalty aspect. You would kind of reminders every six months of your teeth cleaned. Let's say they fall off the map, they don't come in or casino, they don't come in for a year or two. What do you do to fire them back up to make sure that you can keep them for a lifetime?

Rob Gallo : (06:55 – 08:23) : Okay, that's a great question, Josh. So two things. Let's look at both casino and the dental industry individually. What I learned in the casino industry from Caesars back in the 90s was player personification. So you take a persona of a player and you create a mental picture of what that person is. So if I know Josh comes into the casino on Friday nights and plays between 10 and $20 in blackjack, and that's his thing, then I'm not going to come without. But I don't see him for three or four of six months. But I've seen you do it continuously. I'm not going to send you an offer for a slot machine. Right? So that's not interesting to you. I'm going to speak to work your passion is, which is blackjack. So if I look at,  let me take it into the dental world. Now I'm a, I'm an advocate for the dentists, but I, you know, I go as infrequently as possible cause it's not, it's never usually a positive experience getting my teeth cleaned. I get the reminder. So it's what's in it for me, is everyone what everybody wants to know, right? So as the, as the dentist, you have to think, what is my consumer really looking for? They're looking for clean teeth. They're not looking for a trip to the dentist. They're looking for a better smile. So that's sort of the messaging that you need to communicate to your consumer to get them what they're really looking for.

Josh Fonger :  (08:24 – 08:49): So you make a personas, and I'm kind of reading between the lines here, but it sounds like a big part of this is customizing the experience for each person, not each person, but person types. So is that what you're trying to do? And the casino industry has come up with maybe 10 different personas and then those personas get treated different, differently through your a lifetime engagement programs.

Rob Gallo : (08:50 – 10:38) :  A hundred percent accurate. So yes, it's not, you never want to put everybody one bucket because it doesn't really make sense. So here's an example for you, Foxwoods. If we go to Fox woods, my wife and I and she plays slots and I play poker. So when we get back, say three weeks later, a month later we'll get a calendar of what's happening in the next month. We'll get two of them. She'll get one that's slots tournament related and I'll get one that's talking about the next poker tournament that they have. So it's speaking to the person as they want to be spoken to. And that only happens because of the data that they've collected. So what we do is take it a step further because for the limited time that someone is at the casino or at the dentist or at this small business, they're doing their other stuff. They're living their lives, they're buying groceries from Walmart, they're buying school clothes from Macy's ceiling fan or home Depot, whatever it is, you know, pet food for Petco. We've built a platform that gives them the ability to do all those things, but yet still be thinking about your brand, the casino, the dentist. I'm not sure if it's going to work for, it's not for everyone what we do, but I think what small business owners can, who who listen to this podcast can take away from it, is that engaging with their customers as they live their lives and anything that you can do to help better that. So in our case, it's saving them money and having them earn reward points back in the original clients rewards program. But again, in the small business environment that might not make sense, but just to get them to think about your brand more often gets them to refer you more often. To other people, which is again, huge.

Josh Fonger :   (10:39 – 11:16): Okay. So instead of them just thinking about your company once, when they're there, knowing they're not there as well. Rich reminders is an important piece of that. So the other piece that I'm getting from this I think is an important business concept is the long game playing the long game, not just getting your client or Brian to service and then running away, but sticking with the long term. How long has it taken till gathering this data actually becomes valuable? I'd like, do you have to go through and invest in goddess data for years before you can actually use it in a valuable way or when you know, when does the ROI actually happen?

Rob Gallo :  (11:17 – 13:28): Another great question, Josh. So I'm going to reference a story in a book that I read by Michael Gerber called the E myth, E myth revisited. Fantastic book for any entrepreneur out there. I highly recommend his book, the E-Myth by Michael Gerber. Anyway, he tells a story about a guy who goes to a hotel in Northern California. He's a traveler traveling salesman. Long journey. He gets there, they take him into the room. It's, it's nice. He goes out to dinner, they on his way back to the room, he gets to the room and he sees his favorite newspaper, his favorite cigar, and a cognac in the, in a snifter on the side of the bed. And he's thinking, how did they know this? So he goes and talks to the proprietor the next day and they told him when he checked in that they asked him where he was from. He said, New York. So they had the New York times there that he is, they found out at dinner because he picked up a cigar at dinner and the cognac that he drank. So how quickly can you tell immediately, but it might seem creepy in certain instances. It's almost like those ads when you're looking for something on the internet and then you go somewhere else and you're like, Holy crap, they're after me again. I see. You know, everywhere I look now. So they get, that's called retargeting, but it's done on purpose because the average consumer needs to see something maybe six or seven times before they respond to it. So as long as you're not getting creepy with it, you can activate it right away. But the long game though, Josh has as what you mentioned, is working the system. So to say, to get the title in there is the system is user engagement, user engagement for the long haul. So when I think of a long term company, I think of Apple, okay. Apple goes above and beyond with this, with their products and their services because they know that you're not only going to have this computer and this iPad and this iPhone, but you're going to get the next generation and the next generation. You have to be thinking long term like that,

Josh Fonger :  (13:29 – 14:50):  Right? And most people realize that the most expensive thing to do is to attract and make that first sale. And so once you make that first sale, you gotta do whatever you can to keep them. And I think that gathering this data, tracking this data, refining this data is essential. But if you don't start with doing it when you first get them, then you're going to be in trouble long term, you know, two years later, three years later, I actually, well, little, little a story I'd mentioned. I had a, client that owned a golf resort, so you know, owned all these golf and greens and, and this is a couple of years ago and they had never actually collected any of the people who golf as their place any of their email addresses or phone numbers. And so they wanted to start, you know, growing and marketing. I said, well, how many emails, even a database? He said, Oh, zero, how about phone numbers? He's like, we don't collect their phone numbers. You know, we just been around a long time, so people see us, they know we're here. And I said, it's going to be a, it's just going to be a long time to fix this because it'd been 20 years. They'd never gathered any data on anybody. They just, they said that we've kind of taken their clients for granted and then everyone else was blowing them out of the water because there was any text messages and reminders and emails and, and events and, and they couldn't figure out what no one was going to occasion board.


Rob Gallo : (14:51 – 15:16) : Yeah, because people need reminders. You need to be constantly reminding people. I mean, again, I'm sure you probably get a hundred emails a day and you don't have time to sift through them all. And the average small business owner, the same thing, they're just frazzled. Like their hair is on fire running in 10 different directions. I've been there. So you need to have systems in place that can automatically sort of automatically but systematically reach out to your consumers in the way they want to be spoken to. That's critical.

Josh Fonger :  (15:17 – 16:00): Well, and I'm in Rob, I know we talked before and that you've got a great solution for, you know, mid size companies and larger companies really do that. But hopefully people are realizing this, this is for everybody. And there are solutions that are essentially free to do these kinds of things, you know, in terms of tagging emails, sending reminders out to build that loyalty. And now I've got a couple other quick questions before we run out of time here. This one has to do with the industry. It's a hole. So since you've been in this industry, you know, this idea of customer engagement and brand loyalty for so long, what have you seen change over the last 20 years and where do you think it's, where do you think it's going? Where's it going? Long term?

Rob Gallo :  (16:01 – 17:38):  Well, so I mean, we're, where it came from the last 20 years was, you know, it started with the punch cards, buy 10, get one free. And that's, that's points loyalty, that's to get them to come back to your, your property or your store solution. But it moved into digital probably in the early two thousands with swipe cards to kind of really get people more engaged. But what's happening now and beyond is what's called coalition loyalty. So coalition loyalty means that beyond your core product or service, if you can engage with that customer in their everyday lives but have them still think about your brand, that's a win win. So we didn't invent it. Southwest has been doing it for probably six years. Shells, fuel rewards does a fantastic job. Caesar's in the casino industry does their total rewards. They just rebranded, he called Caesar's rewards, but they have a marketplace. And the way it works is beyond playing in the casino or beyond buying gas or beyond taking a trip on Southwest, you can earn by shopping at all these other places. And the mechanics work very simply, it works on a referral commission basis whereby you get a commission for referring someone to target because they go to target, they make a purchase, they get a percentage back as far as a commission goes, and they share that commission with the customer in the form of points that are redeemable back at the flagship property, let's say in this case, Southwest or, or shells, fuel rewards.

Josh Fonger :   (17:39 – 18:08): So, you know, what would a small, I mean, so let's just say you're a small company and you don't want necessarily you know, build your own rewards program like that. Can you jump on and become part of a coalition of loyalty brands by just join up with shell. Let's just say you've got a, a, I dunno, a karate studio right next to a shell gas station. Can you become part of their loyalty program, the local loyalty program? Or do they not have local loyalty programs like that?

Rob Gallo :   (18:09 – 19:14): A company, the size of shell is not going to have a local loyalty program, but there's plenty of loyalty platforms out there, which we don't necessarily provide directly. But you know, a quick Google search will show you who would be able to help you. But one of the things that we do and what I did between selling my casino business and getting into this business is consult. So I'm a big proponent of working with someone who's been down that road, who's done this before, that can give you kind of guidance on what works best for you. Because just like the dentist won't say the same thing to each client or just like the casino wants, say the same thing to each potential patron. We shouldn't say the same thing to every small business owner because it's different. So the best thing to do, Josh, in all honesty, is contact someone like myself or somebody else who understands the space and would be willing to give you a consultation to say, here's what I see in your space and how it could potentially work for you.

Josh Fonger :    (19:15 – 19:56): Well, I think the other big thing here is don't try to do business alone as if you are in a vacuum. You know, get out there and connect. So whether it's with one of these loyalty programs you know, we're trying to build up affiliate partners in our business right now because we find there's so many people who do a similar but different things and we would like them to be thinking about work the system while they're working with these other people that can really help them out. You know, in our case with business services, you know, like how to write your book or how to sell your business or you know, software to use. But they will understand that we help them get there. So similar but different.

Rob Gallo :   (19:57 – 20:18): That's smart. That's smart because you know, think about this Josh, people that pick up your system are in a funnel for doing other things, right? So it makes sense for you to align yourself with those types of other organizations that can do those things. And if they can refer stuff to you, you refer stuff to them, it becomes a reciprocal type of scenario.

Josh Fonger :  (20:19 – 21:26) :  Yeah. And anybody can really do this. It's, it's why I think business owners really need to get out of doing the day to day in their business so that they can then think bigger and broader, you know. So if they do a roofing for instance, they should probably connect with people who also do fireplaces and people who do gutters, he pulled your windows and they should build their own little coalition, a network to help each other out. Because in the end competition is getting more and more fears by technologies allowing you to build those things like you mentioned, the automations and the data points in a very inexpensive way. But at first starts a leader with vision and then playing the long game. Cause some of those things aren't going to be that valuable in the beginning. But they will a lot later on. So let's see, I had a couple other questions we'd probably be able to get to them though. So let's just jump right into this one. So what's one thing that you should you really want to leave the audience with here? You know, as they're listening about customer engagement and branding. What's one question I didn't ask you but I really early shift.

Rob Gallo :    (21:27 – 22:29): I would say the best, the, the one thing is when's the timing, when's the time, right. And this goes back to exactly what you said about the customer that or the golf course that was never collecting data. The time is now, it's actually yesterday because things were moving so quickly that you need to make a move before you get passed by. So the one takeaway is that, you know, being an entrepreneur myself in the past, I can see that procrastination comes into play or you're, you're kind of just, again, you have so many things going on. You don't have time to think about the long game. You're thinking about putting out fires today and you know, getting the doors open tomorrow. But you really do need to think about working on your business instead of in your business. And that's that book from Michael Gerber's E-Myth about working on the business, building the foundation of your organization depends on your ability to attract and retain customers in the long haul.

Josh Fonger :  (22:30 – 22:58): Yeah. And I've got to believe I know you'd never talking about this early on like a Harris or whatever casino did this first. You know, whatever the early mover in the industry who is collecting the data, who's using the data, who's rebuilding his loyalty is the one that is 5, 10, 20 years ahead of the ones who just sit back and they go for the quick sale, again. Now it's better than later. Well, let's let's, why don't you tell us where we can find out more information about you, your business, and where they can get find you if they need some help.

Rob Gallo :    (22:59 -23:00): So what I did is I put up a special link on the site for your listeners at work the system and it's forward slash WTS and there you'll find a revenue calculator. The financial impact of what a loyalty extension platform coalition platform would mean for your business based on the size. And a couple of other key features that are not available on the regular site. (Awesome.) Okay. And otherwise, otherwise, LinkedIn, if people want to connect with me directly.

Josh Fonger (23:30): Perfect. All right, Rob. We are true experts, especially with all that experience in the industry that you're in and how competitive it is. And everybody, thanks for joining us today with this podcast with Rob Gallo. Make sure to stay tuned next week as I share with you another podcast from either a past client of mine or a business expert like Rob or an author sharing with you a tool, a technique or resource so you can grow your business so you can make more and work less. And also do you want a copy of that book right there behind me? You can go to work the, download it for free or you can leave us a review on any platform that you're watching this and send us a image of that review to a info workthe and we will mail a one book out a week. So maybe you'll be the lucky person that week. So again, email that to info, work the or get it for free by going to work the All right, thanks you buddy. We'll see you next week. 

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