Dan Savage: Building a Leading Marketing Team

When it comes to talent and achievements at gaming suppliers, Bally Technologies is a clear winner. This statement holds true for all sectors of the company, and the marketing department there is no exception. Spearheaded by Vice President of Corporate Marketing Dan Savage, Bally’s marketing team has proven itself as a best-of-breed band of marketing warriors.

Before making the move to Bally Technologies in 2008, Savage was global business manager at 3M for their Touch Systems division based in St. Paul, Minn. Prior to that, he worked with Kodak in Rochester, N.Y., and was in the biomedical technology industry in Vancouver, Canada.

With more awards under their belt than any other marketing department in the industry, it’s clear that Savage is using his expertise and marketing background to lead the team in a winning direction.

In roughly four years with Bally, Savage has made a giant impact, to say the least. Several initiatives he’s implemented include player testing of products, increased brand development and casino promotions, customer panels, and external communications. “When I was brought onboard with Bally, I was asked to improve the overall branding of the company and product,” Savage said. “I wanted to broaden our services to include operator and player feedback, brand development, industry-leading sales tools, customer panels, and strengthen our overall internal partnerships.”

One of his proudest accomplishments at Bally is being on the team that is implementing compelling product differentiation. The Bally iDeck is a good example of incorporating third-party technologies. Savage used his unique expertise and background from 3M to help incorporate and brand the iDeck technology. “I don’t know how much more involved you can get than being with 3M for 15 years and then coming over to Bally and implementing some of the technology,” he said. “It helps Bally gain a first-to-market advantage with these technologies like the Pro Series game platform, iDeck and Pro Curve.”

Another of Savage’s reputable achievements includes player testing, which, according to Savage, wasn’t in existence in 2008. In his four years, the company went from no testing to testing about 20 percent of their products annually. “This is our operator and player testing, which gives us face-to-face feedback before we put those products through compliance,” he said. “It allows us to alter the product according to operator and player likes and dislikes.”

Renowned brands like NASCAR and Michael Jackson weren’t always feasible, but establishing licensed brands was a huge initiative for Savage and the team, and they’ve proven highly successful for the company. Bally is now committed to introducing two to three new licenses per year, which will lead to even more recognizable brands from the company.

Savage recognized the evolvement of sales trends and changes in customer behavior, and has appropriately updated and refreshed the sales team’s methods and tools. “We’ve moved from a relationship style of selling to more of a product knowledge, performance and creditability selling model,” he said. “Now it’s product knowledge, sales tools, online training, performance reports, and trust and credibility, not who takes you out for the nicest dinner or who buys you the biggest bottle of wine.”

According to Savage, Bally now dedicates more than $1 million a year to product training for both Bally employees and customers. “Our teams create custom product videos, monthly online sales training, monthly internal executive communications, and leverage state-of-the-art mobile apps and devices to help deliver our messages,” he said.

Above all, Savage says his proudest accomplishment at Bally has been building a world-class marketing organization. He’s worked over the last few years to develop a top-of-the-line team, to whom he credits much of the company’s marketing achievements.

Building and maintaining relationships—with both employees and customers—is something that Savage concentrates on each day. “You’ve got to build trust and value in everything you do,” he said. “If you’re not building value, you shouldn’t be there.”

The marketing team, comprised of about 25 individuals, is one definitely of value, and it’s due to Savage’s pinpointed management style. “If you give people clear goals and communications, they are usually along for the ride,” he said. “I’ve built a team that’s difficult to get on, and easy to get kicked off.”

For Savage, there are three key motivating factors to achieving success—company results, employee development, and an internal or professional drive. “First and foremost, it’s the scorecard,” he said. “It’s our results, our EPS, market share, etc., and I love to see smiles on our sales guys’ faces at the end of the day. I love the employee development: seeing a junior employee developing into a new role, or a director developing and growing into more challenging roles. Besides that, I’m really competitive.”

Savage also points out the importance of mentors, both having them and being one, sharing that he still has one mentor at 3M, one at Kodak, and one outside of the industry with whom he’s never worked in a professional setting. “We all have blind spots, and it’s important to have mentors who can point those out to us,” he said. “They’re really important to not just my professional development, but also my personal growth. Everyone needs a mentor!”

According to Savage, Bally Technologies has won more innovation awards than any of the company’s competitors combined over the last three years, and he credits those to innovation-driven and strong company leadership, great products, and a focus by his team on the award submission essays. “These awards are recognition for the hard work the Bally team has put in,” he said.

While Bally has been on an innovation award streak, Savage’s corporate marketing team has too, winning more than 50 awards the past two years, including 15 Hermes Awards, nine Pinnacle Awards and eight AGA VOICE Awards, just to name a few. “We’ve been recognized as an industry-leading marketing team and we’ve also been recognized outside the gaming industry,” he said.

Many different Bally games, systems, and interactive marketing campaigns and projects have received recognition, including the Michael Jackson King of Pop video slot launch campaign, a mobile app for Bally’s Systems User Conference, Bally’s quarterly employee news magazine, and a philanthropic public service campaign to benefit a socially disadvantaged school.

“It is so rewarding for me and my team to achieve this third-party recognition for projects and creative campaigns that most of which, we did entirely internally using our own graphic designers, copywriters, mobile app developers and PR teams,” Savage said. “But none of this would be possible without strong support from executive management, and great partners like game development, sales, product management, systems, engineering and many others.”

The team he’s created and molded is a testament to Savage’s dedication to teamwork and collaboration. “At the end of the day, if you don’t work well with the team, you won’t succeed,” he explained. “I could run the best marketing department in the industry, but if we didn’t work well with game development, sales, legal, manufacturing or product management, we’re dead in the water. It’s all about teamwork!”

Savage points out the importance and the significance of being the recipient of all of these awards and recognition. “Marketing awards don’t mean anything to revenue,” he said. “It helps recruit top talent and builds pride with existing employees. “Most importantly, it builds trust and respect cross functionally within the company that we have marketing professionals who the team can rely on; it’s huge.”

While his goal has always been to create a world-class marketing organization, Savage asks the question: “How do you measure that? How do you know when you’re there? I love the market share; love the EPS results, but how do you know you’re running a great department and it’s not just because of great products?” That’s where awards and internal stakeholder rankings come in. “The team’s now being acknowledged externally and internally as industry-leading marketing professionals, and we take a lot of pride in that.”

The company itself is delivering double-digit growth and is showing no signs of slowing down. With impressive quarterly reports and no shortage of announcements about expanding, Savage says that in a couple of years, he sees the company as a billion-dollar industry leader. As for other goals, he wants to continue to establish Bally as a leader when it comes to innovation. “We put the ‘Technologies’ name on the back end of Bally for a reason,” he said. “We have to be acknowledged as the industry technology leader by our peers and partners; that’s a huge goal for all of us at Bally in the next couple of years.”

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