The first time I opened a piece of my own marketing campaign

The first time I opened a piece of my own marketing campaign mail more than twenty years ago, I was astonished to find the letter inside was glued to the inside flap and as a result came out in tatters from the envelope.  After I tried and failed to open the letter without tearing the piece into bitty sections, I just went at it until the thing was lying across my desk like a crossword puzzle.

Thing is, the coupons attached were in sections too.  I was horrified because the procedures for accepting the coupons was to have the customer hand the entire letter with coupons attached to the Player’s Club to be able to acquire their $5 in coin and $5 in food credit.  It said it right on the coupon.

I glanced down at the scattered micro-perforated mess and immediately hurried to the Player’s Club to make sure the representatives took the coupons no matter how they came into the counter.  Oh my!  The line of guests extended for a hundred feet and every one of them had some kind of abnormal untidy heap of baffling print tangled rag in their palms.

They all looked confused, but more importantly angry.  Instead of throwing my hands up, quitting my job and running to the nearest pub, I decided to call in every slot attendant I could get my hands on and give them directions on making our customers feel at ease. Each one of our guests were told we would honor every coupon and I ran upstairs and created a sign to post at the casino entrance and the player’s club that we would handle their bewilderment without argument.

The next two weeks went fairly smoothly and we actually had comments that the staff had done a fantastic job in the presence of catastrophe.  The GM gave me a pat on the back and then told me to fire the mailing house, but I had already communicated my frustration to the company and they gave me a credit on the next mailing. Apparently, the auto-letter stuffer had just been cleaned and the equipment malfunctioned that added the minute amount of moisture needed to seal the flap. Instead, the amount ended up being about a tablespoon and was not caught by handlers at the end of the line who were wearing gloves to protect their hands from paper cuts.

More than ten thousand letters were ruined, but a lesson was learned.  Always be prepared for anything happening and think through the confusion to the solution that ultimately makes the customer happy.

John Evanoff
jevanoff@redearthcasino.com

Casino Database Marketing: Do the easy things first!

We often pitch projects to clients related to advanced marketing:  model
development, behavior-driven segmentation, pricing optimization, data
mining, and other fun things.  However, I always ask my clients if
they’re doing the easy things before calling us in to refine their core
targeting methodologies.  Without further delay, here’s a quick list:

New Player’s Card Signups:
Treat your new Club signups like Gold.  Get them a welcome letter as
quickly as possible, preferably within a week.  Personalize it,
acknowledge their earned level, and if they triggered a good rating,
include a bounce-back.  Bonus points if you integrate this first contact
with your VIP introduction.  Most properties do this, few do this weekly.

W2G Winners:
Here’s one of the most valuable lists that often goes ignored.  Although
small, here’s a great chance to recover your payout.  Send a
congratulations communication quickly, and several weeks before the
first anniversary of their win, arrange a “winner’s package” where
you’ll book their same room, comp dinner at the same restaurant, and
remind them of their great luck!  On a side-note, if your behavior
models don’t account for post-high-win sessions, the models will
overestimate this player’s baseline play amount.

Hotel-only first-time visitors:
Just send a simple postcard to acknowledge their visit, and include your
favorite retail-grade offer.  Its a nice reminder of their trip.  If you
make the front of it postcard-like, it might find a place on their
refridgerator!  After this first contact, include this populuation in
your modeled hotel population.

Keno Players:
The data is sitting right in front of you.  Find all those Keno
players!  They’re different from the video poker players, ya know.
Very, very different.

Younger players:
Have you looked around your casino floor lately?  Gaming has
traditionally been a leisure sport for a slightly older population.
However, there are many players in their 20s and 30s.  Dig a little
deeper, push a little harder.  Some of these players will become your
foundation over the next several years.

Spa or other amenities:
Just an easy initiative to bring people back to the service they
hopefully enjoyed.  If your marketing database is sophisticated enough,
cross-reference this list with your player’s club to find out if any of
your spa visitors are the spouses of your VIPs.  Hint, hint…  “Wow,
honey, they offered me a FREE spa session, can’t you just play blackjack
for an hour or two without me?”

Simple Zip-code untargeted mailings:
Just kidding.  I was just wondering if you were reading this far.  I
have never seen a program like this generate a positive return.  Stop.
Your time & budget is better spent on other projects.  Continuing to do
this is broadcasting to your competitors, “Hey, we don’t have any
end-to-end analytics!”

Ed Gianos is the founder of North Leaf Solutions LLC, a consulting
agency helping clients in gaming and other industries maximize the value
of their data through data quality, modeling, segmentation, testing,
reporting, and various methodologies to please both players and
marketing budgets.

Casino Direct Mail Creates Success in a Down Economy

You might say that there are many types of casinos out there. Hotel resorts, casino hotels, casino resorts, hometown casinos, horse tracks, cruise lines, grocery stores, local bars, etc.  I say there are only TWO types of casinos: those that say they market their property and those that really direct mail market like a frontline marketer would.

You see it in every gambling town across the country. There will be the handful of casinos that dig in and database market hard and often in deep segments and all the rest that only dabble in database marketing and barely squeak by or slowly decline over time.

I know of many casinos right now that are practically keeping the whole town’s economy afloat with proper direct mail marketing.  I also know of towns that are dying because no one wants to “budget” for direct mail.

All too commonly casino staff experienced in direct mail get let go in order to save money. Inevitably the property begins to suffer from quarter after quarter of these cost cutting measures. They may slowly choke the casino to death or to marginalism.

But if you get behind the scenes at a flourishing casino you will see a well-oiled machine of database marketers, graphic artists, results analysts and special events coordinators led by an experienced marketing director.  This team is the most valuable team in a casino and they drive 80% of hotel nights booked month after month.

Many of the other casinos fall prey to the thousands of television, radio and print ad reps that knock on their door daily and offer package after package of broadcast media. Add to that the hundreds of advertising agency reps that call on them to offer them the exact same media options with some add-ons and markups.  (Some have great value, don’t get me wrong).

But, at the end of the day, all other media are merely additions to your budget to augment your direct marketing, not the other way around!

If direct mail has been proven to fill 80% of your occupancy, why would you spend 80% of your budget on billboards, radio and television?

I’ll tell you why. It feels simpler to manage.

You shoot a quick spot or design a quick ad and, based on what the sales rep tells you, it reaches XXXX number of people.  Then you feel good.  Blanket marketing – unfocused and simple – feels good.  But, as everyone knows, it shows very few measurable results.

Direct mail on the other hand can be more complicated if you don’t use someone like CSG Direct. Direct mail takes analysis, testing, tiers, segmenting, tracking, events, redemptions, planning and implementing. But that is what it takes to market a casino.

That’s the whole reason you built a players club!

Don’t be overwhelmed! CSG Direct has mailed over 200 million casino direct mail pieces and has all the tools you need for direct marketing your casino. We are industry innovators and some of the easiest people to work with.

At same time, we are deeply skilled professionals. CSG Direct has over 25 individual employees Mailpiece Quality Control certified by the US Postal Service and we created America’s first public bulk mail tracking systems.

This doesn’t have to be difficult. You should make it your goal to sit down and make a serious direct mail plan for 2009.  Call us and we can show you how to both save a fortune and make a profit with direct mail marketing.

3 Reasons CSG has the Fastest Direct Mail Delivery in the Country

With everything the US Postal Service does and how many millions of people are involved in direct mail, this is a bold statement. It is True and we can prove it.Fastest Mail Delivery

1) As an early innovator with the new Intelligent Mail Barcodes we already have a reputation for being able to track every single piece of mail we send. We can track the path each piece travels as well as dates and times of each automation step as they travel the country.

Over the last 2 years we have used this information to establish a trend of certain post office locations that appear to hold onto mail longer or process mail slower.  This has been valuable information when planning mail drops and to speed up delivery cycles.

We can get your mail delivered faster and you can track it yourself on your own phone or computer live and see for yourself.

2) It is important that your primary BMEU is fast, and ours is absolute one of the fastest in the Country. Using the ‘secret shopper’ approach, each BMEU is rated based on sample mailpieces dropped into the mail stream at the BMEU.

The Sierra Region was just awarded 1st place in the nation for “First Class Mail Performance” for quarter 1 October – December 2010. This is not their 1st award either. Our Reno BMEU has received award after award for the last decade.

We truly can get your mail to your customers faster than other mailers in the country can and you can track it all live with us too. We currently have no equal in these categories.

3) The third ingredient in our fast mail delivery is our in-house processing. We are known for Speed and Quality. Even with the extra step of our Quality control department, our proprietary job automation and tracking systems track projects from the minute they have all details approved until final delivery to the Post Office.

Then add that 25 of our employees have been certified by the USPS Mailpiece Quality Control Specialist program. We have the absolute lowest percentage of catch-able mistakes to match our high speed processing.

We are proud to be the fastest delivery to your customers’ door. It is something we have worked very hard to develop. We do this all while balancing your costs and benefits so you get the best bang for your buck too.

We look forward to our 1st challenger that thinks they can take our title of Fastest Mail Delivery in the Country away from us. Bring your charts and graphs my friends, you are competing with veterans.

Direct Mail Marketing Strategies (2 of 5)

I don’t care how clever you think you are there is no intelligent way to send 1 broad message to appeal to everyone in your database marketing equally.

Sure, people have been broadcasting single messages through all forms of media since the beginning of time but that doesn’t make it right. If you’re going to be lazy you will get lazy results.

Strategy #2) Segment Your Mailing List into groupsDatabase Marketing

You would be surprised how you change your offers and promotions just based on what you see in your database. I highly recommend that every marketing manager look into your database personally so you know what you’re working with. As you are digging through your database ask yourself these questions:

  • How many are female?
  • How many are male?
  • What are the age groups in our data?
  • How many of these are “locals”?
  • How many are from out of town?
  • Which groups spend the most?
  • Which groups visit us the most?
  • What are the 5 most popular purchases?
  • What are the 5 most profitable purchases?
  • Who is making these purchases?

This should be the consideration you make before you do any form of direct marketing.  Why? Because you can do this with direct mail and you cannot do with the rest of your marketing budget.  Because it will get you better results!

Once you have your database segmented into 3-5 different groups you need to create offers that directly appeal to each group. Spend time talking to people in those groups about what they really want and what would get them to buy again.  Then plan your marketing to that group accordingly.  Do this with each group you plan to market too.

I know this sounds obvious, pretty logical and a no-brainer but I cannot tell you how many people just swing from the hip. When you are busy and short handed it is easy to just blast something generic out and hope for the best.  In this case it would be best to just identify 1 group and design your campaign around that group directly instead of sending the same offer to 5 groups.

Direct Mail Marketing

If you do not have enough data in your database to break it into segments we can append data from other consumer databases to yours for you. This dynamically changes what you know about your customers and helps you target your direct marketing correctly.

Direct Mail Marketing Strategies (1 of 5)

When you have been in direct mail for 20 years you get to see a lot of direct marketing success and failure.  Both are valuable lessons! Avoiding the common mistakes is often still considered a great success.  Unfortunately that is the ceiling for most people.

When the most you get out of your campaign is “no-failure” then you really aren’t going to see the great success direct mail is known for.  So, if I am going to share the best 5 direct mail marketing tips I must start out with the most important one.

Strategy #1) Use a Direct Mail Marketing Company.

Direct Marketing StatisticsUse a direct mail marketing company not just the cheapest printing bid you can find.  You can find some real great deep values in real direct marketing companies! In the history of getting what you pay for; the cheapest direct mail project is usually the least effective too.

If you have a $2000 budget don’t spend your time trying to get it cut to $1700, spend your time trying to get $3000 in value from it.  You can do that with direct marketers, not from printers.

You must keep in mind that Direct Mail Marketing is the only form of marketing that has proven to create perpetual income. Companies for decades have turned $3000 into $5000 or $50,000 or more in sales and income. Are you choosing vendors that know how to help you get to those results or just price shopping print?

You may or may not have experienced these kinds of results.
Many of our customers achieve this every single month.

I know what you’re thinking. This all sounds so very self-serving and maybe we’re just trying to justify you spending more. This is far from the truth.  I can easily demonstrate for you that 90% of the vendors you can get bids from are not worth spending a dime with. I’ve got 5 tips to show this to you with but the next tips will likely have much more math in them.  Let’s start with the obvious.

Direct Mail Companies are primarily a labor force with labor as their #1 expense.  As you get your 3 bids what you are primarily getting bids on is labor and equipment usage. Our Rent, Electricity, labor and equipment leases are our industries costs. When you get a lower bid you are almost always first and foremost using the least experienced labor to get that price.

For example, here at CSG Direct we have 25 individual Direct Mail Awardsemployees that have been certified by the US Postal Service for mail-piece quality and mailing standards. This means that your service representative, our graphic artists, our quality control department and even our folder, inkjet and press operators are all US Postal Certified employees.

What is the cost and benefits of that? MANY!

First off the most expensive part of direct mail is mistakes. When we have staff in every single department experienced and trained to help you avoid those mistakes – they don’t happen!

So how is the lowest bid company managing all that for you? Sure they might reprint it for you free if they make a mistake but that ruins timelines, wastes huge sums of postage money and makes you look bad in front of your boss for choosing them.

Pit our experienced, trained and certified employees versus the industry average of temp labor and basement-kept half-capable $8.50 employees.  We Win! ..and You Win!

Plus our staff has decades of database marketing experience, seeing direct mail successes and failures. We will be showing you how to tier mailings, test offers, personalize your mailings and more.

All most printers can do is reduce their bid, they cannot add value or increase your responses. Which is really why you’re doing direct mail in the first place ~ to get sales and response.

Keep your head in the game – it’s not broadcast-print, IT’S DIRECT MARKETING !

Let’s talk about the value of experience with Direct Marketing. The Direct Mail and printing industries are broken up into many niches. You have tabloids, newspapers, invoices, fulfillment, brochure printing, foil or die cutting and of course marketing to name a few.

What is your vendors’ primary service?  Ours is direct mail marketing but so often we are forced to bid against a brochure printing house or cheapashellpostcards.net. These vendors have absolutely no concern or experience in direct mail marketing and you want to give them the job because, as their only tool to get the job; they low bid the project.

You will not become the hero of your firm by showing them how you saved $200 but the phone isn’t ringing. Too often this is why people say, “We tried direct mail, but it didn’t seem to work”. If you can get a direct mail marketing company for a price anywhere near that of a mostly print oriented company – jump on it !!

So, the first rule of thumb and our #1 tip is to make sure you are using a direct mail marketing company. The good ones are actually a lot harder to find than you might think.  You found some pros right here at CSG Direct so get a direct mail quote and get to know us. If you get the chance to sit down with us the difference will be crystal clear.

Remember! You’re Marketing Right?

Direct Mailing Quote

Postage Rates are Increasing on May 11, 2009

A First-Class stamp will be 44 cents starting May 11, 2009. The US Postal Service has officially announced the postage rate increases for the 2009-2010 mailing season. First-Class Mail is going up 3.77% compared to 3.78% for standard mail (old 3rd-class). The Post Office has recently switched from doing large postage increases every 4 years to a smaller increase each year to keep up with costs and industry fluctuations.

For those mailers not using Intelligent Mail options, the price differential for First-Class Mail will be 0.3 cents. This means that those of us that have been using intelligent mail barcodes, as CSG Direct has, will be able to get lower postage rates for direct mail.  This may be the first squeeze of many to get mail shops in or out of the game, so to speak.

It is public knowledge now that CSG Direct has been using intelligent mail barcodes and that we invented America’s first public US Mail Tracking system. It is not the only thing needed to create the systems but it is a testament to how prepared we are for these new changes.

We will be publishing a shortlist of the new rates this week.  For reference here are the 2008-2009 postage rates, current until May.

Added 02-20-09 here are the 2009-2010 postage rates.