Increase Direct Mail Response Rates By Learning To Fish With The Right Bait

I was invited to a charity fishing derby and was excited to go. It was a local fundraiser where every fish we caught and released earned a bonus for the charity. I wanted to catch lots of fish, so I grabbed my father’s tackle box, rod, and reel and headed to the event. I didn’t bring any special bait, so I just reached into the tackle box and pulled out the fanciest lure I could find.

This particular lure was large and full of beautiful colors. It was almost as large and colorful as a casino event postcard (hint). It caught my eye and appealed to me, so I was confident it would catch lots of fish that day. I cast my fancy lure into the pond and waited for my first response … uh, I mean fish. While waiting for my first fish to bite, I watched another guy do something very interesting. He started digging around near the edge of the water and caught a couple of small bugs. He pulled out some string and tied a lure that looked just like those bugs the fish were already eating.

To my amazement, he pulled fish after fish out of the water that day. I caught a few fish too, but I was intrigued to watch this great fisherman get such a high response to his bait that day.

It was a simple strategy: he used bait that would appeal to who he was trying to attract – I used bait that was attractive to me. He used information that was literally right in front of him.

So, how do you get a better response rate as a casino
marketer? I’ll break it down into two steps:

  1. Focus group testing
  2. Utilizing what you have learned from the focus group
  3. Testing with variable data printing

Step 1: Focus Group Testing
Just like fishing, direct mail marketing is a science of proven techniques. The one direct mail marketing science that has been proven time and time again to have huge payoffs is focus group testing (like the fisherman used to build his bait). In focus group testing, you survey your clients with different styles of images, messages, taglines, and calls-to-action to find out what is most appealing to them.

In the past, we would do this to determine the most commonly chosen items so we could design a single mailer that would suit the largest cross section of customers. That is still a solid idea, but with the advent of personalized printing, we can easily take this to a whole new level of success.

In a survey process, your guests tell you exactly what brand messages and images they want. Once we have that information, why would we send them anything else? Your clients tell you exactly how to get the best results from them and now you just have to make that happen. You can get better results fast!

The right casino initiatives can easily improve response rates for years.
The closest most casinos get to a focus group is the new guest signup survey. Let’s leverage this survey for the highest results by making some simple changes to it. Don’t be concerned about what type of gambling they will be doing because you can get that from the tracking system later. What you want to know is information to affect the visual bait that they will respond to most. Perhaps you tell them that you are considering a new tagline for your property, like “Every Player’s Best Odds” or “Stay Here, Play Here.” Give them a list of options and ask them to choose the one they like best. Then, give them a series of themed graphics, like spa services, sports, concerts, blackjack, dance club shots, and others that relate to your individual amenities so they can choose their favorite.

For the final question, maybe present 4-5 different color themes and ask which they find most appealing. For the call-to-action, you want them to tell you what message they will respond to most. This can be done many ways and could be an entire article by itself. Let’s use an example of asking guests if they like things like “last minute deals,” “monthly getaways,” “girls’ night out,” “pizza and beer,” “sportsbook parties,” “VIP parties,” or other themes.

With this simple survey your guest has designed their own mailer by choosing their own images and describing in detail your best brand and bait for them. So instead of printing one piece that you hope will please everyone, use digital variable printing to send mailers with the best bait. With rotating graphics, taglines, branding, and calls-to-action your guests chose, you can create a highly personalized appeal for each of your guests. When you communicate with guests in this manner, your results go way up.

Create an ongoing contest for your active guests as well and let them update their own style preferences as often as they want so you always send the best bait. If you do this as an ongoing game and make it fun, your marketing messages can get peak response rates.

Step 2: Utilizing the information gathered with Variable Data Printing
What is it? Well, it is not your grandpa’s mail merge! We were doing mail merges in the 1980s with word processing programs. In the late ‘90s, we started using fancy seashell and cloud fonts for fun. That was cool, but it is not relevant to modern casino marketing. Modern, advanced variable direct marketing is a graphics and database programmer’s dream. The options are truly endless and can be set up to be very simple, yet still highly effective. Everything can be different on every mailer! You can now send every single guest a direct mailer with all the bait choices they personally picked out with you. Everyone gets their favorite colors, brand messages, themes, images, and variable art. This same data can be used for variable themes, images, and calls-to-action in all of your emails and every other direct marketing effort as well.


Let your customers design your messages

Did you know that banks now let you choose what image you would like printed on your credit cards because they know you will favor it more if you design it yourself? They let me upload a picture of my dogs and now that credit card is my pride and joy. The riskiest thing you can do is to send your guests an untested, broad appeal, single branded message. Letting your guests design their own brand experience with your property individualizes the experience for each guest and maximizes your property’s direct marketing results and profits.

That is how you fish with the right bait in casino marketing!

This Article was featured in Raving’s Strategic Solutions Magazine.
Download a copy of it here.

Casino Direct Marketing – Your Turn to Lead, Dare to Dream

Casino Marketing Directors do more than run a casino, they can create the future!Casino Direct Marketing

Every new marketing team that a casino transitions through allows for some strategic advantages. As an incoming marketing director, you get to reboot the department with new ideas and eliminate the old, ineffective ones. The traditional method is to come in and keep things flowing as they were for a few months so you can judge successes, then make changes, evaluate the numbers and move forward.

Some casino marketing professionals already have their tools and programs ready for action. They do a clean sweep and come in blazing with a fresh stream of proven ideas. There are only a few places in business where you can do this, but it is the dream of marketing folks everywhere. A fresh start and no previous program baggage is an ideal world for creative minds. Try doing that at any other business!

Even if you tried to follow the lead of the casino marketing team that came before you, it would be an exercise in futility. Marketing and technology are changing so quickly that what was once a proven response-getter is now just wasteful spending. Past casino marketing teams spent weeks planning their phonebook and newspaper ads, now they plan how to link player IDs to custom QR codes!

As a casino marketing director, it is your job to move your casino into the latest, proven, response-getting marketing programs. YOU create the future!
Congratulations, you get to lead in any direction that is profitable!

It is always time to move forward with a new casino direct marketing plan.
So where do you begin? You start with the numbers!

Here are 4 steps to creating successful plans with your new casino direct marketing team.

1) Define what is currently being used to gauge success.
You will need to determine what is working and what isn’t in the current management’s marketing strategy. Are the owners, CEOs and board of directors grading each marketing campaign by the raw number of guests, average theoretical wins or actuals? There are lots of ways to gauge results, but you need to define and understand how they arrive at their judgment of the success or failure of each campaign. Keep in mind that these current calculations might be why the last marketing director is gone, so this is a very important first step in developing your new casino marketing plan.

2) Find profits in past campaigns you can count on – at least for the short term.
Direct marketing is a process. It involves testing and adjusting based on measured results. With this in mind, it is logical to find both the profits from recent campaigns as well the losses. This is valuable information that will give you a jump-start and keep you from repeating the mistakes of previous casino marketing teams.
This is important because many times your customer base has already been “trained” to receive a certain kind of direct marketing and many times new styles flounder for a while as customers are waiting for the type of marketing they are accustomed to getting. The public moves slower than we do in regards to new ideas, so sticking to the flavor of past campaigns in your transitioning period has many benefits.

If your guests are used to getting a big blue postcard, then give them a big blue postcard in the transition. You can still change the content, offers and tiers in that big blue postcard and test your new ideas for profit against the past responses.

3) Adjust to allow for creative new ideas to be profitable.
Once you get to this step you need to adjust and teach your team and management how it works. You will be viewing things with a more investment-styled methodology. You will show several examples from past campaigns and current campaigns when your research is ready and present it in a way that will get you the go-ahead to pursue this new direction. You will build your new marketing plan using Cost-per-response methodology as opposed to a Cost-per-piece bid gathering. You do this by building dueling post-formas to demonstrate the math used to reach your conclusions.

Cost-per-piece
In a cost-per-piece world all you care about is the lowest acceptable bid for the project whether or not you bring a single guest to the property. In this scenario the marketing department is celebrating saving $500 on the campaign instead of celebrating the profits made for the casino. This is the scenario that crushes dreams and slaughters vendors in a race for the bottom price. It is also stepping over dollars to pickup dimes, to use an old expression. There is always a cheapest vendor, who may or may not be qualified to handle your campaign. If a low price vendor ruins your campaign, you never really saved any money. You lose money, lose guests and put everyone’s jobs at risk.

Cost-per-piece marketing is killing the best ideas and great casino properties.

Cost-per-response
Cost-per-response measures results like an investor would. If you spend $5000 and get 250 visitors, then add a $500 idea that gets you 100 more visitors then YOU WIN BIG!

That $500 add-on would be eliminated as wasteful in a cost-per-piece marketing plan, but when you’re measuring success in cost-per-response, the world and all the creative ideas you can dream of come to life!

Without your $500 idea your cost per response was $20 per response ($5000 / 250 visitors = $20 per response). But by adding your $500 idea you brought your cost per response down significantly to $15.71 per response ($5500 / 350 visitors = $15.71 per response). Cost-per-response opens the doors to more creative ideas that would otherwise be considered too expensive. Often these ideas create much greater profits for the casino.
Now you just need to find all those $500 ideas!

4) Find vendors that can build your best ideas.
You simply can’t afford to try every new idea that vendors present you with, so it’s time to meet with all your vendors. Many great response-generating ideas are absolutely free or can be negotiated. Have each of your vendors come by on a regular basis to share with any new ideas or technologies they are using. Pay attention especially to anything they have created themselves, as you may be able to utilize new marketing ideas/technologies before your competitors!
You are looking to build a creative team and your vendors are an important part of that team.

The big question is which vendors can you count on when you have an idea that needs to be created/invented specifically for your needs. Some of the best ideas come out of collaborative meetings with vendors. If your vendors are creative, they will have many great marketing tools that they can suggest to increase your responses to your direct marketing .

For example, here is a short list of things we have created for $500 (or even for free) that have brought great results to our casino clients:

• US Mail Tracking on the iPhone was created from a customer need. They got a 30% greater response by planning the timing of projects better after analyzing delivery times.
• Email and text capture tools were created from a collaborative meeting and increased customer participation in an event, while helping update and gather new email addresses.
• A specialty mailing list was built from scratch that allowed our customer to get a 3.5% response from their acquisition mailing. (600+ room nights)
• Our customer project tracking site was created from a customer request to compare year over year projects and improve their offer timeliness.
• We created variable direct mail maps and driving directions after a collaborative meeting with a customer in a remote location. This helped their clients find them more easily and got more people in the door.

Don’t be afraid to see if your vendors are creative enough to put some skin in the game. They have a lot to gain by helping your casino profit. Beware the cheapest vendors, though. They cannot have an adequate R&D budget and a talented creative staff if they are cutting those costs to underbid competitors.
A casino will profit most by working with creative, profitable vendors. This can be your final change from the cost per piece mentality. By bringing in vendors that create the lowest cost-per-response, you are changing the way you market for the better.

Dare to dream of ideas that bring profits in the millions by developing cost-per-response programs and fight all urges to return to cost-per-piece!