I’m a Digital Variable Data Printing Press Operator and Technician

The people that ask what I do for a living are frequently taken aback by my initial, truncated answer.

I’m a Digital Press/Machine Operator and Technician for a company called CSG Direct Inc.

Such conversations tend to go one of two ways at this point:
Those that have seen our commercial, usually hilariously start singing the jingle to me.
Those that haven’t often question the nature of what I do or ask, “What is that”?

The longer I work at CSG Direct, the more I’m finding the most appropriate and accurate answer to the second question. I think I’ve narrowed it down to a clear and concise execution of verbal symmetry:

We’re not only in the business of Direct Mailing, We are the future of Direct Mail!

It is, all too frequently, easy to write this off as your standard brainwashed stock phrase and go with the reductive viewpoint of Direct Mail being the junk mail that you ask for as unfortunately, this is what I find most people presently understand it to be.

However, people’s minds begin to open to the idea of what’s involved when I tell them I can expand no further upon the nature of my work as sensitive information is involved.

My experience has taught me that this is important and priceless (both in the short and long run) in an age where competitors (telemarketers and maverick consultants) flippantly use Client/Vendor biometrics in a way that’s arguably fiscally and ethically invasive and offensive.

The team at CSG Direct Inc. aims to either refine these crude attempts into something valuable or make such situations a thing of the past. Value. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.

That is why we, as a company can afford to make the ostentatious claims; because we get the job done, efficiently, timely, respectfully and in a manner that keeps all-around satisfaction at a high.

I Print. Therefore, I am. Still, I’d like to leave you with the idea that whatever may happen to come off my machine, if it has your name on it, it will be something that you can value. It’s not just MY focus it’s ours.

Regards,

Data Tips: Deduping and Suppressing

Cleaning a database of dedupes is one of the simplest ways to maximize its efficiency for your data marketing needs. This includes many small steps, but two are imperative when mailing to your customers.

The first is deduping. Deduping is simply the process of removing duplicate records. There are several different options you can choose to go by when deduping, this allows your marketing campaign to be as efficient and direct as you would like. For example, here is a list of deduping options that CSG offers.

One Per Individual Deduping

Individual Exact – This matches the address, first and last name, and zip code. So, if there is a Bob Smith at 123 Liberty Lane in your list twice one will be exported out of your list.

Individual Tight – Compares the same as above, but those that sound alike, such as: Christopher Ryan at 123 Liberty Lane, Chris Ryan at Liberty Lane or Jonathan Smith or John Smith. These are considered the same person and therefor a dedupe.

Individual Exact and Tight deduping comes in handy when your mailer has individual offers like the example below.

John Smith at 150 Freedom Dr. gets 100 bonus points
Sally Smith at 150 Freedom Dr. gets 120 bonus points

Although both live at the same address, they both have different first names therefor are not deduped out by using Individual Exact and Tight. This allows you to market to multiple people within a single household. Furthermore, you can market variable offers to every unique individual inside your data list.

One Per Household Deduping

Resident Exact – Dedupes the list by address and zip code only. So regardless of name if two or more records have the same exact address all but one record will be exported out of the main list.

Family Tight – Compares the last name, address, and zip code. This catches and slight variation of spelling that may occur between dedupes.

For example:
John Smith, 123 Liberty Lane, Apt B302
John Smith, 123 Liberty Lane

The above is a dedupe, although one of the above addresses contains an apartment number, the bottom record must be deleted in order to prevent the targeted clientele receiving multiple mailers for the same marketing campaign.

Resident Exact and Family Tight are handy for generic mailers that don’t have variable offers. There is really no need to send a mailer to everyone in a household for the same event, not only is it over marketing and annoying to those receiving the offer, but it is a waste of print and postage expenditures.

One Per Company Deduping

Company Exact – Much like Individual Exact with the exception that it compares the Company Name instead of the First and last along with the address/zip code.

Company Tight – Matches Company names that sound alike and have the same address/zip code.

For example:
Flag Makers Incorporation, 123 Freedom Way Suite 202
Flag Makers Inc. 123 Freedom Way Suite 202

This is obviously a dedupe, but wasn’t picked out by Company Exact because “Incorporation” was abbreviated in one and not the other.

Company Exact and Tight is only used when a list contains a company field.

There are instances where you will have First and last name fields along with a company field. This opens the possibility that several individuals at the same company and address will be in your list. Whether you want each of those instances to be mailed to will be entirely up to you.

Suppression

Suppression is when two different data lists are deduped against each other; whether it be Individual Exact, Resident Exact, etc.

This is typically utilized when you don’t want to mail to customers that were previously mailed to in recent marketing campaign.

So you can see that there is a lot that can be done to with these two data processes that can save you some big bucks, prevent your mailers from annoying your targeted audience, and ultimately insuring that you are getting the best out of your data.

Modern Database Marketing with Direct Mail Personalization

Direct Mail Personalized

Direct Mail Personalized

Modern Database Marketing with Direct Mail Personalization

In the database marketing industry, we always throw around the word “personalization” as if everyone already understands what we mean.  It really is a generic term.  Are you telling personal secrets? Are you talking about how much they drank on their last trip? Are you getting too “personal”?

The problem with using a generic term to describe what we are doing is that everyone has their own idea what the term means.  To some people in the industry “personalization” means using the recipient’s name somewhere in the copy of the direct mailer.  That is what it meant… five to ten years ago!

Modern personalization  is an incredibly different animal that is not well represented by a one-word term.

Modern personalization is one-to-one conversations with each customer, en mass.

For example, Customer Mary visits the casino with her husband and enjoys playing Keno and eating at the buffet.  Customer Jim is single and likes to come to your concerts, drink beer and bet on sports. How do you make one invitation that appeals to both of these people?

Just putting “Hey Jim” in the direct mail piece is usually not enough to make an offer more appealing to him if it isn’t relevant to his interest in your property.

A customer asked me the other day why they get so few responses to their concert promotions.  They mail out 10,000 pieces and get 100 responses.  “How come?” they asked.  Well it turns out the exact same 10,000 people are invited to each concert and they aren’t sure if those particular people share a like for each particular type of concert.

They need to code their database with music interests and invite people that enjoy the type of concert you are promoting.  This is the first step in modern personalization.  Put the right act or promotion in front of your customers that like that act or promotion.

Music is a great way to have this conversation but it applies to everything about your Hotel Casino property. You don’t promote 80s hair band music to 60 year old guests and you don’t promote the steak house to people who like the buffet.  Send blackjack invites only to people that like blackjack and send slot tournament invites only to people that like slot play.  This is the heart of high response marketing.

This can be done all in ONE direct mail piece!

With today’s modern technology we can do all this in one direct mail piece. There are only a couple of hurdles to making this possible. First you have to find the easiest ways to match your event and hotel casino offerings to the guests that like each of your amenities.  This is best established by tracking EVERYTHING your customer does.  For example, you need to track the types of rooms they stay in and the types of food they prefer on property.

Next we need to establish things about your clients that you currently do not have access to.  For example, do they golf? Are they married? What kind of music do they like? What kind of occupation are they in?  There are many ways to do this with in-house surveys or modern data-append services using some great outside consumer databases to gather new information.

Finally, the last step is to learn how to build a marketing matrix.  This is a spreadsheet where we describe the differences in each dataset we have pulled and what offers each database receives.  Basically, we query each special interest we can find to market to and make a map to which offers will be rotating in each direct mail piece.  This  personalizes the offers, look and feel of each piece.

The art

Now the fun happens. We build four different art sets for the invitation.  One design caters to blackjack players, one design feels more like buffet and keno, one design is 80s hair band and buffet and the last design is a golf themed piece that includes a slot tournament and steakhouse offer for those people we know like those.  This is all for offers for the same weekend, of course.

We compile your databases together and rotate the graphics in the printing and outputting process.  This is the recipe for high response modern direct mail personalized casino marketing.

Everyone gets something that appeals directly to them and their interests in a gaming experience.

The biggest gain is that over time each person in your database starts to feel like your property is their favorite because it appears that your product is exactly what they are looking for.  Every player gets a unique experience that feels most comfortable to them and they end up visiting more often.  This gives you a greater share of their annual gaming budget.

 

National Indian Gaming Association Associate Member

We are a proud direct mailing and variable data printing partner associated with the National Indian Gaming Association.

The National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA), established in 1985, is a non-profit organization of 184 Indian Nations with other non-voting associate members representing organizations, tribes and businesses engaged in tribal gaming enterprises from around the country. The common committment and purpose of NIGA is to advance the lives of Indian peoples economically, socially and politically. NIGA operates as a clearinghouse and educational, legislative and public policy resource for tribes, policymakers and the public on Indian gaming issues and tribal community development.

We plan on sharing our expertise throughout the gaming sector!

CSG Direct is cutting edge in Casino Direct Mail. CSG has innovations in Variable Mapping, Personalization, Casino Data Processing, and Live US Mail Tracking of every mail piece. CSG is staffed with decades of Casino Database Marketing experience and the most experienced mailing services team in Casino direct mail. -NIGA

The mission of NIGA is to protect and preserve the general welfare of tribes striving for self-sufficiency through gaming enterprises in Indian Country. To fulfill its mission, NIGA works with the Federal government and Congress to develop sound policies and practices and to provide technical assistance and advocacy on gaming-related issues. In addition, NIGA seeks to maintain and protect Indian sovereign governmental authority in Indian Country.

Why We Love Variable Data Printing #1!

We have been in the variable data printing (VDP) business for nearly fifteen years. Nothing gives the team at CSG Direct Mail more of a rush than taking a job and applying the advanced concepts of conditional programming and intensive personalization to create a highly-targeted VDP campaign that brings excellent responses. We thrive on complex VDP projects that take all the elements of a customer’s project and weaving them into a grand, personalized tapestry.

Many Direct Mail companies brag that they do VDP, but do they really understand the height and depth that really constitutes VDP? Do they understand that personalization is more than just putting “Dear First Name” in a letter? Can they take multiple tiers, hundreds of graphics, text elements and styling, and intensive data to create a campaign that can be run as one version to maximize postal savings and project timeliness? This is where the rubber hits the road!

VDP is a wonderful ballet of data and graphics woven together with conditional programming to create a custom-tailored personalized message that is unique and desirable to catch the attention of your customer. The more targeted your data and graphic assets are constructed, the more likely of a positive response. In addition, one is almost unlimited in what can be created in a VDP project. The only limitations are the complexity of the data, design assets and one’s imagination!

It’s just not enough to have a person who “crunches” your data and prepares it for postal output. They must understand how to code a database to work in conjunction with graphic assets to make a VDP project sing. One can have the most talented graphic designer on their team, but if the designer doesn’t have a basic understanding how a database can be used to power all their designs with conditional programming, then the project is reduced to creating many separate outputs according to level/tier. A huge waste of time and money! For a successful VDP project, both data and design must work in tandem and understand each other’s skill sets to make the final product shine!

This is when we shine at CSG Direct Mail. Data, Design and Print personnel working in tandem to produce some crazy and wonderful VDP! Multi levels, multi Property, graphics switching out on the fly, fonts changing size, face and color, with conditional programming humming in the background while the data conducts the process like a maestro! It’s magic!

Next…VDP in action!

New Postage Rates for 2012

Beginning early next year, it will cost just a penny more to mail letters to any location in the United States, the first price change for First-Class Mail stamps (Forever stamps) in more than two and a half years. The new 45-cent price for Forever stamps is among price changes filed with the Postal Regulatory Commission.

“The overall average price increase is small and is needed to help address our current financial crisis,” said Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe. “We continue to take actions within our control to increase revenue in other ways and to aggressively cut costs. To return to sound financial footing we urgently need enactment of comprehensive, long-term legislation to provide the Postal Service with a more flexible business model.”

Highlights of the new single-piece First-Class Mail pricing, effective Jan. 22, 2012, include:

• Letters (1 oz.) – 1-cent increase to 45 cents
• Letters additional ounces – unchanged at 20 cents
• Postcards – 3-cent increase to 32 cents
• Letters to Canada or Mexico (1 oz.) – 5-cent increase to 85 cents.
• Letters to other international destinations – 7-cent increase to $1.05

Prices also will change for other mailing services, including Standard Mail, Periodicals, Package Services and Extra Services. This announcement does not affect Express Mail and Priority Mail prices.

More information on the new pricing is available Here. Download the PDF

While actual percentage price increases vary, the overall average price increase across all mailing services is capped by law at 2.1 percent, the rate of inflation calculated based on the Consumer Price Index.

For business mailers, this announcement offers good news for First-Class Mail Presort mailers. When the new prices go into effect on Jan. 22, the second ounce for presorted letters will be free. “This gives companies expanded opportunities to advertise new services and products to their customers as part of bill and statement mailings,” said Paul Vogel, president and chief marketing/sales officer.

And new for all customers is a 3-month pricing option to rent PO Boxes, perfect for people on the move and others who need a PO Box for a short time period.

The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations.

Find out more on USPS.com

EPS Direct Mailing Marketing Awards

The EPS award acknowledges great direct mailing marketing design and execution as well as follow-through, tracking, results and strategy. Campaigns and mail pieces recognized by EPS are exceptional in marketing and creative detail. These entries interact with their target audience in a fashion that creates profitable results.

“EPS” is an industry insider abbreviation for “Envelope”, so it is all about direct mailing marketing. As the marketing industry has changed the EPS judging criteria has too. EPS evolves with the times and if certain criteria and modern postal and response methods are not utilized than it affects the scoring of entries.

We live and breath results and our best clients measure those results.

The EPS award is not  limited to print oriented results. We thrive in new and emerging areas with mobile, web, text and email components included. We dig into the campaign and judge it by effectiveness, thoroughness of how well the physical mailed piece drove the action.

EPS Awards categories:
1) Best Mail Piece Design
2) Best Direct Mailing
3) Best Mailing Campaign

Primary Qualifications:
1) Effective Creative Design
2) Call-to-Actions
3) Overall Marketing Strategy
4) Tracking of Results

The EPS awards are judged for the best ideas, most creative uses and the finest executions.
We acknowledge the best of your entries in direct mailing marketing!

If you are interested in us presenting awards to your group please contact us: service@csgdirect.com or 800-881-2150 x12

We may be willing to sponsor or contribute to your AAF Meeting, PCC Meeting, Ad2, American Marketing Association, PR group or other similar awards functions.
(Award categories are chosen to best meet your events members, theme or goals)

Past Winners:

Meyer Rosene -Best Mailing Campaign

A. Carlisle -Best Mail Piece Design

DRGM -Best Direct Mailing

DynaGraphics -Best Direct Mailing

KPSB -Best Mailing Campaign

DRGM -Best Mail Piece Design

Peppermill Hotel Casino, Reno NV -Best Mail Piece Design

Cirus Circus Hotel Casino, Reno NV -Best Mail Piece Design

Smith & Jones -Best Mail Piece Design

GMAA -Best Mailing Campaign

The symbol versions of QR Codes

Each QR Code symbol version has a max data capacity according to the amount of data, character type and error correction level. In other words, as the amount of data increases, more modules are needed to make up the QR code. Let’s say for example you have a rather long web link or you want to include multiple fields in a contact form. This is what makes larger QR Code symbols.

The symbol versions of QR Code range from Version 1 to Version 40. Each version has a different module configuration or number of modules. The module refers to the black and white dots that make up QR Code.

“Module configuration” refers to the number of modules contained in a symbol, commencing with Version 1 up to Version 40. Version 1 is 21 x 21 modules and Version 40 is 177 x 177 modules. As you can see in the image below each higher version number comprises 4 additional modules per side.

Error Correction

QR Codes have error correction capability to restore data if the code is dirty or damaged. Four error correction levels are available. Raising this level improves error correction capability but also increases the amount of data QR Code size. The bigger the QR code, the better chance it has of being read properly without error.

To select error correction level, various factors such as the operating environment and QR Code size need to be considered.
Level Q or H may be selected for factory environment where QR Codes get dirty, whereas Level L may be selected for clean environment with the large amount of data. Typically, Level M (15%) is most frequently selected.

From a graphic design perspective Level Q or H are great to work with. One can remove parts of the code, implement an image, icon, or design and still get full functional readability. On thing to keep in mind while doing this is that most people don’t have a fancy smartphone and may be using an older less effective camera-phone when scanning your code. You want to make sure that the code will work with all smart phones.

You can color a QR code as long as you use dark enough colors that maintain good contrast for the camera to recognize. You can also use the black areas as a mask over a photograph. Indeed you can be very creative with QR and not have the boring robotic look of generic QR codes.

Another thing to keep in mind while designing is to leave the white border around the code. This border allows the camera to zero-out and know what areas to read and decode. A general rule-of-thumb is to maintain a 4:1 scale of white border to the smallest module, or pixel, within your QR code.

State of the Postal Service Part 1

Information provided by the US Postal Service:

This recession has been particularly cruel to the postal service, already battered by the popularity of e-mail. Total mail volume is declining and just Last year we saw the biggest decline in mail since the Depression: volume fell by 4.5%, or about 9 billion pieces.

The postal service continues to loose volume in it’s largest, most profitable segment: First class mail. The postal service ended the 2008 fiscal year with a $2.8 billion loss, and the next two years may well be worse.

In response to the continuing decline in mail volume and revenue, the Postal Service has taken unprecedented steps over the past decade to reduce cost in areas within its control, including cost reductions totaling $12 billion in the past four fiscal years. The Postal Service has already identified and is pursuing a number of needed legislative changes that would help to return it to solvency.

Actions have been taken across the board to address the financial situation including: Work hour reductions, distribution compression, national distribution center realignment, facility optimization, equipment optimization and restructuring efforts.

The Postal Service is also undertaking, or has proposed, a number of additional steps to help it achieve the cost savings necessary to restore financial solvency. With respect to its delivery network, the Postal Service has and continues to aggressively pursue an optimization initiative that has led to fewer delivery routes, despite the growth in delivery points, along with more efficient usage of vehicles and fuel. In addition, the Postal service has urged Congress to allow 5-day delivery, an essential step in right-sizing the delivery network to reflect the fact that the Postal Service is now delivering a decreasing amount of mail to an ever-expanding number of delivery points.

The Postal Service is also closely examining its retail network, to identify opportunities where postal-operated facilities can be consolidated or replaced with alternate access channels that are both more cost-effective and provide greater access and more convenience for customers. The first step in this process was recently taken by the identification of approximately 3,700 retail facilities that will be studied for possible closure or conversion to contract postal services.
The Postal Service is also moving forward with efforts to streamline its mail processing network.

Currently, the Postal Service has over 500 facilities where mail is processed. Because of the decline in mail volume, referenced above, and the change in mail mix that has led to fewer pieces of mail requiring end-to-end processing, efforts are underway to continue to optimize this network using Area Mail Processing studies and other consolidation initiatives. We anticipate reducing transportation miles and costs and reducing the number of processing facilities to below 200.

Continue to State of the Postal Service Part 2

Full color variable envelopes, a Direct Mail Revolution

CSG direct is now equipped to print full color variable envelopes! We are your full service mail shop and print shop. Variable Direct Mail Printing can be one of the most powerful mediums of our times.

For those of you that are new to Variable-data printing, let me break it down for you. Variable-data printing is a form of digital printing, including on-demand printing, in which elements such as text, graphics and images may be changed from one printed piece to the next, without stopping or slowing down the printing process and using information from a database or external file.

For example, a set of personalized letters, each can have a different layout, different content and can all be printed as 1 run together with the different names and addresses on each letter. Now we can also have a completely different look on every single envelope to match the unique letters as well. This often costs less than ordering printed envelopes and then addressing them. This is a new revolution in direct marketing.

At CSG Direct, we have over 2 decades in Real Variable Data: Variable Data Printing, Variable Data Coding, Randomization, Variable Data Email, Websites, and more.

CSG Direct lives and breath variable data so you get Better Results Fast!