Compete with igaming, bring on the nerds

Bring on the nerds
To compete with igaming you need to “bring on the nerds”

Every incumbent gaming operation has had to deal with the expanding gambling landscape and new, large and well-funded competition opening down the street. The barrier to market has always been the huge expenses of buying land, building giant brick-and-mortar properties, staffing and then finally marketing against us. Well a new dawn approaches!

This time though, the battle won’t be on the strip.  This battle is on the internet.

So how strong is your internet team and what are they focused on?
(please don’t say Facebook, please. lol)

The real battle will take place on the search engine.  If we do our jobs right we can beat them on the internet. What every casino needs now is an expanding army of programmers, bloggers and online search engine experts.  The more you understand about search engines the more you will understand the large advantage you have on the internet over the online casinos.  You truly can win this fight if all physical casinos massively outperform online casinos at the search engine screen.

Bring on the Nerds!
I’m a nerd so it’s ok.

There is a story in the Las Vegas Review Journal about a current online battle the cosmopolitan is having with an international company trying to get their online business. Article Here

What you see in the article is a typical online battle that you may all be dealing with in the months and years ahead.  These new online casinos will have to create clever brands and spend tens-of-millions marketing those brands.  They will try and save those millions by hijacking your brands online.  It’s already happening to The Cosmo.

But, The Cosmopolitans website kicks major Search Engine butt over the hijacking site. A search engine strategy report shows newcosmopolitanlasvegas.com (the online hijack) with an SEO score of 44 out of 100 but cosmopolitanlasvegas.com (the real site) has an SEO score of 66 out of 100.  The Cosmo is winning but still needs to step up their search engine strategy above that 66.

In their local market, Palms.com has a grade of 88 out of 100. They are really working their online strategy obviously.  You can’t just build pretty websites folks. This is an online battle for the modern customer and one of your most valuable marketing dollars you can spend.

You can never learn too much about search engine marketing!  Do you know that your own blog is worth 200x more than facebook, but many casinos have staff focused on facebook and don’t even have a blog.  What is your H1-tag strategy?  How about your meta-tag strategy?  You even need an image and alt-text strategy too. What are the actual names of your images anyway?  What does Google think you do?

Google cannot “see” your pretty website like humans do.  What is your website SEO score? More importantly, when a customer decides to plan a trip and types “Hotels in [your city]” are you on the top of the results?  A successful search engine strategy pays off big! It’s time to take your site to the next level and protect yourselves from igaming too.

Average Casino Database is only 76.5% deliverable

On a typical monthly casino mailing, that’s up to $3,500 in cash gets flushed down the drain.

Not sure how deliverable your casino database is? Let’s make you the hero with your CFO this month, and save you some money on your next mailing.

First, how did I come up with the number above?

Printing for 30K                  $0.18 each
Postage for 30K                 $0.26 each
Mailing Services                 $0.06 each
Average Cost Per Piece   $0.50 each

Second, where did I get the 76.5% number from?

Direct Mail Deliverability

Third, the ugly truth
Multiply total cost per piece (.50 X 7,050) times the 23.5% that did not get delivered. This is how much money you can then be flushing down the drain that month: $3,525, which totals to $42,300 per year. This is high-value, low-hanging fruit.

Finally, the SOLUTION (and you become the HERO)

How hard is it to clean up your database BEFORE you mail? Not hard at all. As a start, you need to enlist your direct mail provider by cleaning up your database through NCOA quarterly updating. Seventeen percent (17%) of the US moves each year. The real trick is to get that data back into your player tracking system.

How much your direct mail provider will charge you for this always depends on the size of your database and if you want it uploaded back in to your system. It can typically range from $80-$1,800.

While they are scrubbing your list, have them run an off-property “near-duplicate” report to help you find the Mikes, Michaels, and other obvious duplicates.

Bonus ways to save even more

The 76.5% number above just includes errors in your address database. It does not take into consideration internal database maintenance practices you can be doing now:

Return mail
Appropriately code all returned mail in your database so that you don’t continue to mail and waste resources. Make efforts internally to get correct information.

NO MAIL requests
ALWAYS respect your guests’ requests to be removed from your marketing distributions. THEY WILL STILL PLAY!

86’d client lists
You don’t want them in your property. DON’T INVITE THEM! Code your database appropriately. You can always change it if you have made amends with the previously barred guest.

Duplicate accounts
Install procedures at point of intake to make sure duplicate accounts are not added. Ask questions …
~   Ask if they have ever visited before.
~   Ask if they have ever had a club card before.
~   If the same name appears, check the DOB.
~   If the same name and DOB appear, ask if they have recently moved.

Linked accounts
Two people living in the same household may share one disposable income. Do they get separate offers or one offer together? Establish a policy and make it clearly known. Don’t waste resources — make a plan that works for your guests.
Bottom line, be sure you are not flushing money down the drain, when the “fix” is pretty simple.

How to Get Your Direct Mail Opened

Direct-mail is one of the most powerful marketing tools a casino has!   Getting the highest direct mail response should be the goal but there is usually a lot of pressure to keep the costs down. These can be conflicting goals. If we don’t get our mailer opened and read we will get a poor response rate so let’s focus on getting customers to open our direct mail today.Get Direct Mail Opened

Here are a few tricks to get your mail opened.

  • Use a shocking or awe inspired headline

There is a reason why every band does their “last tour” every few years. It creates shock to their fans and creates deep interest in the event. Find something spectacular about your event worth creating some drama about like “biggest jackpot ever” or this is a very rare event or last of it’s kind.

  • Use mystery to make them curious about your mailer

Curiosity is a powerful tool.  If you use some lead-in text on the address side of your mailer (the primary side they see), you can tap into their curiosity and get your mailer opened.  Try a snipe like “You’ll never guess who is coming” but make them open the mailer to find out. Your mailer open rate will increase incredibly.  They could guess, but its more natural to open the mailer and see the answer.  It is a similar technique as a scratch-off for getting your piece opened.

  • Use a scratch-off on the outside to compare on the inside

If you design your scratch off with a compelling offer and easy to understand design they work very well.  You can create a nice scratch-off on the outside and have them check the inside of the piece to see what they have won.  You can create scratch-offs with variable numbers too so make a game of your mailer and it will have a much higher open and interaction rate than the rest of the mail that day.

  • A box-mailer always gets opened

Any box place inside your customers mailbox is the most important thing in the mailbox. If we are talking strictly open-rates than there is no higher interaction rate than a box mailing.  Higher open rates translate into higher response rates. You should definitely do some box mailings throughout the year and compare the post forma math to your other mailers.  You will be very pleasantly surprised by the increased response which can more than justify the additional expense.

  • Send relevant offers about things they like

The difference between direct marketing and junk mail is if you’re sending relevant offers to someone about what they like or want. If you send a country and western invitation to a rock ‘n roll person you are pushing that client away with things they don’t want (aka junk mail).

You want to be a property that has the things they like so you are their favorite place to go.  Code your database well so you can personalize relevant offers to the right person and you’ll always get your mailers opened and higher response rate too.

Raving’s 14th Indian Gaming National Marketing Conference Day 3

Christine FariaWednesday February 1st, Today is our 3rd day at the Raving’s 14th Indian Gaming National Marketing Conference

So far this conference is one of the coolest conferences I have had the pleasure of attending. I would like to thank Dennis Conrad and the rest of the Raving team for partnering with CSG Direct Mail.  I would also like to send a special thanks to Christine Faria (seen here in magic mode) for everything she does to make the event magical for everyone.  We are big Raving fans of Chris.  : )

csg sponsor Raving's 14th Indian Gaming MarketingToday we had another workshop and it was my largest class of the week. Great way to end the week!  Casino marketing teams are blessed with so many options and so much data to work with.

This conference has me so excited!  We are on fire and everyone is excited to implement the fresh ideas learned from this conference.  Make sure you join us next year!

Here’s a link to the Raving Consulting Website

Raving’s 14th Indian Gaming National Marketing Conference Day 2

Raving's Guest SpeakerTuesday January 31st, our second day at the Raving’s 14th Indian Gaming National Marketing Conference

Today was my first workshop for the week.  As a group we brainstormed for ways to leverage our current available data and create images and themes for our mailers. When doing this you have to think beyond a single mail piece and visualize personalized mailers for each customer to create a unique experience.

Raving's Guest Speaker That’s not a new idea, but we are working on how to make big variables easy to implement so we can get better results fast.

Lots of great ideas were shared but I’m not here to dictate that to the blog. I just want to share the fun we’re having and the great stuff everyone is learning.  Here’s a picture taken while I was setting up before the workshop.

 

Raving’s 14th Indian Gaming National Marketing Conference Day 1

Raving's 14th Annual Indian Gaming conferenceWe drove 4.5 hours from Las Vegas to Rancho Mirage, California today to get set up at the Raving’s 14th Indian Gaming National Marketing Conference.  It was a crazy drive through 29 Palms but I trusted my GPS! We’re just getting setup today so there will be more to talk about tomorrow.  Here is the sign from the registration table.

Agua Caliente is the host property for this event. This is my first visit to Agua Caliente. It is a beautiful property.  It reminds me of a mix between Thunder Valley Resort and Redhawk Resort in Nor Cal or possibly Red Rock in LasVegas.

We got our booth set up and met with everyone, but for the night I will be working at my mobile office in my room (below). The rooms are fricken’ sweet!

My Room Workspace

These are cell-phone pics. I will have much better photos for my next update.

Tomorrow I lead a workshop on personalized direct mail and variable graphics and themes.

Very exciting!

Modern Casino Direct Mail Personalization Workshops

CSG Direct Mail CEO, Michael Hemphill; is teaching modern casino direct mail personalization workshops at Raving’s 14th Indian Gaming National Marketing Conference January 30th – February 1st, 2012.

Modern Casino Direct Mail PersonalizationLearn modern personalization secrets from a variable data casino industry veteran. Learn how to create much higher response casino direct mail programs.

Michael Hemphill leads a hands-on variable data printing casino direct mail workshop at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa,
in Rancho Mirage, CA.

Learn modern Casino Direct Mail personalization secrets at the 14th Annual Indian Gaming National Marketing Conference. Variable printing pro Michael Hemphill will show you how to make an offer more appealing to each guest individually creating a much higher response program.

Michael Hemphill brings decades of experience in results driven casino direct mail marketing to teach how to use available data to personalize the guests’ perception of a casino.

Learn the secrets to high response modern casino direct mail marketing.

Participants in this hands-on workshop will brainstorm creative opportunities for personalizing their direct mail, email and text message communications driven by data available to them through their player tracking systems.

By the end of this one-hour session, attendees will have learned easy, medium and difficult variables in personalization that can increase direct mail responses in their current campaigns and drive more bang for their marketing buck. They will learn how to easily be more relevant to your guests’ specific tastes and purchasing style.

If you don’t know enough about them to truly personalize and get better results, you can append tons of additional consumer data from known purchase data. You can personalize your direct marketing using all kinds of personal interest information, home and family structure, gaming preferences, shopping habits and wealth.

Variable direct mail marketing is one of the most powerful mediums of our times. However, most people who sell this to their clients aren’t really doing variable printing. Mail merge and fancy fonts is not variable personalized printing.

The largest benefit from modern personalization (besides higher response rates) is that each person in your database feels like your property is their favorite venue. 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 you get a greater share of their annual gaming budget.

CSG Direct Mail has over two decades in variable data printing, casino direct mail, variable direct mail maps, US Mail Tracking, randomization, personalized emails, personalized websites, QR codes and much more.

For more information about the conference call Raving Consulting at 775-329-7864.
To learn more about casino direct mail visit the CSG direct mail website.

Casino Direct Mail Client Testimonial

We love our clients and we are blessed that they love us too.
Here is a note from one of our clients.

CSG makes me successful and our company shines because of their diligence. Nothing goes out to our players unless it is perfect.  I love CSG Direct!
Jeri St. Onge
Database Direct Mail Manager
Tropicana Laughlin

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!

Casino Direct Mail Marketing, You’re Doing It Wrong!

Forget everything you have ever been taught about Casino Direct Mailing!
You’re doing it completely wrong!

It’s not your fault, you had horribly untrained people teach you your job and you are doing what you were taught to do. The math is just wrong.

You and the majority of everyone else in direct mail marketing were taught wrong. Everyone suffers when you can’t bring enough profitable guests to make a profit and grow the casino to what it was originally destined to be. It must be outside of your control because you are doing what you were taught and the people around you keep telling you that you are doing it correct, right?

Why are you listening to them? Do they have decades of creating and measuring direct mail results? Probably not! You are listening to them because if you do what you are told and excel at what you are taught your job is safe right? You are being lured into a false sense of security by not questioning the process and not recognizing that you are surrounded and trained by people that don’t have the experience to judge or train you.

Take a look around you at you and your team. Lots of great people all trying to pay their bills, raise kids and have a beer on Friday night. Great folks I’m sure, I love a beer on Friday too. But they all moved up the same way you did. Perhaps you started in the players club desk or at the valet parking garage. You got a few promotions and now you are a casino host. Next thing you know you are working in special events and now you find yourself promoted into marketing as a coordinator of some kind.

This is a common path type to marketing director positions in our industry, ironically. I cannot count the number of special events assistants that have been promoted to marketing director without real marketing experience.

Now that you are in marketing you’re fully trained and experienced in all aspects of direct mailing, right? Nope! Now all those people above you that basically started the same path that you did a few years before, will be teaching you all their “expertise”. But who taught them? and who taught those before them? Are you feeling me yet?

Our gaming industry is full of the marketing blind teaching the blind. It’s not your fault. It’s the nature of the gaming industry but if you don’t grow, learn and adjust then it is your doing.

What you will be taught as you enter and develop in direct marketing is simple production level stuff but you will falsely be made to feel like you are the heart of direct marketing when you do it. You will learn how to pull a mailing list. You will learn how to get a nice mail piece designed. You will learn how to get bids from vendors (often misguided by cost-per-piece purchasing hawks). You might even learn about tracking and manager level reporting.

Now you are on top of the world and the top of your game, right? Sorry to disappoint but in the real world this is “direct mail coordinator” and you could be eaten alive in the private sector by some detail-oriented kings and queens of our industry. There is so much still to learn.

So where am I going with this and how will I transition to the “make us all feel better” part of this article? Well lets pull out our calculators and talk about some things that nobody taught you yet. Direct Mail Marketing is about MATH! It’s about Investment, Dividends and Results!

Take a hard look at the direction of your casino. Is your casino saving money and declining or investing money and growing? It seems odd that no matter how much money we save in the bidding process casinos all over the country are still declining in profitability! I don’t find that odd at all and neither will you. It’s even more difficult to comprehend that you sell FUN everyday of your life and you are getting lower and lower response rates.

You can’t sell FUN because you were trained wrong. Let’s turn your career around.
We need to start by getting back to core basics. What is our real core job in marketing?

Is your job to mail as many pieces for the cheapest price you can or is your job to bring in the highest rate of return as a percentage of the invested expense? Unfortunately 95% of every casino executive I have met would not recognize that they are supposed to be investment hawks trying to make the casino the biggest gains with the best investments. Our number 1 goal is to help our casino make as much money as possible so they can give us raises and perks and benefits and we have lots of room for growth in careers and opportunities.

A casino hires thousands of workers, friends and neighbors and supports our communities with taxes, wages, tourism, sponsorships and lots of fun. So our number 1 priority is to seek ways to help that casino maximizes its earnings by bringing ideas to the table on how to MAKE money.

It’s not about saving money, it’s about MAKING money!

Don’t panic, we’ll save money too but lets take those shackles off for a little bit while we talk about how to make money first. Lets assume for now that 95% of all other purchasing is being managed by Ebeneezer Scrooge and we get to invest the 5% he doesn’t manage. It doesn’t help that purchasing plays such a large role in overseeing money in the marketing department and they are singularly focused on words like “cost per piece” or “unit price”. Lets leave them out of this while we talk about what should be in play and not what currently is.

To properly turn around your direct mailing training you need to think like your casino owners do. Everyday the investor-mind asks themselves “how do I invest $100 safely to make $1000?” Shoot, even getting $200 from a $100 investment is gold if you can do it safely. You judge every investment based on dollars at risk, percentage of gain and time to payoff.

So let’s think like the owner and do some math. If I mail out 10,000 postcards at $0.50 each than I have invested $5000 of the casinos money on a direct mailing. Let’s say for the discussion we get a 3.5% response and 350 people come to the event. Sure there are other expenses to consider but we’re going to keep this simple for now.

That is an investment of $14.28 Per Response!
($5000 / 350 responses = $14.28 per response)

Per Response” are words missing from casino marketing departments everywhere. It doesn’t matter how much money you “saved”, what matters is profits made. With a $14 per response budget you can probably think of a lot cooler things you could send to your guests than a postcard. Much more personalized, tiered or unique mail pieces can be justified at a greater expense but a greater return on investment too. But you have to do the math.

If we mail half as many pieces and get the many more guests than we are marketing smarter. We would also be able to “own the mailbox” that day crushing out competing offers and getting 100% open rates on creative invitations.

I submit that casinos have focused so much on saving money that they have watered down all their direct marketing efforts to the point of dwindling return.  You can only squeeze so much savings out of your marketing budgets. Eventually you crush your casino with dwindling occupancy, forced layoffs and the properties decline into misery.  You can prevent all of that.  You hold the key to bringing in the most guests possible and creating the greatest opportunities possible for you and those around you.  Break the chain of the misguided trainers before you and lead your casino marketing with cost per response direct marketing.

Close your eyes and walk to your mailbox in your mind.  Open up the mailbox and what is in there? You see a stack of newspaper coupons, some envelopes, some postcards and….  this small box.  Instantly your mind focuses in on that box and everything else is forgotten.  You grab the mail, tuck it up under your arm and in your hands you hold the box.

What is in this box?  It is from a casino, it could be anything really, but surely it has to be something fun right? You take the mail in the house and your spouse walks in and says, “what’s in the box?”  you both open it together with curiosity and excitement and all the rest of the mailbox stack is forgotten for now.

You can get huge responses, increased guests and maximum earnings by sending more expensive and unique offers to your valued guests. But they do cost more per piece and they just need to get off your back about it so don’t forget to show them your math.

We end this entry with a link to killface having problems with his mailing.
Don’t forget to visit our casino direct mail marketing website.