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.

Database Marketing – Quick Tips for Database Bliss

Database Marketing starts with a database.  Database tips for our friends in direct mailing marketing.

Here at CSG Direct, we’ve seen every type of “database” you can think of, from mailing labels copied into PDF files to multiple relational SQL monstrosities. We’re always dealing with new challenges and finding new solutions for making your database the powerhouse it can be.

So here are a couple of tips from our data team

Even though Excel is a spreadsheet program, it is one of the most widely used mediums for database storage. I can hear you now, saying, isn’t that the same thing as a database? Well not necessarily… “A spreadsheet is a computer application that simulates a paper accounting worksheet” Excel is designed to quickly handle financial calculations, numbers and formulas. Therefore when using it as a database, there are a few precautions one should take.

1) Sorting: “So let’s see if I’m in the database” you say and quickly highlight the last name column and hit the A-Z button at the top, you see your last name, figure “ok! Good enough” and hit save. This is one of the most common and most destructive mistakes that can be made in Excel. What just occurred is that all your other fields stayed exactly as they were, while the last name field was placed in alphabetical order by itself. Now everyone in the database has the wrong last name.

2) Numbers: Remember that Excel is a spreadsheet! It loves to perform calculations and “properly” format numbers for you. Quick things to keep an eye out for, would be: Account numbers being formatted oddly, east coast zip codes missing their leading zero, cash amount fields having differing decimal places, even phone number fields having math done on them (something like 775-852-9777 turning into -9854)

3) Line breaks: In the final stretch of putting the finishing touches on your Excel database, then you realize this record has a secondary address, so you just place a carriage return and put the secondary address in the same cell below the first. In an Excel Cell its easy to add a line break, the problem is that when exporting a database out of Excel most database programs won’t recognize odd characters within a field and either jumble the record or completely leave it out. When in doubt it’s always better to just add another column.

4) Coding: There have been many great looking spreadsheets out there with colors that dazzle, but remember that when you use cell colors to delineate between multiple tiers of a database, they won’t translate over into real databases. It’s always best to use a separate field and populate it with whatever alpha-numeric signifier you might need! That way when the database is moved out of Excel it’ll still be there!

Until next time… Keep the data flowing to CSG Direct Mail

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!

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.

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 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.