Imagine sending a direct-mail piece inviting a customer to visit a Web page, but not just any Web page, their personalized Web page

One of the greatest, never-ending challenges casino marketers have is to create a “connection” with our customers.

We try to connect with them on an emotional level by making them feel welcome when they walk into our door, telling them that they are very important to us; or we try to give customers the opportunity to fantasize about wealth and luck, or to live another lifestyle, even if for only a weekend.

We use advertisements that try to speak to them, or we book entertainment that we know they would like, and we create promotions that will trigger a desired response, typically an incremental visit to the property. Sometimes we even create “hybrid” promotions that are multifaceted in their delivery by offering the guests cash prizes, free merchandise and a multilayered prize pool where “everyone” wins.

All of these typical behavioral triggers wrapped up into one monster promotion. Basically, we try to cover all the bases. But I would venture to argue that our greatest challenge is to connect with our guests on a personal level. We spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on new technology that collects and analyses our customers spending habits and patterns, then we turn around and (ideally), mail them an offer tailored to their needs and wants. It makes sense too. Why send a buffet offer to a good customer who never eats there, but instead prefers a steak in a fine-dining restaurant? Or how about a hotel offer when they live only five minutes away? I particularly dislike getting table game “match plays” when I am strictly a slots player. Giving the customer what they want and what they have earned is a great way to connect with them.

One of the most powerful and effective tools has been the personalized letter, which was elevated to an art form by gaming marketing expert John Romero. While I would say that the contents of the letter as well as the “call to action” it contains is an important part of the appeal of these letters, the real deal maker and attention grabber of a letter is the fact that we use the customer’s name, seamlessly placed throughout thanks to the miracle of variable laser printing. It makes each letter look as if it is one of a kind.
So what is in a name? A lot, according to experts. A customer seeing or hearing their name during interactions is more likely to respond the way we are hoping them to.

Now, marketers are complementing their direct mail strategies with modern technology and the wonders of the internet by using another powerful tool that takes one step forward into creating that personal connection with our customers that we so covet. It is called personalized uniform resource locators, or PURLs for short. If you have never heard of it, you might be asking; “what is a PURL?” Imagine sending a direct mail piece to a customer of yours inviting them to visit a Web page, but not just any Web page, their personalized Web page that has their name as part of the address. An example would be www.anycasino.com/John.Smith. The options you can create for that customer on that personal Web page could be endless, but the magic is it’s their Web page! Like a one-two punch, the personalized mail piece gets the customer's attention, but the personalized Web-site is the knockout you need to tell the customer the story that they want to hear. And it is rooted in the human psyche.

One industry expert stated that; “from a psychological perspective, PURLs offer the opportunity to capitalize on something valuable to almost everyone: hearing our name. Placing a person's name next to your (casino’s) URL lays the foundation for a trust-based connection. If it's important enough for your (casino) to make the effort to develop a personalized Web link, then it's reasonable to think you will also be the type of trusted hospitality venue that they will want to frequent.” And like a vanity license plate, the address is theirs and no one else’s. Talk about bragging rights! If password protected, the personalized site could have an endless range of information, offers, and features that would be exclusive to that customer. Potentially, depending on how complex the casino would want to make it, information like the players slot club point balance or available comps would be a click away. If you wanted to send a special offer to that guest, such as a comp for hotel and F&B, it could be easily accessed by the guest through the PURL. Even requests for win/loss statements could be done through the customer’s PURL. Most importantly though, it will give your guest a reason to check their PURL, and therefore your property, online. There are however two caveats before starting a campaign that involves PURLS. One is the fact that security precautions have to be taken, and second, just like in direct mail, the devil is in the details. While some PURLS offer password protection, some do not, therefore you have to be careful about if and what kind of your customer’s personal information is being shown. Today, with identity theft at an all time high, coupled with the fact that we live in a litigious society, you do not want to expose your operations to un-necessary liabilities by having a breech of your patron’s sensitive information, and then getting blamed for it. Make sure you have the right security precautions in place and managed by experts in the field of web security. Also, if you are going to start a program with personalized URLs, be sure to get it right by not misspelling your customer’s names, creating something for a patron who might not have computer access, or other errors that might be caused by having a sloppy player database. Just like in direct mail, you can really foul up the personalization and your attempt to make a “connection” by getting your customer’s name wrong.

 PURLS, combined with a well-laid-out direct mail plan and a well-managed database, can be a huge part in any property’s marketing “tool kit.” It may allow you, as a marketer, to stay in touch with your customers on a higher level.  Properly executed, it shows your guests that you will bring value and benefit to their lives because they know you care about them as a person, not just as another “player” “high-roller” or “lead.” It gives them a name, a sense of ownership, and real, tangible evidence of you valuing them as a customer to your property. CJ

Even getting the program started could have significant ROI implications and data collecting enhancements for a marketing department’s database management team.  Once the guest logs into their PURL for the first time, they could be asked to answer a few questions (specific demo information, recent property visit surveys, and any other informational piece a management team would deem relevant to understand), and confirm their contact information. Immediately upon completion, the information could be sent to the casino’s sales and marketing teams to begin follow-up efforts. When correctly implemented, a PURL should give near-immediate response rates, (access and click-through rates, as well as property visits because of the custom tailored offers). You should be able to monitor your program results and get immediate feedback on your campaign, which would then allow you to modify your web program when you are not getting the results that you would expect. Marketers can begin measuring ROI as soon as a prospect visits his or her Web page and starts providing information. If the casino is experiencing a slow part of the month and it feels the need to add an extra incentive to drive traffic, gone are the days of last minute “panic mail.” With a strong PURL program in place, notification of a comp or free slot play offer could be e-mailed to customers. In the e-mail they could be re-directed to their PURL in order to see their specific offer.