Direct mail is the casino marketing lifeblood for events and player loyalty and has been for decades. Personalization of offers was invented by direct mail printers and laid the foundation for all direct marketing channels we use now. The ROI for direct mail also remains strong.
Now, however, direct mail is increasingly under attack as from efficiency-minded marketing personnel and departments. After all, direct mail is slow compared to today’s digital offer delivery methods; it is expensive (and costs such as postage keep going up) and response rates are very low (1-3 percent). In addition, casino operators spends thousands of hours annually working on direct mail campaigns, building files, matrices, offer templates, obtaining approvals, and waiting on the mailhouse.
So what becomes what is the prognosis for direct mail marketing going forward—can it survive or will it die out with the generation of gamblers that currently rely on it?
I found some answers on a recent visit to The Printer Inc. (TPI), a company that has dominated the Las Vegas direct mail landscape for years. I was there to tour their new facility, which is located just minutes from The Strip, and sample the many new technologies they have evolved to make the direct mail process more operationally and economically efficient.
My host for this tour was Mark Neely, director of sales and marketing for TPI. The first piece of technology he showed me was Fast Pass, the company’s new mail automation platform. “Fast Pass is capable of taking data from a property and delivering all mail files for approval and printing in under 30 minutes in one packaged file,” Neely explained. “These mail files include: CASS report, exposure report, NCOA report, no mail report, proofsets, data reconciliation, undeliverable address report, and variable data and art proofs.”
As we walked through the new facility with pallet after pallet of mail stacked and sleeved—sleeving is another innovation that took strong negotiating with the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to implement ensuring mail pieces are not damaged on their way into the mail stream—Neely said, “Another new technology for us is an automated structured query language (SQL) connection to the casino utilizing a series of custom routines to transfer the data we need for direct mail and our mobile app solution. This project saves the casino thousands of hours a year by eliminating the labor required in building and sending files to the print house.”
“Turn times, sending new members and birthday mailers that are sent periodically [monthly] have been increased to every three days, 100 percent faster without an extra dime spent,” Neely added. “This new process has created a dramatic time saving for not only the casino staff, but also the staff at TPI, and turning what was once a weeklong process of work, proofs and approvals to something that can be done in under an hour.”
Other SQL advantages:
- The ability for casino staff to focus on their direct marketing efforts all at once and review approvals while they are still fresh on their mind;
- Automation removes the human element from the data handling, reducing errors; and
- The casino receives all mail files in one package, allowing the operator to think about their campaign holistically versus in pieces.
“TPI is happy to already be using this technology in some affect with over 40 properties, while still expanding and investing heavily in these new tools,” Neely said.
I was also showed on a certification that the USPS lets direct mail printers to participate in called, “Seamless Acceptance.” Seamless Acceptance allows TPI to do mail drops seven days a week, which allows direct mail to hit mailboxes significantly faster than before—two days instead of five days in Las Vegas, for example.
As I toured the facility, I saw how the USPS and TPI are taking advantage of new processes and technology to ensure that casino direct mail is working and competitive with digital channels. As casino marketers, we need such innovation to continue to drive direct mail and the casino marketing operation to become more efficient and effective.