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Rolling the Dice for Direct Mail
by Ray Jutkins

This article begins in the '60s.

John Romero was the sales promotion manager for the Sahara Hotel, "The Strip", Las Vegas, Nevada. I was doing direct mail and sales promotion projects for the Riviera Hotel - a short walk away.

After a while my business trips to Las Vegas became regular, ...up in the morning - back in the evening. On one of these tours to the "first" gambling city in America, I met John. Some where, some time, at some event long ago forgotten - we met.

Yet, we never worked together. I was totally unsuccessful in selling John anything. Except friendship. We became business friendly, and have stayed that way 3+ decades later. At best we see each other once a year - usually at some Direct Marketing event.

Recently a publishing client asked my help in getting introduced to the gaming industry. Casinos. John was my first thought. Why? 'Cause John Romero is THE premier direct mail copywriter in the gambling industry in America. No one can hold a candle to John's accomplishments.

Much happened to make this a fact. One is John is still in great physical shape. He was a marathon and long distance runner. As a promotion for the Sahara, he began a relay race from Las Vegas to Los Angeles...a 300 mile run. Of course he participated in his own event, and got introduced to southern California. He liked it.

Once he became tired of living in Las Vegas and decided to move to that part of California known as "the southland", he went looking for something to do. That "something" was - and is! - using his casino marketing knowledge and background and selling it to casinos around the globe.

Thus, John Romero Direct Marketing was born.

For the last dozen years plus John has been marketing columnist for International Gaming & Wagering Business Magazine. Something casinos everywhere read.

This writing began a collection of articles. Which turned into a book...Casino Marketing (in the United States you can order his book by calling toll-free 1-800-223-9638. Worldwide, reach John by e-mail at RomeroMkt@aol.com.

John is modest. It is sometimes difficult to get to know him. He doesn't talk about himself. He DOES talk about his clients. Let me share with you a story he shared with me about one of his Reno, Nevada clients:

"One of my clients has a problem and I went to Reno. Such a terrific guy I couldn't let him down. Reno is an ultra-tough market these days. You really have to roll around in the dirt with the competition to make a buck.

"My pal there has been a client for years and, thanks to building his database, he's holding his own. He owns a nice chuck of a second casino that's in real trouble because they went in the opposite direction -- poured a ton of money into general advertising and got nothing back.

"Now he's been asked to step in and run BOTH casinos because they think he's a marketing genius."

There are 2 messages here: The first is John "loves" his clients. He always speaks well of his clients. And second, John really believes in Direct. His dig at general advertising is obvious.

The name of the author of Acres of Diamonds escapes me - the concept does not. In fact, Database Marketing is the same topic. They both talk about using the knowledge you have about your customers and prospects, and gaining more business.

The Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas is a long time John Romero client. They have a Database...thanks to John. Here is a letter from a customer of the Tropicana, sent to the General Manager of the hotel:

"My husband and I have been making trips to Las Vegas, 2-4 times a year, for the past 12 years. We have stayed in many of the major hotels, some several times. None has ever followed up our stay with a "thank-you", an invitation to come back, nor information on upcoming events as the Tropicana has done these past few months."

Well, it doesn't take a marketing genius to see the value in continuing communication with your customers. Hotels, casinos...all of us...will benefit when we "talk" with our customers.

While on hotels, let me insert a question / thought. In much of Europe, Asia and South America, hotels ask their guests, as they check-in, for their birthday. Part of the registration process includes a question about "date of birth".

My international travels began in 1972. I have been in 159 countries on 7 continents. Many countries many times. There are years I spend more nights in hotel beds than my own in Roll, Arizona. I have been asked the birthday question scores of times.

Yet, I have NEVER received
a birthday card or other "wish"
from a single hotel.
Not one.

Sometimes when I'm feeling "mean" (usually late at night, checking in after a loooong flight) I ask reception why they ask the birthday question. The answer is always 1 of 2: It's policy," or "I don't know," which is the same answer!

John works closely with his casino clients so they DO something with the knowledge they gain about their customers.

Inother Romero story comes from a client who started their conversation with "Gotta have new business". The response was "What's wrong with old business?". As John says, "You'd be amazed how many carefully laid plans I've screwed up with that innocent question".

Finding "new business" from "old business" is what this is all about. Most call these "old" inactives. John says; "Name it anything you like but remember this -- it's the best "new business" you can find, and it's right there in your own files, waiting."

This philosophy created Romero's 7 Rules for Repositioning and Reactivation. Since I believe these same rules apply to every business, not just casinos, here they are:

  1. Put somebody in charge. Someone must believe - and be responsible.
    Yes, management must make a commitment. Belief starts at the top. Yet, without a "hands-on do-it day-by-day" person in charge, reposition and reactivate programs tend to die. Put somebody from marketing in charge.
  2. Track for effectiveness. That is, measure results.
    Advertising gets attention. Frequently advertising is only vaguely measurable. Direct Marketing is very measurable. You need to keep careful records on inactive response rates, number of real visits or buys, amount of spend, credit lines reopened.
    And...John recommends...motivate the executive in charge of the program, too. Base on measurable objectives and bottom-line results.
  3. Don't give up without a fight. Don't apologize for anything.
    Every product is not blue ribbon - Olympic gold. And every customer does not need (or want) "the best". Many customers own a Rolex and a Timex. A Toyota and a Bentley. They eat at McDonalds and a 5 star dinner house.
    So, no matter your product or service, it's condition or age or price point - you do bring benefits to the marketplace. "Talk" with your audience. Invite them to return to you. Give them a reason. Make a solid offer that stands the test.
  4. Don't send an advertisement. Make your message personal.
    Direct Mail is the best way to communicate with your customers - current and old. A letter is personal. So, skip the urge to pat yourself on the back with all the good "stuff". Like you might do in print or television.
    Instead, invite your inactives to become active again. Let them know how you are going to take care of them 1:1. With special service, an unlisted toll-free number for them alone, unique events or dates or times or places. If it takes a brochure to do that - fine. Still, your "news" must be personal to gain the most from your inactives.
  5. Give 'em a tour. When the old return, welcome them "home".
    Don't just make an offer and let it hang. When the old customer returns, issue a true and real welcome back.
    A personal greeting. If you're a casino or a retailer, a "tour" could be in order. A hotel might include a room "surprise" gift of flowers or chocolates. A dress shop might double the offer with an expenditure of X amount.
    Afterwards, a "thanks" and follow-up. Thanks for coming...a follow-up to make sure all was well. And, of course, a second offer to continue the habit of YOU!
  6. Put a deadline on your offer. Limited time offers work - use a L.T.O. when talking with your inactives.
    Open invitations give no urgency. This is equally true for new business promotions to anyone! Active customers, inactives, new and old customers.
    So, limit your return offer...your "come-back". The window can be a couple of weeks or a couple of months. Depends on you, your product, your marketplace. Be certain to give the inactive time to accept your offer.
  7. Test before you commit big money. Be in a hurry...a hurry to do it right!
    No business has too much business. Some just have too much business on Tuesday. Or the last week of the month. Or the first quarter of the year. Or during a specific holiday season. Yet, every business needs more business.
    At the same time - any new business effort will not necessarily perform to the max immediately. Or with a single try. Repetition will build your reputation.
    Your inactives are NOT waiting for you. You may have to work them. Take your time and do it right. Then...roll your successful offer to everyone.

These are John Romero's 7 Rules for Repositioning and Reactivation. With my spin. Use these ideas for your next "new" business campaign.
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About Ray Jutkins, October 3rd, 1936 — January 6th, 2005. Ray was one of the NMOA’s most generous contributors. Over the years Ray supplied the NMOA with hundreds of tips and articles for members. This is just one of many. Ray worked with B-2-B and Consumer clients throughout the world ... including USA, Canada, Mexico, Asia, the South Pacific, Europe, the Middle-East, Central & South America, Africa. Keep an eye out for more of Ray’s marketing tips and how-to articles in the pages of Direct Marketing Digest and the article archive on the NMOA website.

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