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
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
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
"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
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.
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
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:
- Put somebody in charge. Someone must believe - and be
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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.
- 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
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!
- 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
- 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
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
These are John Romero's 7 Rules for Repositioning and
Reactivation. With my spin. Use these ideas for your next "new"
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
Digest and the article archive on the NMOA website.