The Lost Art (and Marketing Tool) of a Personal Invitation

Personal Invitation

Why relying on one-way channels of communication is hurting your response rate

Carter Buck

I’ll get right to the point – when used exclusively, direct mail and email are not the most effective ways to get your players back into your casino. Don’t get me wrong, they have their purpose and can support a killer marketing message, especially for certain segments of your database, but we place far too much stock in their effectiveness to drive behavior. It’s true. You may have already noticed this yourself as you feverishly assemble endless email or direct mail campaigns, only to find that your efforts are generating a modest 1% to 3% response rate.

As one-way channels of communication, they fail to engage your customers in a way that motivates them to take action. And in fact, casino marketing has always been about “engagement”; otherwise the role of a casino host would have been retired decades ago.

So, how do you engage your players and effectively draw them back onto your property? The simple answer is this: phone calls. You might be saying, “Carter, what color is the sky in your world? If we could call and actually talk with all of our customers, direct mail would’ve never been invented.”

Let me share with you the story of how we found phone calls to be the most effective tactic that a casino can use to drive behavior – and using a method that may have disappeared off your radar.

The Usual Wasn’t Working

Casinos weren’t our thing. We were a marketing company that had deep roots in insurance, health care, distribution, and hospitality; but we had never considered working in the gaming industry. However, we received a call from a casino client whose usual tactics were not driving the type of result they wanted. They were spending plenty on direct mail, email, and local advertising to attract new revenue, but they felt that their efforts had reached a point of diminished returns. According to our client, it didn’t matter how much money they poured into their campaigns, it just wasn’t generating new revenue.

We have a state-of-the-art contact center with hundreds of callers; so we naturally saw an opportunity to create a one-to-one marketing experience for our client’s gaming customers. They asked us to make personal phone calls to 5,000 of their Rewards Club members (who had played in the last 180 days, but not in the last 60 days) – with the purpose of simply inviting them to come back into the casino to play.

The Personal Invitation

As part of the campaign, our callers asked for each member by name, expressed appreciation to them for being a part of the Rewards Club, informed them of a special offer that was available to them for a limited period of time (free play), and invited them into the casino the following weekend to redeem their offer. If we didn’t reach someone in person, we’d leave a friendly message and a phone number for them to call. When they called back, they were calling the same area code as the casino and speaking with someone who was trained to be part of the “casino team.”

Our client was overwhelmed when 670 customers responded to the promotion within the following 30-day period. That is a 13.4% response rate! In addition, our client found that the respondents spent 17% more than their previous ADP. So not only did they come back into their casino, but they actually spent more than they otherwise would with static offers.

Needless to say, a good portion of their monthly marketing budget is now allocated to similar campaigns – and we made our entry into the gaming industry. Having now worked with a number of large casinos, this tactic continues to succeed time and time again.

Find a Good Partner

Selfishly, we’d like to say that these results occur because we have created some sort of secret sauce. But that wouldn’t be telling the truth. The truth is that this is a powerful and simple tactic that anyone can do. In fact, your host team is perfectly suited to make these types of calls if they have the time and availability to do so. However, many casinos find that their internal teams are simply stretched too thin to effectively reach all their customers by phone. If that is the case, then finding a good calling partner to conduct this effort is critical. Here are a few things to look for when considering a vendor:

  • Auto-dialing Technology – A good calling partner DOES NOT use auto-dialing technology. While it may make your campaign cheaper, nothing scares off a customer faster over the phone than hearing the space of “dead air” before you start talking. That “dead air” is a telltale sign of telemarketing – and you are NOT telemarketing.
  • Caller ID Matching – Being able to match your casino name and number will increase your pick-up rate by as much as 30%. If the vendor cannot make your name and phone number appear in the caller ID window while they are making your calls, then you could be wasting your money.
  • Reporting – Most calling platforms that are worth their salt should have a robust ability to provide you with good reporting. At a minimum, your reports should include a list of clients, who are sorted by their final calling dispositions, as well as give you full access to all the voice recordings to ensure that you can audit through on your own (if you’d like).
  • U.S.-Based Callers – We probably don’t need much explanation on this one. If your casino is located in the U.S., your callers should be as well. No exceptions.
  • Good Voice Quality – This may also seem like a no-brainer, but you should expect the callers representing your company to be bright, warm, and articulate. (Our facility is located in the shadow of two major universities just so we can have access to students who are amazing at this). While this may be a tough one to gauge up front, you should ask a prospective partner for sample voice files, or consider visiting their site prior to your engagement.

You know what your redemption rates are for your other marketing vehicles. We average 13% for our clients (keeping in mind that our business model covers all the bases above). So, there it is – a very simple approach for getting your players to come back to your property and spend more at your casino. You may feel like we are taking something old and trying to make it new again, however, using phone calls as a means of engaging your players will drive better results than any other marketing tactic that only employs one-way channels of communication.

Daniel Wood