The company was founded in 1985, and at its peak in 2004 had more than 60,000 employees, 9,000 locations, and multi-billion-dollar annual revenues. Just nine years later, the company threw in the towel, defeated by competition from Netflix and consumers who chose digital delivery of movies.

The closing of Blockbuster is the end of an entertainment era, albeit a relatively brief one, and should be a wakeup call for a lot of businesses. Yours may be one of them. Digital communication is not the wave of the future; it’s the very real present.

Print advertising has traditionally been a big part of every casino’s advertising budget. Yet print ad revenue is now just 45 percent of what it was five years ago. The Pew Research Center’s 2013 State of the News Media report shows a continuing decline in print advertising nationwide, with a corresponding growth in online advertising. In 2012, the ratio of print ad dollars lost to digital ad dollars gained was 15 to 1; in 2011 the ratio was just 10 to 1.

The decrease in print ad dollars is the result of declining circulation and readership, despite efforts to generate interest with digital subscriptions to online consumers.

Many casinos are struggling with changes from traditional media buys to digital methods of delivering their promotional messages. We’re in a state of flux when it comes to communicating with our customers. How much time, effort and money should you invest in texting, e-mail, social media, websites, online advertising and search engines, and how do you evaluate your programs? These tips may be helpful:

  • First, you have to determine how your customers prefer to receive information from you. The best way to do this is to ask them. Make sure you have a field in the player’s account that includes preferred methods of contact. Have an ongoing process of updating this when customers come to your players’ club. If your casino uses exit surveys, include questions about the customer’s preferred means of hearing from you. Just collecting the information isn’t enough, though; you have to know how to interpret the information, translate that into an action plan, and be ready to turn on a dime in today’s market.
  • If you don’t have in-house expertise, you can educate yourself. One good resource is the Direct Marketing News. Sign up for free at www.dmnews.com and get all kinds of good reports delivered free to your e-mail, such as the 2013 Email Benchmark Study. It doesn’t have gaming statistics, but it has performance metrics that you can modify for your property.
  • Another good resource that’s also free is from the American Marketing Association. Sign up at www.marketingpower.com and get access to best practices, white papers, marketing research reports, terminology and performance metrics, and a wealth of other information that you need to succeed. Some areas of the site are limited to paid memberships. Get to know the site and decide if a few hundred dollars for an annual membership will be useful to you.
  • Stay on top of what’s happening in digital. Google recently restructured its Gmail service so that any incoming e-mails are automatically divided into Primary, Social and Promotions. What effect, if any, did this have on the open rate for e-mail blasts from your casino? If you experienced a decline, what is your recovery plan? Someone in your marketing department needs to be tuned into what’s happening in digital and how this is affecting the success of your communications plan.
  • Redefine customer segmentation. You need to develop a matrix and fill it in with the channels you will use to reach customers based on gaming, as well as hotel, restaurant, and any other profit centers at your casino.

Multichannel marketing used to include a relatively simple mix of print/radio/TV/billboard/direct mail, but it has become a maze of options between digital and traditional methods that we use to communicate effectively with our customers. The challenge that casino marketers are facing in customer communications is that what worked last year probably isn’t a good plan moving forward. If you doubt this, just remember Blockbuster.