How marketers can increase their brand's equity and retention levels with a simple birthday e-mail.
December 1 was my birthday. This year, there was no stress about getting a year older because it is a do-over year for me. You see, all last year (up until October) I thought I was the age I just turned last week. When I realized I had been making myself a year older for almost the entire year, I laughed. So when I actually turned the age I thought I was, I didn't stress. I actually just enjoyed the day.
That meant, in part, that I actually read all the marketing e-mail I got. Yep, for fun. Why? I'm a workaholic, and I love it. If you're a workaholic in the digital space or even a just businessperson in the digital space, you might also enjoy reading marketing e-mails for fun. (Workaholics call it "trend watching" so people don't call us losers.) Or maybe you share some of my other interests: shoes, tech gadgets, travel, and shopping at Staples. Outside of work, I'm almost a normal person. I love cooking, exercising, going on last-second adventures, and hanging out with my two kids. Before I became a workaholic, I used to spend time volunteering with deaf children and at animal shelters.
I share my hobbies with you because in a few paragraphs, I'm also going to share with you the birthday e-mails I got. See for yourself which marketers got it right. The bottom line: everyone should send a happy birthday e-mail. They work!
In my 13-plus years in e-mail marketing, I have recommended birthday e-mail messages as a part of many strategies. Whether you're targeting workaholics, shoppers, or even volunteers, people love to feel special on their birthday. A birthday e-mail is very powerful. On average people open 80 percent of them if the subject line references a special birthday message or wish.
And if your company is sophisticated enough to link average spend and offer to the person you are sending it to, a birthday e-mail can be a powerful revenue generator.
Interestingly enough, the birthday e-mail trend hasn't caught on yet with many companies. That should change. Retailers and service companies are missing a unique opportunity to strengthen their relationship with their customers. A birthday is something 100 percent of your database has.
So, who remembered my birthday?
Modell's did! Modell's sent me a 15 percent off certificate to buy something anytime in the next 11 months and 364 days. It was appropriate, as I shop there fairly frequently for running gear. Good job, Modell's.
Zappos did, kind of. My coworkers sent this shoe lover a gift certificate, but Zappos didn't deliver it to me until the day after my birthday -- and after the awkward looks from my coworkers who were wondering why I didn't thank them for the gift. Bad job, Zappos.
Saks didn't. I have had more "executive meetings" with people in the last 12 months than I've had in my life before. This included going to the Emmys and needing a gown. Saks has seen way too much of my paycheck this year and considers me a super valuable shopper. It's a shame the retailer didn't think I was important enough to wish a happy birthday to.
Staples didn't either. Boo hoo. There's a Staples right outside of my building. An offer for a free notebook would have gotten me in the door to buy much more.
Delta did! Unfortunately, I don't fly Delta anymore. I live in Jersey, so Continental is my airline of choice (although it didn't remember my birthday). Delta's e-mail was almost irrelevant to me, but I opened it anyway and actually searched for my next flight on Delta because the airline remembered my day.
Disney remembered "Giovanna's mom's birthday" and offered me a discount to bring her back to Disney. Very cute (I think she sent that one herself).
Plaxo and Facebook reminded everyone else it was my birthday, but neither took the time to wish me a happy birthday. Odd, don't you think?
In the end, my birthday was awesome. Plaxo and Facebook messaging generated many happy wishes from lots of friends who made me smile. I just wonder why marketers don't take the time to significantly increase their brand equity and retention levels with a simple happy birthday e-mail. It might just be the 2009 effort you need to try.
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Jeanniey Mullen is the vice president of marketing at NOOK by Barnes and Noble, focused on business growth and customer acquisition.
Prior to her role at NOOKTM Jeanniey launched a wearables fashion technology company called Ringblingz. Before getting into the wearables business, Jeanniey was the chief marketing officer (CMO) of Zinio, where she grew the business by more than 427 percent, into one of the largest global digital newsstands. Other notable roles in her career include her involvement as the executive director and senior partner at OgilvyOne, where she led the digital Dialogue business and worked with Fortune 50 brands including IBM, Unilever, and American Express, and being a general manager at Grey Direct. At Grey Direct Jeanniey launched the first email marketing division of a global advertising agency. Prior to her time in advertising, Jeanniey spent seven years in retail leading a variety of groups from Consumer Relations and Operations, to Collections and Digital at JCPenney.
One of Jeanniey's favorite times in her career was when she founded the Email Experience Council (which was acquired by the Direct Marketing Association). Jeanniey is a recognized "Women in Business," a frequent keynote speaker, and has authored three books and launched a number of companies ranging from entertainment to technology and fashion.
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