Happy Birthday: Turn a Special Day into Revenue

  |  April 22, 2004   |  Comments

A one-two birthday punch increases customer loyalty and sales.

One benefit of email is its ability to cost-effectively deliver targeted information to customers and prospects. Are you taking full advantage? Based on an experience I had last week, many companies aren’t.

That’s when I celebrated my birthday. I was surprised how few companies I receive email from acknowledged it. Those who did were lacking. So following, some ideas taken from client strategies I’ve developed to make a customer’s birthday a branding and revenue-generating experience.

If You’ve Got It, Use It!

Do you request a birth date at sign-up? It’s fairly common in the B2C arena (less so in B2B). Of course, sites that may appeal to children must ask to comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

I enter my birthday on at least half the online registration forms I encounter -- which is a lot. Only a handful of companies used that information for its most obvious purpose: to wish me a happy birthday. If you collect information from customers, use it. Let them know you’re using it. If you don’t plan to use it, don’t ask for it.

Don’t Have It? Ask

I’m not a fan of overzealous email registration. Don’t request more information than you need to send email. But of my favorite retail Web sites, where I spend thousands of dollars each year, few have my birth date in my profile. Providing my birthday to these sites would be a no-brainer for me. But they’re not asking.

You may not want for ask for a customer’s birthday at the initial registration. At the very least, it’s a great piece of add-on information to get from your best customers; those who visit your site repeatedly and buy from you online. Make it voluntary. Tell customers what’s in it for them (more about that below). Your best customers should have no problem giving you that information.

What’s in a Birthday?

Quick answer: lots. Knowing a customer’s birthday is especially important if your product or service can be considered gift material. Most companies in this space go all out when marketing for gift-giving holidays. A birthday is a personal gift-giving/-receiving holiday. E-mail is the perfect channel for targeted messages and to take advantage of the opportunity.

Before the Big Day

Does your site allow visitors to create a wish list? If so, that’s an asset you can further leverage if you know birth dates. Send an email a few weeks before the customer’s birthday. Remind her to update her wish list with what she wants for her birthday and to send it (via email) to people who are shopping for her.

This simple idea should drive sales for your Web site (my Dad’s gift was purchased online from a wish list). It may also encourage shoppers to start wish lists of their own (viral marketing at its finest).

Happy Birthday to You

Part two of your one-two birthday punch: On or around the big day, send a second email acknowledging the occasion. E-mail messages I received did this, but most stopped there. "Happy Birthday from everyone here at [company name”" (which was the entire text of one message I received) is a nice sentiment, but does it really address the business’ bottom-line goals?

Identify Goals, Motivate Action

How could this email have better helped meeting business goals? What should the message say or offer to entice readers to take a desired action?

In addition to receiving gifts from friends and family, many people receive birthday money. Increasingly, people buy birthday gifts for themselves. So if your company offers gift-appropriate items, or products related to the birthday person’s hobby or interests, it’s an opportunity either way.

Plant the seed, then give readers an incentive to spend some of that money with you. It could be a discount code, a coupon, a free gift -- anything that encourages them to visit your Web site or brick-and-mortar location as a way to treat themselves and generate revenue for you at the same time.

Don’t Skimp on Copy or Design

All you need is one creative execution each year for the wish list reminder and birthday greeting. They should contain some consistent elements, as they work together. They needn’t be elaborate, but they do need to be engaging, like any other marketing email. Is your goal branding (not sales)? A visual, even just your company’s logo, makes your case better than any text.

Rocket Science?

None of these ideas are rocket science, but very few companies do it. Birthdays can easily leverage email’s power and increases return on investment (ROI) from one of your most valuable assets: your house list. Give it a try and let me know how you do!

Until next time,


Want more email marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Reference is an archive of all our email columns, organized by topic.

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Jeanne Jennings

Jeanne Jennings is a 20 year veteran of the online/email marketing industry, having started her career with CompuServe in the late 1980s. As Vice President of Global Strategic Services for Alchemy Worx, Jennings helps organizations become more effective and more profitable online. Previously Jennings ran her own email marketing consultancy with a focus on strategy; clients included AARP, Hasbro, Scholastic, Verizon and Weight Watchers International. Want to learn more? Check out her blog.

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