Tracy Petrucci: Marketing On Birthdays

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Marketing On Birthdays

Last week was my birthday and I got tons of different media pertaining to my special day.

As a marketer, I don't just have reactions when I'm marketed to, I have reactions and then I analyze why they happened, and what could be done to alter them if the reactions were negative.

I think it's a great idea to send your customers a message on their birthday. However without proper execution, the efforts will be wasted. For example, one of my favorite yoga studios sent me an email saying,
"Happy Birthday! Enjoy a complimentary class on your birthday."

While it was thoughtful and I felt somewhat warm fuzzy feelings they gave me a free class, it was pretty useless because I received the email that day, when I already had plans. I have a toddler and a busy schedule and it would have been impossible to find a babysitter and squeeze in a yoga class last minute. When something doesn't seem genuine, it can start to create ill will from customers.

This is an example of a good start to marketing, but not necessarily thought out completely. I'd suggest making it easy on the person and say, "Happy Birthday! Enjoy a free session anytime during your birthday week." It seems more authentic as a gift, since the recipient may actually have a chance of redeeming it. And why not let it be ambiguous, who cares if they are a day late? Be real about your wanting to celebrate their birthday.

If you really want to be cool and win hearts, just offer a free session, period. "Happy birthday! Enjoy a free session of yoga, our gift to you. Enjoy any time." Also consider those on your lists who may not benefit from what you're offering. I know a lot of yoga studios offer monthly memberships, so a free class will mean nothing to them. If the lists are segmented correctly, only people like myself who do not go regularly will receive this offer.

I don't like Happy Birthday texts from companies. It's invasive and boring. We all know the feeling on our birthdays when we get a text, a little excitement at who it could be sending extra attention our way. But then I'm just annoyed when I see it's from my dermatologist.

It's up to you if you want to send texts on people's birthdays, but I do offer this advice. If you're going to send a text, you don't need to send an email, and a snail mail card too. My dermatologist's office sends marketing messages to my email inbox and my phone at the exact same time. My computer's dinging, my phone's going off for the email notification, and then for the text. Double Whammy! It's annoying to say the least.

Snail Mail
My dentist went the extra mile and sent a real birthday card, sealed in an envelope and hand written. That was probably my favorite one. Did they email me too? You bet. Now it's just overkill. Everybody knows it's industry standard to get a birthday message from the dentist. Let's get creative here people! Partner with the local smoothie shop next to your practice and ask them  if they want to collaborate, and put a gift certificate for one free smoothie in the card. Hey, it's practically free marketing for them too.

In the case of businesses who just want to remind you they are there, like the dentist, you don't normally find a cool offer as a gift. However a practice with a good marketing strategy might have a list of those who have insurance (and don't need a coupon) and those who pay out of pocket, and would benefit from a nice offer. Mail each list something appropriate.

Nobody seems to be using this one much, but searching the term "my birthday" (with or without zip code depending on your business) brings up tons of potential new customers you can send a Happy Birthday greeting to.

A Few Tips
Definitely use marketing on people's birthdays. You'll probably stand out- unless you're in the medical profession, but we already went over one way to fix that! I prefer emailing, or if your budget and customer data base allows, snail mail can be special.

Be thoughtful in your offer. Think about if it will actually benefit them, or just bombard them. Time it appropriately, depending on if you actually want them to use it on or for their actual birthday.

Start collecting birthdays when you get new customer's information. Send out an email for subscribers to update their profiles if you already have a list going without birthdays.

If you have a lot of people who don't want to receive your newsletters or other updates, saying happy birthday is a nice excuse to just pop in and remind them you're still out there, without being too invasive.  

Be authentic. If you don't actually want them to get anything or use the deal you're offering, just don't do this kind of marketing. The truth is a birthday is a great time to take advantage of your customer relationships. But it should be a real win win for you both, never to exploit the situation.

Too many offers from too many places will render birthday marketing another type of spam. It kind of reminds me of all the candles on this cupcake, just sort of silly.

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