Wish Your Customers "Happy Birthday"

My birthday was on the 1st day of this month, and, like any other event, I cannot help but notice the marketing activity that surrounded it. Marketers capture a great deal of personal data about their customers, but it seems the occasion of one's birthday is an event that is often a missed marketing opportunity. If a business really wants to have a "relationship" with customers, why not treat customers as we would people we know and offer birthday greetings and maybe even a present?

I received birthday greetings via e-mail from a few brands with which I have a permission-based marketing relationship. A $5 discount from a deli, a free beverage from Starbucks, and birthday greetings (but no freebies) from Coca-Cola. Two "old fashioned" communications stand out, though. One was a birthday card from the realtor who helped us buy a house in 2000. He sends a birthday card with a $2 bill enclosed each year on my birthday, my wife's birthday, and the birthdays of our three children. To date, the realtor's investment in our family is approaching $100, but the goodwill and positive-word-of-mouth that gesture creates is more powerful than any ad he could place in a newspaper. Also, I received a mailing from a pizza restaurant, Bellacino's, containing three coupons for my birthday. Two of the three coupons were buy one, get one offers (creating revenue), while the third coupon was for a free sandwich.

What's the big deal, you might ask, given that promotions like these are seen frequently. In the case of the coupons mailed by Bellacino's, the result is pulling me into the store three times this month (the coupons are good for September only), which is probably three more times than I would have gone had I not received the coupons. More importantly, Bellacino's will be a brand I will consider in the future when considering dining out options, giving it much stronger consideration than in the past. While the delivery method could be made more efficient by using e-mail over direct mail, the intended effect was achieved.

Birthdays represent an opportunity to bond with customers. If you are not capturing birthday dates from customers, take the time to ask, especially if you are collecting other customer data already. Then, seize the opportunity of a customer's special day by delivering a birthday greeting message and an incentive to do business with you. The result might be a happy birthday enjoyed by all!

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