Don’t wish me happy birthday!

birthday cake blown out candles

No matter what white paper you read, if it’s about email marketing it most likely has a section on message personalization. Email personalization makes complete sense. If you have specific information about your clients, users, etc. you should use that information to provide the most relevant and personal message possible. Advancements in email marketing technology and data collection have made it simple for any business to incorporate email messages and/or campaigns into their marketing mix for fractions of a penny per email.

One thing I am increasingly against are happy birthday messages. Before thinking of a birthday as just another way to increase the frequency of communication with your clients/prospects, ask yourself what you are trying to accomplish? Sounds simple, but you can never ask it enough.

Do your clients/prospects really want to hear from you on their birthday? If your answer is “yes,” the email better be from an actual person and not some canned automated message. If you’re not going to send a personal message, then send a present, like a coupon or deal on your products. Better yet, free stuff will make you star in their book. Otherwise, don’t do it! It might as well be spam.

Here are some examples of the good, the bad, and the ugly that were sent to me on my birthday. We’ll start with the ugly…

1. My Dentist:

Before ripping on this one, I have to say I have been impressed with my dentist’s use of text messages to remind me about upcoming appointments. However, this message serves as a reminder of how the lack of attention to detail and thought can really make your business look unprofessional.

First, the picture…that’s not even my dentist! No photo would have been better than stock photography. Also, I was just at my dentist a few weeks prior to have a cavity filled. The last thing I want is to be reminded of is the 4 inch Novocain needle and the feeling of a drill to my teeth on my on my birthday. Lastly, what’s in it for me? How about a free tube of tooth paste or savings on tooth whitening to make look good with age?

Overall, this is a prime example of what not to do. Email marketing allows businesses of all types and sizes to launch effective marketing communications. Local businesses especially should embrace these forms of communication and use them to connect with their clients on a personal level. If you can’t do it right, don’t do it!

2. A bank….that shall remain nameless:

I’ve been a happy customer at my bank for years and think they’re a great bank. A birthday e-mail came in with an offer for a discount at their store. This sounded great…until I realized that the only thing you can buy in their store is bank branded gear. As much as I’m dying to feign excitement over a duffle bag with Bank X logo on it, I think I’ll pass. Seems like a weird way to communicate your brand message.

“Happy birthday! Take some money that would otherwise be in your savings account to help us promote our brand.”[/sarcasm]

3. Men’s Warehouse

Finally, an acceptable birthday message that doesn’t want to make me hit “unsubscribe.” Sure, they could have could have made the message more casual by not using my last name. But, they got it right a gave me a gift. I am not a suite guy, but when I do a dress shirt or something more than jeans and plaid shirts, you can bet I am going to Men’s Warehouse.

In the end I think it comes down to 3 guidelines to follow when wishing your clients, customers, or prospects happy birthday.

  1. Make it as personal as possible. If you can personally send a birthday message to your contacts, then do. Building a personal relationship with your contacts will go a long way.
  2. Give a gift! If your list is too large or you have too many contacts to personally send messages to (I think most of us are in this boat), then send a message with purpose. Give your clients a discounted offering on your products or even send them a digital gift card to another store.
  3. If you can’t send something nice, don’t send it all! Think before you send and ask yourself what is going to be accomplished by sending this message.
About Drew Fortin:
Drew is responsible for strategy and execution of marketing initiatives for, including affiliate, blog, email, lead generation, paid search, and social media. Before Compete, Drew worked for office supply giant, Staples, Inc. where he had the opportunity to manage multiple online marketing channels for, including affiliate, SEO/SEM, and comparison shopping engines. Follow Drew on Twitter or link him on LinkedIn.