3 Ways to Use Birthday Marketing to Grow Your Small Business

By Sarah Petty

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Image a favorite from Flickr by Will Clayton.

This month I had a birthday. I love checking the mail for birthday wishes. Not only do I receive
cards from friends and family, but also some of my favorite businesses send birthday marketing messages. For small businesses there is an opportunity to
reach out to your clients during their birthday month and make a huge impression.
Yet, not every business has gotten right. 

Here are 3 types of birthday marketing and how you can use each to grow customer loyality in your small business:

1)
Discount and forget it

This is the most popular type of wish I received. It’s typically a postcard with an offer for a
percentage off during the month. While the postcard contains the
retailer’s logo, there’s no presentation, very little design, interaction and
no lasting brand impression made. Rather, the purpose of this piece is to get
me in the door so I will make a purchase. The retailer has made a limited
investment on this piece and their marketing has made no impression on me. For
retailers who focus on a high volume of clients, this may be a good strategy, although I’d invest in a card rather than a postcard and only send to my top clients. However,
for boutique business owners, the postcard / discount offer does nothing to leave an impression or build your brand and may
even devalue your brand by associating you with a discount.

2) Wish and a smile

Not only do I get this type of card
from family and friends, but also from a few businesses, too! My favorite is
from Southwest Airlines. A strongly branded card in an envelope arrives, and it’s
signed (digitally) by their reward program employees. They don’t sell me a
thing or offer me a discount – just simply say hey, we know it’s your special day and we wanted to say we hope it’s great!

While I know they send thousands of these
birthday cards a month, they are the only airline that sends me a card. I can’t
help but have a stronger affinity for an airline that sends a birthday card
more so than the other airlines I frequently fly where I feel like a number. Having
their employees sign the card helps put a face on a very large business and
reinforces that there are real people who work for this company.

The strategy
Southwest Airlines uses is a great one for small business owners following the
boutique business model. Custom-design a birthday card that is branded for your
business and have the cards printed at WHCC. Take it a step further by hand-signing each card with a personal message to
your client. Don’t make the message about a sale or try to get them to make a
purchase. This card should just be a simple remembrance of their special day.

3) I may forget how old I am, but I won’t forget that message

I often mention Anthropologie as a
brand whose marketing is spot on and they did it again. An envelope arrived
with a small, hand-sewn cloth envelope (with a tiny button) inside. Inside the
cloth envelope was a flat cardstock note. The note offered 15% off my purchase
throughout April (similar to #1).

However, the note was branded with Anthropologie’s
typical charm, saying “This little gift
is for you and only you, and cannot be turned into chocolate, flowers or cash.
It’s a one time treat, gladly accepted in our retail stores (not online) so
bring this note, along with your anthro card, and enjoy!”

While we don’t advocate building a boutique
business by discounting, should you find that it’s a strategy you need to
pursue, learn from Anthropologie and make an impression with that discount. A
friend of mine who isn’t a marketer received her birthday wish over the weekend
and posted on Facebook how much she loved it. Within 10 minutes 3 others had
also chimed in. Talk about a lasting impression!

Sadly, none of the small businesses I
shop with sent me birthday wishes. I think they missed the boat here.  Whether they included a discount or just
a simple wish, they missed an opportunity to market to me at an appropriate
time when I was in a celebratory mood. You can check Facebook for your clients’ birthdays or even just ask what month they were born the next time they visit your business. It doesn’t have to be overly personal (aka how old are you).

Even if you can’t send birthday wishes
to all of your clients, look into doing something special for just the top few.
And if you already are, please share with us here what you’re doing to market
to your clients on their birthdays!