On your birthday you may receive a number of congratulatory cards and emails from family, friends, and … the lizard from Geico.

Some companies view birthdays as marketing opportunities. Done right, these can prove to be a great customer experience. But, as I discovered on my recent birthday, execution is everything.

Good Experiences

I’ll never complain when a business sends me something for free or a discount to use in your birthday month.

Most customers like the opportunity to get special deals to their favorite companies/brands in their birthday month. Here are a few examples from my recent birthday:

  • ZPizza sent me a coupon for a free small pizza. Awesome.
  • Aveda (eco and animal friendly hair/skin company) sent me a coupon for a free product. Super.
  • Starbucks sent me a coupon for a free drink. Salut!

It seems as if email is the most commonly used method due to postage cost savings. Your business may have a natural way to collect a customer’s birth date, whether it’s an in-store postcard or a website form.

But if you don’t have a natural way to collect this information, you’ll need to devise a way to do so that doesn’t seem out of place to your customers. One option is to explain that you are asking for a customer’s birth date in order to send special offers.

Bad Experiences

When a business uses a birthday to aggressively market to customers, it doesn’t feel like a gift and can backfire.

  • ING Direct (the online bank) sent me a coupon for 15% off purchasing any of their logo emblazoned T-shirts or mugs, etc. That’s the best they can do for a loyal customer? What sort of customer feels rewarded with a measly 15% off something that promotes their service? A simple birthday message would have preferable to this (which is what I expected when I saw the email from them).

Unusual Experiences

Geico sent me a birthday card. I’ve never even been a Geico customer! That sort of tactic can feel like an invasion of privacy since customers aren’t sure how they found out your birth date. While, younger generations don’t get creeped out as easily, you don’t want to freak out customers – that is typically a negative experience.

It’s interesting that Geico presented their birthday greeting by noting that older drivers get better rates – hence the invitation to celebrate my birthday by purchasing lower cost insurance. I wouldn’t have thought about that as a message or a touchpoint for non-customers. Does anyone know if this tactic is working for Geico? At least the lizard on the front of the card is cute.

A Final Thought

Before you add birthday email messages to your communications plan, think about the frequency of contact you already have with your customers, the right kind of tone and “gift” you could provide to craft a good experience. Don’t make customers feel as if you are just exploiting their birthday to profit from them.

Got questions? Comments? Share them here.