Saturday was my birthday. Thank you, you’re very kind.
Both businesses sent me birthday wishes in the small hours before I’d even woken up to start on my 37th year.
How very kind of them, yes?
These two messages led me along a train of thought about the act of gift giving. For me, the best birthday presents and wishes are those that have significance to me personally. I appreciate the kindness and thoughtfulness of the giver. It’s even better if they get you something you really like or always wanted.
But can a company do this? Can you automate a personal message? Note I said personal, not personalised – inserting the user’s name into the email is not personal.
Scale is a challenge for most businesses; you cannot know all your customers, so you cannot craft a thoughtful, personal message for each one.
So the tendency is to create a standardised message that goes out in an email on the user’s birthday, based on the data they left when using a site.
The problem with that can be seen with the messages from NFL UK Forum and UK Business Forum below. An impersonal, bland message, made worse by the fact this is obviously an out-of-the box feature of the forum software provider. Different ‘sender’, same text, sent at the exact same time – 00:01 on the date of my birthday. The sincerity was distinctly absent.
It must be possible to do better.
Paying for your own present
Let’s think about the real world giving of birthday wishes. Often it involves a card and sometimes a gift. It is done – in most cases – without expecting anything in return.
If you buy a present for someone, you don’t ask them to pay for part of it either, so why do some businesses say ‘Happy Birthday! Here’s 10% off your next purchase’?
Here is something novel. Why don’t you give them something for free? Something useful, with no strings attached.
The effect of this generosity will stand out and raise their perception of your brand instantly. You’ll have taken a step towards attaining brand loyalty and advocacy from the recipient.
Obviously, you can’t do this for every customer, but do you need to? If you segment your data, you’ll already know who your best and most valuable customers are – why not reward them for their continued business?
Don’t stop there; identify those with potential to join your best customer list, those on the cusp. Your gift won’t necessarily be the clincher of long term use but it will certainly make an impression.
If you’re concerned about the cost of gifts, think of creative ways to provide value. If a user pays for monthly access to your service, perhaps you could give them a bonus week (or month if you’re feeling generous). If they’re receiving a volume of service (such as file storage capacity on a photo site for example), then give them additional storage.
Whatever the gift, keep it relevant to the needs of the user. A branded keyring or calculator is of no use to anyone (unless you lose your keys regularly or struggle with your maths).
This advice is applies equally to the B2B and B2C markets. However, applying this approach to the consumer market is the really exciting application of gift giving. In B2B, gifts are given to decision makers in potential customer business every day, but think of the impact this could have if you applied the same approach to consumers. It would be very powerful and a way to make your business stand out from the crowd.
Do you know of any business that already take this approach with giving gifts to consumers? Does it work? Please feel free to share your opinions or stories below.