6 tips to starting and maintaining a birthday email program

birthday emailBirthdays. We all have one. We may not always want to think about how many we’ve celebrated, but remembering those of your loyal email subscribers can be a welcome experience for everyone – if done properly.

Why have a birthday email program? A well-designed program has the potential to generate significant ROI for minimal effort. Once it’s up and running, you’ll have created a fun way to extend the celebration for your subscribers.

Here are tips to starting and maintaining a birthday program:

  1. Set goals for the program: Before beginning, decide what it is you want your subscribers to take away from your messages. To design the message, you should know if it’s going to be a feel-good type of message, such as saying “happy birthday” with no offer or if you’re going to extend a special discount. This is also helpful for budgeting and revenue planning.
  2. Make it possible to collect the necessary information: If you aren’t asking your email list members for their birthday, step one would be to add this field to your sign-up form to begin collecting it. If you wanted to collect birthdays retroactively, there’s no harm in asking current subscribers to add this information to their profile. Send a note telling your subscribers about a special offer they’ll receive by sharing their birthday. This is a good way to incent folks to help you update your records. For those customers who do update their birthday, engage them even further by sending them to a special landing page where they can start building their birthday wish list, either through your site’s own functionality or through Pinterest.
  3. Make the offer timely: Send it far enough in advance for the recipient to be able to take advantage of the offer. You want to “surprise and delight” your subscribers by sending them an unexpected treat. Rather than batch all birthday emails for a given month at the beginning, send on a rolling basis triggered by the recipient’s birthday, i.e. send 14 days in advance of the birthday vs. all messages on day 1 of the birthday month. In the what not to do category, here’s what I received from Caribou:


It’s only valid on my birthday. I’d be more delighted by this offer if it were valid for my entire birthday month.

  1. Make the offer relevant. Celebrating a birthday should be fun and give recipients a unique way to engage with your brand. Even those not in a position to make a sales offer (such as professional services businesses) can still send a birthday wish. Saying “Happy birthday from your friends at Company X” is a great way to garner some goodwill from your recipients. Here’s a simple, personalized note from ESPN:


But if you can make your birthday email program a revenue-generating proposition, do so in a way that is consistent with other promotions. Here’s a good example from GAP:


  1. Make it a multi-touch series. It could be as simple as a single email on their actual birthday, or you could try a three-touch series:
    1. An email on their birthday
    2. Reminder email a few days later
    3. Final reminder when the offer is about to expire
  2. Keep the fun going after the recipient has made a purchase. Thank them for redeeming their offer and encourage sharing their new purchase with their social networks.

What are the best birthday emails you’ve seen? What was the icing on the cake that took you from casual shopper to devoted fan? Share your favorite birthday wishes in the comments below.

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