I recently had a birthday.
My birthday to me has never been a big deal, half of the time it falls on Mother’s Day and the older I get the more people that I know personally that share my birthday. I enjoy throwing everyone else parties and usually only succumb to having a party for my own birthday if I get bugged enough about it. Despite having grown up having the typical big birthday parties as a child, the part I dreaded was the attention as I’ve never been a big fan of having the spotlight on myself. I always enjoy the social aspect of parties and catching up with everyone and am appreciative when my friends make time to get together for my birthday– but I hate the “Happy Birthday” song and blow out the candles part.
Anyhow, as is typical with birthdays I was flooded with birthday cards, phone calls, text messages, balloons, flowers, and of course Facebook wall posts from friends, family, and colleagues/co-workers. I also received the standard birthday cards from my accountant. hair stylists, and a couple of different boutiques I frequent.
The one thing I wasn’t expecting, however, was personal attention from bigger corporations. I was somewhat startled to find voicemails from managers at places like The Body Shop, Sephora, a clothing store, a bookstore, and from Guest Relations at a mall in another city that I never even frequent (nor did I know I was on their mailing list) to let me know that I either had a free gift, store credit, or a gift card waiting for me. I also received e-mail reminders from some of them as well. The e-mail birthday greetings from corporations are more typical and I received many of those as well offering discounts on purchases or free shipping.
This seems to be a sign of the times as it’s no secret that most businesses (big or small) have been affected by our economic situation and are really stepping up their game on the customer service/relations side to ensure that their clientele sees them in a positive light. I know I was pleasantly surprised when I heard the messages, who wouldn’t want a free gift card to a place they frequent? Even if it is just a $10 token of their appreciation of your past, present, and future business.
What is $10 to a business most of the time anyhow? Chances are most people will not even retrieve it (like myself and that mall gift card) –this would be a case of it’s the thought that counts — and if they do they will probably spend a lot more than $10 in your store. Even if they only spend the $10, you are still getting them into your store or online site where they may discover a product you specialize in that they love or have such a positive shopping experience that they’ll be back soon.
Never in my lifetime, nor in most of yours, has it seemed like we’re living in such a consumer’s world. Businesses are depending on those who purchase to help bring them back to a healthy state. I receive marketing magazines and articles all the time that constantly applaud and champion direct mail marketing due to its ability to get one-on-one time with potential consumers. I’m not so sure direct mail, is the best method to reach clientele for most companies/businesses this day in age, especially at a time when it goes against every effort we’re making to reduce our carbon footprints. I know I throw away (into the recycling bin of course) pretty much everything that isn’t mail or print material I requested away without even giving it a second glance (most of the time, I don’t even give it a first glance.) I’d hate to think about how much of that stuff I toss on an annual basis.
However, this added incentive of giving consumers a gift of sorts once a year seems like an idea that can help in creating a positive correlation between consumer and businesses. It’s not a new concept, Disneyland did the “get in free on your birthday” promotion for a while, and many car wash establishments offer the “free car wash on your birthday” (I’ve still never made it to a car wash on my birthday!), but those were just offers that were always there it seemed. You either knew about them or you didn’t. However, the personal phone call or even e-mail letting the consumer know of the free gift/service for their birthday to me is something that I hadn’t experienced until this year. It’ll be interesting to see if these are still implemented when my birthday time comes around next year.
On a final note, because my mind is analytical, I wondered how other areas particularly entertainment (as that is the world I am most involved in) could also apply this. Just a thought but perhaps music artists/bands could send a free mp3 download of a song or a couple of songs (or even an older album) to those people on their mailing list on their birthday. Possible? Yes. Probable? No, most artists would not want to have to keep up with that type of thing. However, in this new music industry, I think it couldn’t hurt and doing stuff outside the box is what will set you apart. This may not be a great suggestion for an artist with a large number of fans/large mailing list, but for a newer independent artist this might not take much effort.