Silverpop - Your Blueprint for Building a Birthday Email Program
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Your Blueprint for Building a Birthday Email Program

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by: Loren McDonald (@LorenMcDonald)
12 January 2012

We at Silverpop are big on birthday emails, and not just because we enjoy receiving them on our special days.

A well-designed birthday email program has the potential to generate high ROI on a relatively low level of effort. Birthday emails also give you another opportunity to reach out to your customers with a highly relevant message.

Despite these benefits, Silverpop found in a recent study that seven in 10 email marketers don't send birthday emails. On top of that, three out of the four email marketers who don't send birthday emails say they don't intend to start.

We put these findings and much more in a report, "Birthday Blueprint: How to Build a Top-Tier Birthday Email Program," which looks at the state of birthday email marketing and addresses the reasons why some marketers don't do birthday emails.

Blueprint for Building Your Birthday Email Program
The report also includes our seven-step Birthday Blueprint and loads of examples and illustrations. Here's a condensed version. I invite you to check it out and then download the complete report.

Step 1: Set your birthday program goals.
Your birthday email program can serve one or both of these basic goals:

  • Build branding and customer engagement: You send an attractively designed message that doesn't include a purchase incentive with the "Happy Birthday" greeting. This approach dings your marketing budget the least, and you might even realize some incremental revenue.
  • Drive online or offline visits and revenue: Using a purchase incentive such as a discount, upgraded service or no-strings freebie generates measurable results but can also affect your margins or marketing budget.

Step 2: Determine a delivery schedule.
Generally speaking, the more effort a recipient has to expend to benefit from your message, the farther in advance you should send it.

If you don't use incentives, you can send the message on or near the recipient's birthday. At the other extreme, a travel company sends its birthday emails six weeks early to give recipients time to plan a trip.

Step 3: Collect the data.
Decide where and how to collect your data, whether to require birth date and how much data to collect. Your delivery schedule and the number of other required fields drive some of your decisions.

Requiring day/month/year data will give you the richest amount of data but can reduce form completions. A/B split tests on your registration form might show you how much data your customers are willing to provide.

Step 4: Greeting or incentives?
If using incentives is a common part of your email approach, then incorporating them in your birthday messages should be a no-brainer. More than half the marketers in Silverpop's benchmark study provide some incentive.

Without an incentive, your email content must be strong and creative to make an impression.

If you're unsure, or you need to sell management on the benefits, test both approaches side by side for a few months.

Step 5: Single or multiple emails?
Sending a single birthday wish is the most common and easiest strategy. However, sending multiple emails can motivate your subscribers to redeem an incentive before it expires.

Step 6: Design your message.
Because birthdays are usually fun days for subscribers, your creative approach should reflect this. Push your designer to create something fun and engaging that’s distinctive from your other messages while still following your graphic standards and email design best practices.

Copy styles can take many forms. Be sure the copy drives the action you want, is simple and straightforward and meshes with your brand or corporate image.

Step 7: Test and optimize.
Although listed last, testing and optimization should be part of every step in your pilot program as well as after as you refine it.

Here are some facets to test:

  • Data capture: Try different form layouts and data-field locations to see which ones deliver the most completions.
  • Incentives: Try at least two to see which drives the best combination of conversions and margin impact.
  • Subject lines: Consider whether tactics such as first-name personalization or listing the incentive in the subject line affect conversions or opens.

Ready to Dive In?
You'll find the complete blueprint and more examples in Silverpop's report, "Birthday Blueprint: How to Build a Top-Tier Birthday Email Program," which you can download with our compliments.

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