Building Customer Loyalty: Happy Birthday Reminders

Happy Birthday Email From Uptown Pilates

Happy Birthday Email From Uptown Pilates

My birthday was two weeks ago today–it took me a few weeks to get back into the swing of things. I always take time off for my birthday as a way to relax and motivate myself for a great new year.

While I was away, I received “Happy Birthday” emails from a few of my favorite businesses, and they inspired me to do a blog post about why these types of emails are so beneficial!

I really love these type of emails as a form of communication between a business and their clients, and statistically speaking, “Happy Birthday” emails have a high open rate.

These emails can help businesses build customer loyalty, and, if paired with an incentive, can bring the business immediate revenue. One study by Marketing Sherpa noted that personalized birthday emails can have a 750% higher click through rate for product purchases!

Drive Revenue And Customer Loyalty–All In One!

While I loved the emails I received for my birthday, as a marketer, I always notice whether there is a marketing driver behind the email (aside from a nice communication with your client). Considering the click-through rate of these types of emails is so high, providing an incentive to the client is sure to drive some cash-flow into your business. What do I mean by incentives? Some good incentives include:

  • A code for a percentage off something in your ecommerce store
  • A coupon or discount for a private training session, or a class
  • A special package or yearly “birthday” series

It’s the perfect pairing for a birthday message, particularly for health, wellness, or beauty businesses. What better way to celebrate a birthday than by taking care of yourself, and doing something to help you look and feel younger? Lets face it, after a certain age, birthdays are often the source of stress and anxiety, and even some insecurity about getting older. Who wouldn’t want to do do something to help reduce stress, feel healthier, look better, or simply feel stronger and younger?

High-Motivation For Purchase

There are times in a person’s life when they are motivated to make a purchase for themselves. We will go into this more with another blog post, but one of those times is a person’s birthday. It’s a day people use to celebrate themselves, and that means, justifying giving themselves a birthday treat. All you have to do when you send your email, is to remind the person that it is their special day–and they should treat themselves. Combine that with an incentive–such as a coupon for that special treat–and you’ve got a winning combination.

The birthday emails I received from businesses did not include incentives–but I can tell you if they did I would have made a purchase, and many of your clients will do the same.

It’s  a combination of a high-motivation situation and a response to the natural emotional reaction someone experiences when a business pays attention to a person’s special day. Sending a “Happy Birthday” email is a great way to build loyalty and put a smile on your client’s face regardless of whether an incentive is attached to it. But put an incentive into the email, and you’ve got yourself a great way to drive some immediate revenue as well.

What Makes a Good “Happy Birthday Email”

The number one thing to remember is that the “Happy Birthday” email is about the client, not about you! It’s their birthday, so give them something special. Here are a few tips to remember:

  • Make Them Personal And Valuable

    The birthday email should be sent to the name of the client, and if you can set up your subject to say “Happy Birthday [name of client]” it will get a higher open rate. Make the email content beneficial to the subscriber–and give them something you don’t normally offer. For example, a true special gift or offer that someone would only receive on their birthday.

  • Make Them Relevant

    Send the birthday user something they will personally be interested in, not a “one size fits all” birthday email. I realize this is more difficult to set up, and targeting emails based on customer behavior is a more complicated process. But ideally, you have customer lists divided into a few core groups based on what people purchase, or what services they use. For example, if you have a Yoga studio, you could create just two groups–those who get private classes, and those who only take group classes. When creating your Happy Birthday emails, set up two–the private Yoga group might get an offer for a discounted private session, whereas the clients who take group classes get an offer for a free class.

  • Make Them About The Subscriber

    This is their day, not yours. Send your birthday wishes, include your gift, and that’s it.


How To Set Up Happy Birthday Emails

Happy Birthday emails are just one type of automatic email you can set up for your clients through your email marketing program (such as AWeber or Mailchimp). Anniversary responders enable you to send a specific email for someones birthday.

Step 1: Set Up a Birthday Field in Your Newsletter Service

Every email newsletter provider offers the ability to set up new custom fields. You can always call each provider to ask how to do this. In general, it is a simple process, where you add a new field, and determine whether that field is Required or Optional. I do like keeping birthday fields optional.

Here is an example of what setting this up looks like in Aweber:

Screen shot 2013-10-03 at 4.14.03 PM

Step 2. Ask Your Clients For Their Birthday

You’ll need to ask clients for their birthday. You can do this in your registration process, or you can send an email newsletter to current clients asking for their birthdays, so you can send them special gifts. When asking for birthdays, I like to include only the month and the day–not the year, and I always write copy next to the “ask” explaining why I want it, for example, to give them a special birthday code or coupon each year. This will increase the chance that your clients actually provide their birthday information to you!

Step 3: Define The Email Details

Now that you’ve set up your custom field and ensured clients can enter their birthdate, you’ll want to create the actual email which gets sent for a client’s birthday.

This is done the same way that regular email campaigns are created, with all the same options for importing or creating the campaign content:

  • import a completed HTML design
  • create the email content using one of your existing templates
  • use the template builder to design a new layout from scratch
  • send plain text emails

Since I don’t know your email program, some of these tips for setting up might not be relevant. I’ve found customer service for any of the bigger email providers excellent–just give them a call or send an email to ask for help. It should only take you half a day to set these emails up (or less), and they are very much worth the time.

Your Online Brand: 3 Things You Think You Need, But You Don’t

Online Branding ImageDo You Know What Makes a Good Online Brand?

Before you answer “Yes” to that question, I’m here to tell you that 99% of the small businesses that contact me for help think they have a great online brand…but they aren’t getting any new clients, attracting awareness, or building their business through their online efforts. So–it is really a good online brand?

What Makes a Good Online Brand

You’re going to hear different opinions on this from experts, but in my opinion, a good online brand, ultimately, brings you more of your ideal clients, and helps you grow your business.

This bears repeating…

Good Online Brands:

  • Bring you more of your ideal clients
  • Help grow your business

At the end of the day these should be your goals even if you are a non-profit, even if you say you don’t care about making money and you are in business because you love it– (who says that, though, realistically? It’s much better to do what you love and earn money from it!).

Here Are 3 Things You Think You Need (But You Really Don’t) For Your Online Brand

1. A super-expensive, agency-designed, professional website.

I cannot tell you how many times I have seen a beautiful, expensively-designed website that simply doesn’t WORK. What do I mean by work? I mean, does it:

  1. Have good SEO, so people can find you through “natural” (unpaid) search?
  2. Allow customers to book an appointment with you, know your hours, and contact you?
  3. Clearly state what makes your business different, and what you do?

Designers are going to argue with me on this, but I’m giving you the truth. Even if you are an aesthetically-driven business, and your client cares about image, I guarantee you can put together a simple, lovely, web design that works without hiring someone expensive. I’m building out tutorials that will help ANY small business owner create a lovely, simple website without paying a lot of money. Just a few months away! In the meantime, don’t stress out if your website isn’t perfect. The beautiful thing about anything online is that it can be improved!

Just remember, great looking does not mean it’s good.

  • A pretty flash site isn’t going to get as much natural search traffic.
  • A gorgeous design that doesn’t allow people to navigate easily isn’t going to get you appointments booked.
  • A site that is so complicated with how it was built, you can’t ever update the copy yourself isn’t going to help you have featured sales, or series, or sell anything new.

Some of the world’s ugliest websites make millions of dollars a month. Have you ever looked at SEO consultants’ websites? They are often hideous–but drive thousands of targeted clients in monthly. At the end of the day, you need a functional website, something that yes–conveys your brand and who you are, but most importantly, brings you the right customers, and makes it easy for those customers to book an appointment with you–or buy something from you.

But Julie, I have a salon/skincare business/aesthetically-driven business–it DOES matter!

Simply taking photos of your space and using that as the basis of your website design is going to bring that real-world experience alive, and ensure your brand integrity, your general look and feel, and capture that aesthetically-driven audience.

Remember, I am an SEO expert. What I care about with my online sites–is whether I get the right traffic, and whether those people are doing the things I’d like them to do. If I say “YES” to both of those…I can focus my efforts on other things, and not worry so much about the look and feel right away. My #1 rule for any small business I run, is I won’t pay for a design until that business is earning the cost of a professional design each week. Would spending that money upfront help me get there faster? It’s not a guarantee…but having clear navigation and good SEO is a guarantee of those two key points: growing my business, and attracting the right customers.

Remember too, that people are pretty forgiving of design–but if they can’t find the content they are looking for…they get frustrated.

2. A Totally Different “Brand” Online

Not true. You absolutely need consistency–you want to translate what a client experiences with you in person, online. That means similarity in the look and feel. It is true that online, we have more work to get clients to understand why you are the right business for them. That’s why you have to do a few things different–but your overall brand needs to be the same–your business philosophy, your messaging, and who you are stays the same.

Your online branding has a tough job. It needs to:

  1. Immediate convey what you do
  2. Why you are different from competitors
  3. How to get in touch with you

You DO have to think about your online brand from a different perspective. A client who walks by your place of business (in real life) has the advantage of seeing you, your space, your decor–all the things that contribute to your business philosophy and the type of experience a client will have when they make an appointment with you.

When someone goes to your website–they need to not only get a sense of who you are and what you do, they need to be able to book an appointment with you and find where you are. But you need to start with the real-world branding, and translate everything about you, your space, and your differentiation online.

3. You Need To Be Everywhere Online, All The Time:

I disagree with this fundamentally. What I mean by this is, having EVERY possible social media channel actively up and running with daily posts. Managing a website, an email newsletter, social media, affiliate sites, partnerships–whoa. Can any small business owner really do it all? The answer is no, or more accurately, not well for all things.

You have a choice–focus on 2-3 things you enjoy doing, and do those well…OR…try to do everything equally well. Even the world’s biggest brands can’t do everything perfectly online. They choose to focus on a few key things.

But you should claim your presence on all social media channels…
Even if you aren’t active on every social media channel, (which you simply can’t be, unless you clone yourself or have a huge team of help…and even then it’s hard)…I do recommend that you “own” the channel. In this way, you are protecting your brand and your name…as well as providing many places online where people can find you.

If the channel is not “active” (you don’t post on it), you can simply put your website url, a phone number, and a few photos as a way to ensure people can find you. I’ve seen some companies “capture” a Pinterest or Twitter account, and then do one post that says “We are not active on this social media channel–come find us [with a link to where they ARE active].” That’s a brilliant way to manage your online brand without having to constantly update that channel.

What do you think? Do you agree? Disagree? What are your goals when it comes to online branding? What are the things you focus on? Let me know in the comments!






Path to success--5 simple steps to social media

Social Media And Small Businesses: 5 Simple Steps For Success

5 Simple Steps to Improve Your Social Media

Social Media Success in 5 Simple Steps

1. Have a Clear Goal (or Goals)

Before we judge “success” or ability to perform well with social media, we need to have clear goals aligned to the work. Many times I am contacted by small and large businesses alike to “fix” a flawed social media campaign, and if I had a dollar for every time I’m asked something like this; “I’ve been posting on Facebook every day for a year, but we have no new fans and nobody does anything. What’s wrong?” I’d have multiple homes in some choice places. 😉 When I ask, “What is your goal?” the businesses often don’t know…and that my friends, is the #1 problem. What exactly do you hope to achieve with your social media? Is it to drive new business? It is to sell more product? Or is to help people be healthy? You have to know what the goal, or goals are, before you even write a single post. And when you write, the most important things are…

2. Have a Purpose With Your Posts

What is wrong, in 99% of the channels I have seen, is a lack of purpose with the post–even if it has an overall goal aligned to your business, the post just doesn’t have a point. Do you want people to share something with you, such as a story, or a photo, or a comment? Would you like them to use a code and buy something? Do you want them to share the post? Each post, each tweet, each Instagram picture needs to have a point to it.

3. Stay on Brand

Understanding your brand, and knowing how to stay “on brand” is really difficult to do when your brand has an identity crisis. It’s the reason I generally won’t work with clients unless they have a solid understanding of their business brand. A client of mine who runs a successful skincare business is an example of a strong brand–she knows what differentiates her not simply in terms of services or products, but her overall mission of the blend of high-tech and organic. Plus, she believes in nutrition, fitness, and general appreciation of the arts as keys to looking and feeling good. That’s a brand, and any time she does anything, whether it is sending an email or posting on Facebook, she embraces the mission statement of her brand.

4. Be Consistent

Next up would be lack of consistency–when the channel posts are all over the place not only in terms of what they say/content, but the timing. For example, posting at 9am one day, but 11pm the next…going for weeks without posting…and then two weeks straight of daily posts. Oh, no! It is inconsistent. Be careful to not only stay on brand, and be consistent with your topic types (you can have multiple types of “themes” that you post, but stay aligned with your brand), but also with your frequency and schedule of posting.

5. Build a Relationship

Broadcast posting is common–almost as if you are a newspaper and just talking, without engaging your fans in a conversation. The whole beauty of social media is that it is instantaneously interactive! I’m assuming you actually do want to know what your fans think and want…so be sure to include them in your posts. Have a conversation with them, and write back to them if they comment on a post, or start a post. It is a two-way street online.

Real-World Example of Dos and Don’ts

I’m going to give you an example of a health company (company name withheld) with some issues with their Facebook channel that I was asked to assess, because I find that examples can help showcase principles in action. After just three days I was able to identify 99% of the problem, and, they came down to three of the 5 things listed above.

  • No Relationship Building: On Monday, the business posted about healthy recipes with a link to an article on a major newspaper. Good content, but there wasn’t any opinion about why they liked the article, or were posting it in general. And there was no call to action, or relationship building. An example call to action could be “What are your healthiest recipes?” or “What foods do you love that keep you healthy.” Or even, “What do you think?” You want to ask something of your fans, and it really can be as simple as asking their opinion. You want to engage your fans, rather than simply telling them something.
  • Inconsistent Frequency: The next day, no post at all. No worries in general–every day posting isn’t needed. The problem I had with this (because I had a problem with it), is that for the prior three weeks, they posted daily Monday-Friday. So skipping a day when a post would normally appear is inconsistent. In general, your fans rely on consistency from you. I’ve often equated this to a relationship or a friendship. It’s fine if you know to expect you’ll hear from someone a few days a week–but when you hear from someone daily….and then you don’t…it can be jarring. You are building a relationship on your social media.
  • Brand Identity Issues: The following day, a post about technology–which had no alignment with the company brand, goals, or purpose. It felt like a random post, and it was. When I asked the business owner why that was posted, they said most of their audience works in technology. That’s great, knowing your audience is important. But an article on say, why working on your computer 10+ hours a day can be detrimental to your health would be more aligned with the company brand and mission…a random post is just a random post. Your fans are smarter than that and they can sense when you are posting random articles in an attempt to appease them. It feels almost manipulative, and manipulation never works in relationships.

Three days, three issues around things that are relatively easy to fix. Instead of hiring me or another expensive consultant to help you see immediate results in your social media, try these 5 things first, and let me know what happens. You’ll be surprised at how quickly these 5 things will give you results, and meet those goals that you’ve now established.


Small Business Marketing: Little Bets

Market your small business the smart way, with "Little Bets."

Market your small business the smart way, with “Little Bets.”

My friend Peter Sims wrote a book called “Little Bets.” It’s about testing things on a smaller basis, instead of investing too much time/effort/money into something huge, when you’re just not sure if its going to pay off. It’s also about giving those “bets” time to see whether they work (for example, at least a month for an ad campaign or a new social media approach)–and NOT continuing to do a bunch of other things in the meantime. How will you know precisely what campaign brought you results, if you have 50 different things going on all at once?

I absolutely love this concept of “Little Bets”, and I’ve used the phrase and approach with many of my corporate consulting clients. The big boys’ biggest mistake, I’ve found, is believing in one HUGE thing (such as a Super Bowl ad) too much–and building big campaigns and marketing programs around it. If that one thing fails, it can be devastating.

Small Businesses Marketing–When Thinking Small Leads to Big Results

Most small businesses naturally understand “Little Bets” to a degree–most of the time the campaigns decided upon are small and bite-sized. I’ve yet to see a small business waste $3 million on a TV commercial.

The problem I see with small businesses is a clear lack of focus, and a lot of *everything*, and not really knowing precisely what is working or not. And, perhaps more important, not testing anything, not looking at analytics, and not going back and optimizing things.

Small Business Marketing Mistakes

  • Spending on paid ads for Google adwords or Facebook–but you aren’t running A/B tests or optimizing the ads, so the people who click might not be who you want, and you haven’t really seen a return on your investment, even if it wasn’t a lot of money.
  • Using every social media channel, trying to respond/post/interact every day, and getting burned out when none of your fans or followers seem to actually book an appointment with you, or buy something. But having no idea which posts actually get the most traction…
  • Getting your business on local “deal” sites to drive a lot of volume fast and get some cash-flow…but then realizing a few months later that nobody wants to pay full price for your services, and you don’t have a lot of loyal customers. And then maybe just to get some more cash-flow, you run another deal…Yikes, a never-ending cycle. Maybe you don’t even know which customers came through on the deal that actually returned–you should know the exact percentage, and it should be at least 30% to even consider another deal.
  • Knowing that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is important, but not understanding how to get keywords or do the tags/code needed on a Website…so hiring an expensive SEO consultant who doesn’t know your brand. And six months later you have no idea whether the SEO worked…

Does any of this sound familiar?

Smart Marketing for Small Businesses: Choosing the Right Little Bets

Unless you are:

  • Getting 5% conversion on your Website (5% of the visits end up purchasing something or booking an appointment)
  • Getting 5% of your fans on social media to refer, share, and interact with you
  • Getting more repeat visits, and higher dollar amount per service for long-term customers, than you are getting all new, low-paying customers…

You’ve got to take a few steps back and look at your overall foundation. And, you’ve got to decide on testing and optimizing just a few things. Now, I know some small business owners whose business makes $1 million or more a year, and they’ve told me they don’t need help or optimization with their online marketing because clearly things are working. But what if that revenue could be doubled, or your profit margin is higher, after focusing on optimizing just a few things…testing them out to see if they work, and continue to refine those things?

The three key words are Focus. Test. Optimize.

Some Examples of Good Little Bets for Small Businesses

  • Splitting your email list into two groups and testing a different subject line for each, to see which one gets the most opens, and the most clicks, so you get a great idea of what appeals to your audience in general in terms of content, and your tone and voice.
  • Testing a blog with some keywords you research yourself (I will show you how to do this in my first module, launching soon), and tracking that blog to see the traffic it brings you, and whether that traffic does what you want it to (book an appointment, or buy something).
  • Running a survey through your email list or Facebook page to ask people what they are looking for, or what they would like to see from you. This could include a product line idea you have, a new service, or even what channels you should focus on in social media.
  • Optimizing what already works with social media, for example, going through your Facebook insights and seeing which 5 posts over the past 3 months got you the most engagement. Next, categorize those posts (for example, are they “Educational”, such as a link to an article, or are they “Inspirational” such as a feel-good quote?). After you categorize your top posts, try only posting content in those categories for a month, and see whether overall your engagement improves on Facebook.

All of these things may seem so small, and so easy–but that’s the beautiful part! Taking these small steps and truly understanding what is working, and then focusing on making those things work even better…and better…is going to bring you better results than if you’re running around trying dozens of things, particularly if they are big campaigns, or spendy ones.

Small Business Marketing: The Big Picture

It sounds counter-intuitive but taking a step back, focusing on a few things, but having the big picture in mind (your goals and what you aim to achieve), is going to grow your business.

I’m interested in what you have done as a “Little Bet” in your business, and how taking a step back actually moved you two steps forward. Please share in the comments.