Denny’s was one of the first companies to recognize your birthday as a marketing and lead generation opportunity. I never seemed to be in a Denny’s on my birthday and I don’t think I would ever want an entire Grand Slam but that this free breakfast on your birthday promotion is still offered after so many years and that nearly every retail-style business has launched a similar program supports its value to both the marketing team and to their customers. Get a free dessert at Applebee’s and Friendly’s, free ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery, and something free or discounted at every restaurant and store at Mohegan Sun casino. In fact, there are a number of Web sites that list dozens of these free birthday promotions, as shown here. You probably wouldn’t schedule a trip to Sunglasses USA on your birthday just for the 10 percent discount but there is something subconsciously special about birthdays that makes us pay slightly more attention to birthday messages than to others.
Yet on my 29th birthday last week, I still deleted the Cold Stone Creamery email and didn’t go to Applebee’s or Friendly’s for dessert. As easy as it is for marketers today to contact customers on their birthdays by email and social media, just blasting coupons isn’t enough to enhance and capitalize on the relationship. Care must be taken to match promotional offers to the needs and wants of each customer, remembering and recognizing that each customer is an individual and a person, not simply a contact in a database. It’s important to use promotions based primarily on what the customers value. What the marketing team wants to promote is secondary, though, ideally, they are one in the same. And with the ability to segment customer contacts today, there is less and less excuse for failure to customize.
That’s why this birthday email from Okemo Mountain struck me the way it did. I first skied there in 1988 and spent many weekends there before kids came along. I never went tubing at Okemo and understand they want to promote their tubing hill but offering one free tubing session ($12.00 value) for my birthday fails to offer any real value, certainly not enough to entice me to haul the family to Vermont. If the marketing team would simply offer one free adult lift ticket ($80.00 value) then I’d have no choice but to stop and consider finding a weekend. Okemo would certainly have made back the incentive in the cost of lift tickets for the rest of the family, plus rentals and lunch. And had I already been planning a trip then that offer is substantial enough to potentially sway me away from other ski areas. Instead of thinking about what the customer values most, the marketing team thought more about its goal to promote snowtubing with email marketing. Had they focused on simply getting us to the mountain using whatever incentive required then we might have gone snowtubing anyway – at full price – because it really is a lot of fun.
Match incentives to customer needs for greatest perceived value, impact and response.
UPDATE: I had emailed firstname.lastname@example.org and let them know I was a fan but the promotion was off-target. Today, I received an email from a marketing assistant offering to send me vouchers good towards lift tickets, food and other items at the mountain for my birthday instead of the tubing ticket. Nice job, Okemo.