The Pros and Cons of Birthday Emails

Are birthday emails a good idea?

There are a lot of good things about them: subscribers expect them, email marketers recommend sending them, and they’re pretty easy to set up. These things don’t mean they’re always a good idea though.

Like most things in life, birthday emails can fall in a gray area. There are pros and cons to sending them, and it’s up to you to decide if they’re something that can work for your email marketing campaign.

But before you do that, you need to know what the pros and cons are.

What’s Good About Birthday Emails

  • Pro: They’re personal

    Birthday emails are great at grabbing your subscribers’ attention. Who doesn’t like getting stuff for their birthday? By acknowledging your subscribers’ birthdays, you’re showing them you are using their information to provide personalized messages.

  • Pro: They’re easy to set up

    It’s easy to send birthday emails with AWeber. We’ve talked before about how segmenting your list can help your campaign, so here’s the perfect opportunity to try it out.

  • Pro: They bring good results

    Evidence shows that birthday emails do get a lot of action. One study found that birthday emails brought a 60% lift in conversions compared to the normal version of the email.

    Another study with Epson showed their “Happy Birthday” email generates revenue per email that’s 840% greater than the overall email program.

Convincing, right? But not if you don’t set it up right.

What’s Bad About Birthday Emails

  • Con: They can be too generic

    I just celebrated a birthday. One of the birthday emails I received was from my gym:

    Sounds good, right? Except that they are always trying to give out free sessions.

    Don’t tell me my birthday present is the same thing you tried to give me for Memorial Day, the start of spring, and the last full moon (may be exaggerating here, but you get the point).

    This is the problem with a lot of birthday emails: giving out the usual deals under a different label. Besides being generic, it also….

  • Con: Can make you look selfish

    So continuing with the gym example, I know the reason they keep wanting me to try a free session is because they’re hoping I’ll buy a training package.
    Is that really how you celebrate someone’s birthday? By going for the same sale you’re always trying for?
    You think because you put that pretty birthday banner at the top your job is done, but actually…

  • Con: They’re not that impressive anymore

    Lots of companies send birthday emails. Some are better than others, but birthdays are a pretty easy segment to target.
    Which means that generic, self-serving emails just won’t cut it anymore. So don’t think slapping some balloons at the top of your regular promotional email will impress anyone.

This leaves us with one question…

What Should You Do With Birthday
Emails?

You know birthday emails can be good, so now you need to know how to make them good:

  • Make them valuable

    The birthday email should be beneficial to the subscriber as well as you. Give the subscriber something they’ll be excited about, and something you don’t normally offer.

  • Make them relevant

    Use information on subscriber behavior, such as what they’ve clicked on, to send them something they’d be interested in. Don’t take the easy way out and send to everyone who’s birthday is coming up, break it up further so the messages are more targeted.

  • Make them about the subscriber

    This is their day, not yours. Send your birthday wishes, include your gift, and that’s all you need. You want your birthday emails to come across as a nice gesture, not an obvious attempt for another sale.

Here’s an example of a well done birthday email:

How Do You Feel About Birthday
Emails?

What’s the best birthday email you’ve seen? The worst?

Do you send birthday emails to your subscribers? How do you make them something the subscriber will enjoy?

15 Comments

  1. S

    8/8/2011 7:26 pm

    Great post Crystal!

    I’ve NEVER received a great birthday email. I’ve received some that were ok but none that really wowed me.

    As you mentioned most marketers tend to create birthday emails that generate a sense of “selfishness”. I can smell it a mile away. :)

    The common offers I’ve received from company’s have been: “25% off your purchase”, “Double points for any purchase you make during your Birthday month”, or simple “Happy Birthday” emails.

    I personally don’t see how birthday emails fit in with my business. But hey one day I might send some birthday emails and when I do they’ll be Awesome!

  2. Mike

    8/9/2011 9:51 am

    I usually send an automated birthday message just noting their birthday but didn’t know that aweber provided a way to send a nice email like the one you have displayed.

    Thanks for the great info!

  3. Tammi Kibler

    8/9/2011 10:52 am

    I think these tips are great. Like you, I have been frustrated by “birthday” emails that turn out to be just another excuse to market the same old offer to me, though I find it interesting that one of the studies cited here appears to have been 60% more successful with this method.

  4. J.J.

    8/9/2011 12:19 pm

    In 2010 we sent out birthday emails religiously. Out of our list of about 1,000 we only had about three people actually use the gift we offered. We gave $5 off anything in the store, the only restriction was the expiration date. This is something that we don’t offer, ever…free money.

    After reading this post I see we left out the choice. I became excited when seeing your Ben and Jerry’s offer. (I’ll sign up on their list now.)

    Getting back to the choice…we achieved only 50% of what you recommended. In 2011 we aren’t sending out any birthday offers because of the poor response received in 2010.

    If we send out birthday offers we will give our customers a choice. Thank you for this article.

  5. Tony

    8/9/2011 12:31 pm

    Oh my goodness, I never give companies my real birthdate. So I get the occasional non-birthday email. However, I can’t ever of them ever being compelling enough for me to act. I don’t think there is enough understanding of people or understanding of human behaviour by the marketers – 10% off is not compelling as many merchants think. Even in the above Ben & Jerrys ad what does a free scoop mean? Would I go for a free scoop – not unless it was worthwhile.

  6. Mark Madere

    8/9/2011 12:33 pm

    I LOVE to eat out. I’ve signed up on many of my favorite restaurant web sites. Denny’s gives a free entree of your choice – no other purchase necessary. If you’re a loner – it’s a free meal (with your glass of free ice water).

    So of my least favorite: free dessert for one with purchase of two entrees and beverages.

    Keep up all the great marketing ideas using e-mail! Constantly learning new tips.

  7. Jose Dias

    8/9/2011 2:45 pm

    Crystal,

    Thank you for the article. I never thought about birthday emails from the perspective you presented. I always thought about them as being a positive way to engage clients. However you brought a very relevant point that they may feel cheap and self-serving if we don’t take the time to tailor the message.

    Thank you for posting.

  8. Lance Nelson

    8/10/2011 2:24 am

    Must try this, but of course its more information I am gathering which could put off subscribing in the first place. Thank you for useful article.

  9. David kapalu

    8/10/2011 3:16 am

    These are Great Birthday Email Marketing Tips!

    I use birthday emails sparingly in my email marketing efforts.

    The key points to remember in order to get a good response is to make these kinds of emails personal, valuable, relevant and unique! They shouldn’t be the regular ‘ One Size Fits All ‘ kind of messages. There must be something special and unique about them in order for them to catch the customer’s hot spots!

    I personally detest generic messages. I love personally aligned messages that go hand in glove with what I love to do be it on my birthday or otherwise.

    The Secret is to learn to enter that conversation going on inside the customer’s head whilst advancing your interests simultaneously!

  10. Diana

    8/10/2011 11:40 am

    Hi Crystal,

    Thanks for the great Personalized Birthday Email tips. They surely are better than the standard ones I am used to recieving.

  11. BM

    8/10/2011 1:02 pm

    Great discussion of birthday emails. You’re totally right — a birthday email is supposed to be more of a gift than an advertisement. Acknowledging your clients’ special days helps you to build a rapport with them, and that in itself will provide other opportunities for sales down the line. As you said, the birthday email itself shouldn’t just be an obvious attempt to make a sale, but a nice gesture that shows that you care about your clients.

  12. Crystal Gouldey

    8/10/2011 3:24 pm

    We’re getting some good tips and examples here! Thanks everyone!

  13. Michelle

    8/18/2011 4:37 am

    “Sounds good, right? Except that they are always trying to give out free sessions. ” usually, sending an automated birthday message just noting their birthday but didn’t know that aweber provided a way to send a nice email. Interesting

  14. Rakesh

    8/21/2011 12:29 pm

    THANK YOU!

    This post gave me a big Aha moment.

    BTW! I think that in your B&J screenshot, the relevance arrow should have been pointed at the headline “It’s your Birthday”. Not many marketers have the luxury of providing a custom product/ variant like B&J do, especially single product marketers.

    It’s actually the headline that is most relevant, not the variant chosen IMHO.

  15. Elizabeth Ball

    3/4/2014 6:11 pm

    As an astrology site, I have all of my customers’ birthdays, and most of my newsletter subscriber birthdays – save for one month when there was a huge glitch and none of their dates were saved. I have a 55% open rate and a 12$ clickthrough rate but my handwritten birthday cards eclipse them for generating sales. That said though Crystal, I never thought about making the offer anything other than they can occasionally receive throughout the year so I will now create an email offer that is exclusive, and particularly personal to them.