Personalized Marketing

Another slight detour from widgets – purple ones, green widgets and SEO. But not completely off track this time. A bit about personalized marketing and e-mails.

Every morningwhen I wake up one of the first things I do is pick up my smartphone (currently a T-Mobile G1, previously a Blackberry Curve, before that a Palm Treo) and take a quick look at my e-mail. My wife used to think this very odd. Until several months ago I got her a Blackberry Curve – now she does the same thing. E-mail on this phone, at least the e-mail I’m looking at is personal e-mail plus some of my many part-time business effort e-mails – none stunningly successful (or they wouldn’t be part-time) so not a ton of e-mail. So in other words, not work e-mail. Not e-mail from my real job (the one that pays the bills). I’m not sure why I make this distinction it’s really not important.

Most mornings I have about 17-21 e-mails. No big deal, about 1/2 are to be deleted, about 1/4 to be read later (maybe) and a few that I actually needed to look at first thing in the morning. But this morning I had 48 e-mails waiting in my inbox. This isn’t entirely unusual, it’s happened before – in fact in happened last year on this same day. I just didn’t blog about it. Usually when this happens I hope I had an explosion of sales on one of my websites thus a ton of payment confirmation e-mails, or something went viral and I have a bunch of new newsletter signups. Neither has been the case yet. I have had a few mornings with 12-18 new twitter followers for so that’s not a bad thing but most commonly the reason for an unusually high number of e-mails is a Woot Off since I get new Woot notifications via e-mail.

But this morning I was bombarded with happy birthday e-mails from a variety of companies and forums.
An interesting concept in personalized marketing. A pretty simple one too. They know my birthday because I signed up and entered my DOB. I ahd about 5 from forums (many of which I haven’t visited in a long while) that were plain text – one line, happy birthday from my forum, yada yada. I did have a few with some decent value – at least perceived value.

Disney Movie Rewards gave me 25 points to my account just for having a birthday. Not bad. A feature length movie costs $15 – $18 on and gets you 100 points so this was about a $4 value.

EA Store offerred me 25% Off any purchase. Pretty good on video games that go for around $50 and I do enjoy playing sports video games (I had just pre-ordered Tiger Woods 2010 for XBox 360) and my son loves Wii games (okay, so do I) so there is potetntial I will use this even if their shipping prices are kind of high and they ship slow. Plus with 2 kids now I don’t play video games nearly as often.

AMCEntertainment gave me a free large soda. Now the list value of this is huge – what are drinks at movies these days, $8? Okay, not that much but still a nice gesture. But, see above – 2 kids – I don’t go to the movies much anymore. They aren’t quite old enough to enjoy (or be bearable) for movies so this one may not get used.

My Points gave me 5 free points plus 500 points just for spending $5 at a select merchant. Pretty good deal. Even though the merchant selection for this offer was not great I did buy a $5 gift card from Old Navy. It won’t go to waste (my wife will see to it) and I get the points. I should say that I did take a screen shot of the notice that said explicity “Gift Cards purchases eligible for Points” since I am suspicious and wonder if it was supposed to say not eligible. Hopefully I get my bonus points and never need to bring this up since I’ll probably lose the argument if they don’t give me points.

Plus I had gotten 2 e-mails previously from birthday clubs. One was Houlihan’s restaurant, a free entree. So that’s an $8 – $15 value for lunch, maybe twice that for dinner. Of course they know I’ll spend at least that much with my guests plus I’ll pay $1.69 for 30 cents worth of lemonade.

Also earlier in the week The Melting Pot sent me a free chocolate desert with the purchase on entree. The Metling Pot is AMAZING, but expensive so I won’t probably use this one as we go about once a year for our anniversary or Christmas gift to ourselves.

Lastly, Dave and Busters sent me an email coupon for $10 in free tokens – just for showing up. Not bad at all since I actually won’t drink if I go (which I’m sure they expect me to to make some money on the offer) or buy dinner (the food is over priced and under good).

Plus I got 2 e-cards and a few other direct personalized e-mails from friends with birthday wishes a few have wished me happy birthday via Facebook.

Ironically, one of my extra full inbox e-mails this morning was an offer for free travel when I join AARP. It’s funnier when you know I haven’t hit 40….YET. It was just spam, not bad marketing.

During the day I’ve gotten a few other similar marketing e-mails wishing me a happy day.

So my point is this – did these e-mails work? Was this good marketing? In some instances it was very cheap and easy. No offer, clearly automated and no work on any graphics or anything (plain text e-mail). Others have some value, some more than others, but none are exceptionally pricey. No better than a deal I’d get anyway for some other reason perhaps – or a coupon in the paper. But still, it was a gesture and even cynical old (now a year older, but not an AARP member yet) me thought it was nice – even if I did delete most of them pretty quickly. I did just write a blog post and gave them all a link (well, the best ones)!

The bottom line is this – why not do this for your clients if you have the ability through your CMS or database. Although as I said some were better than others and some intruigued me more than others not once did I get mad and think – I’m never going to that website or business again! Curse them for wishing me a happy birthday! It was a cheap and easy way to reach out to a customer in an effort build loyalty. Good plan in my opinion.

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