On your birthday, you will surely receive those heartwarming swarm of posts, tweets, mails, text messages and telephone calls, a far cry from the odd telephone calls and snail mail birthday cards of yore. I had a lovely birthday recently and tallied up my greetings, not for the sake of self-congratulations, but more to consider the state of digital marketing. And, please note that the purpose of this post is NOT to inspire a wave of more congratulatory messages.* In total, on my birthday day, I received a total of 141 different messages (with a few belated stragglers thereafter). That is rather close to the 130 friends one is supposed to have on average on Facebook. However, in my case, considering the un-average numbers of people with whom I’m connected, the 141 starts to feel a bit light. The clear winner is Facebook where I received 86 messages. One thing I did inadvertently this year was not to allow people to post to my timeline (formerly known as Wall). As a result, all the greetings were sent as “personal” messages, which I am going to guess had a slight filtering effect. Below** you can see how you can change that setting should you wish to change whether others may or may not post directly to your timeline. The rush of birthday wishes got me thinking about how different messages were sent according to the channel.
The personal funnel
As one goes through the messages and channels used, it is clear that there is a hierarchy in terms of personalization and intimacy in the communications. In the realm of other “social” media, after the 86 FB messages, I got 5 tweeted Twitter birthday mentions and, surprisingly, 6 wishes via Skype. Moving along the scale, I received 18 SMS messages and 12 personal email messages, which as opposed to Facebook, were truly individual and personalized with more meaningful messages. Finally, there were the seven telephone calls mostly from family. I would be remiss not to mention the IRL family celebration (photos on FB!). I did not receive even one card via snail mail.
What about CRM around your birthday?
Through the clutter, I also received seven “personal” emails from companies/brands on my birthday day, wishing me Happy Birthday. Each of these organizations clearly has a CRM program of some sort in place. One of these was from a company I had never heard of, so I assume they found or scraped my birthday and email address via some public network (SPAM!). Six of the seven “corporate” emails included some kind of gift or offer. Five of the 7 were digital-first companies (e.g. networks, eCommerce site…). However, none of the companies engaged in what I might call Social CRM. All very traditional.
Without wishing to kick a gift horse in the proverbial mouth, here is a quick review and critique:
- WAYN: Enjoy free VIP membership for your birthday! As a gift, you can now enjoy a 2 week
free VIP upgrade on WAYN. Sent @ 2:39am! Conclusion: No benefit. No personalization. No go.
- Internations ( of global trotters): A personal note sent in my inbox by the local community manager. Sent at 9:02am. Conclusion: worth a personal message back.
- XING (social network based in Germany): “7 days of Premium Membership with our compliments, regardless of whether you’re a Premium Member or not.” Conclusion: No benefit. Not personal (they don’t even know whether I am premium member). Immaterial. No go.
- Experteer.com (executive career services for ‘leading’ professionals): Your Premium Membership is active now. After 7 days, your account will automatically revert to Basic Membership again. Conclusion: No benefits. Not personal. Too quick. No go.
- SNCF (French national train company): During the month of August (my birthday is on the 14th), they offered me a free dessert or coffee with the purchase of a meal, with a train ticket reservation an obligation. Sent on August 1st! Conclusion: Hopeless. Not only is this too late, it is too little. P.S. A quick check in their systems and they should have known whether or not I was going to be travelling by train for the holidays.
- Le Figaro (French daily newspaper): 2 surprises (as pictured below). One surprise gift was a 20-page printed photo album (to be redeemed before the end of the month) and the other was a 1 euro subscription to the first two months’ digital version of Le Figaro and then 15 euro per month going forward. Conclusion: I liked the surprise element and am tempted to redeem for the photo album. The photos of the team on the top of the email was quite original. The text is pure and simple. The two offers gave me reason to “choose” which one I liked more.
This is by no means a comprehensive review of all possible offers. What it shows is the dramatic lack of originality in the state of CRM, much less Social CRM. I consider these offers to lack any notion of empathy. For one, on my birthday in the middle of August, there is a reasonably high probability that I won’t be in a working mode or highly connected. Thus, a seven day window seems outrageously ill adapted. Secondly, the offers are for the most part completely uninviting, unoriginal and impersonal. None of the offers as presented thought to present the benefits of the gift. The Figaro photo gift at least could have been represented as a contextually relevant item for the summer holiday pictures. Basically, the offers overall were cheap and ineffective.
The other big aha! for me was the companies that didn’t bother to send me anything! What about the companies where I am a bona fide client and who have all my up-to-date personal data? For example, I travel extensively. You would have thought that an airline company or the Eurostar might have wanted in on the action?
CRM: Conclusion Really Matters
In a world where brand marketers are wishing to attract new clients or, as would normally be the case with birthday celebrations (because the data is less conspicuously available) retaining customer loyalty, the birthday is a sweet spot in the social media world. As we know at Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg is big on the value of the birthday. Without doubt, in any given year, it is systematically the single biggest moment of interaction on someone’s Facebook profile. Now, the issue for brands is how to break through the personal clutter. Whereas, before, a birthday boy or girl might receive a dozen communications on his/her day, today they will receive scores more. An automated email message with an ignominiously poor offer and a ridiculously quick time turnaround during the peak of the summer holidays is just not going to cut it. Compared to the other channels, a 1-on-1 email on my birthday is typically up there with the most personal communications. Just because the data is available and the email is the cheapest solution, does not mean it is the best use of time and resources. Moreover, Social CRM is a step above regular CRM. It needs a new approach, a new myndset, and, in the case of a birthday celebration, a message (and offer?) that has been thought through (with empathy).
* If there were one birthday wish I might ask for, it would simply be for you to go by the Facebook page in honor of my grandfather, after whom I was named, and like it, if you feel it merits your click.
Finally, if you want to know how to download your friends’ birthdays from Facebook, here is a post with those directions (esp if you are on Mac, Chrome)