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  Comments (1) Total Thursday Apr. 24, 2014
Sending Birthday Greetings
Commentary: Business is Personal
In last week's column, I lightly admonished an anonymous bunch of folks for not personalizing their business (noting that the title of this column is “Business is Personal”).

After that, it seems logical that I give you some tools to make it easier to do what I was complaining about last week.

There are two ways of doing this: manually (more or less free) and automatically (requires a small investment).

No matter which method you use, you're going to have to provide a place in your customer list or database for the birthday info.

Let's assume you use QuickBooks to run your business. I know that not everyone does, but I have to assume something and QB is the leader in this area.

Let's get your customer file setup so you can start keeping track of your clientele's birthdays.

Note to Privacy enthusiasts: All you need to collect is the month, or the month and day. The year is completely unnecessary. Given that in 15 minutes, I can spend $15 and get your social security number, full date of birth and other info that would appear to be private, collecting the month or month and day is pretty tame. Just be sure that you tell your customers that you plan to send them a birthday card. If they want to pass on the offer, don't push it. There's no need to aggravate someone if they don't want you to send them a birthday greeting.

Back to QuickBooks: Click Customers, Customer Center. When the customer center opens, double click on any customer's name. Click on the Additional info tab.

Over on the right side of that tab down at the bottom, you'll see a button that says “Define fields."

Click the button and the Define Fields screen will open. In the first empty column on the left, type "Birthday" and check the first box right next to that field (the one marked “Customer:Jobs”). Click OK.
Now you have a field for each customer's file that you can use to store birthday info, and QuickBooks will take care of the data for you.

Once you have a place to keep track of your client birthday info, use index cards or a small form to collect your clientele's birthdays. At a time each day that works for you, have a staff member enter the birthdays into QuickBooks (or whatever you use). If you use a paper system, file them by month and deal with them once a month during the last week of the prior month.

The automatic method of collecting birthdays involves exporting your customer list and send it to a firm that does list cleansing (address correction and the like) and ask them to do a "birthday append". Using readily available public records, they'll put birth dates on your files and return them to you.

Using the birthday info

If you're using a paper system, get the daily, weekly or monthly routine in your schedule to take care of the cards (and getting your staff to help is a good idea). If you are using QuickBooks or a similar system, export the names once a month, sort them by birthday month using Microsoft Excel or OpenOffice (free).

At this point, you can work from that list, create mailing labels (hand addressed is better – think about the mail you receive, and how you decide how important it is), use real stamps (not indicia) and get them in the mail. Make it part of your routine.

Another way to automate this process is to upload the mailing address and birthday info to SendOutCards and setup a birthday campaign. It can automatically send birthday cards in your handwriting, with your real signature. While not quite a personal as a hand-written card, it's better than several alternatives, and certainly better than doing nothing.

Of course the best way would be to take the time to write each one a hand-written note but this becomes difficult when you have birthdays for 1,000 visitors to your restaurant, for example.

That's when mail merged letters and cards sometimes become necessary. You could get 1,000 cards written a year simply by being diligent and writing a few every day (or with a more ambitious once-weekly schedule).

Birthdays are the one thing that everyone in your clientele has in common. Some of your clients are male, female, black, American Indian, Republican, White, Democrat, Libertarian, Independent, tall, short, rich, poor and so on – but they all have birthdays, and they all appreciate being thought of.

Think of your customers during their special month.

Want to learn more about Mark or ask him to write about a business, operations or marketing problem? See Mark's site or contact him at mriffey@flatheadbeacon.com.
On 10-24-08, Luis Garcia commented....
Great article… I agree SendOutCards.com is a great tool to gain referrals. http://www.PostOutCards.com.au (540) 320-1045
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