Practical Ecommerce

12 tips for creating a great customer birthday program

What’s the one thing people are most fond of, after their name?

Their birthday!

Annual events like Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day roll around every year, and while not everyone celebrates them, everyone has a birthday.

Even if something like 19 million people (7 billion people divided by 365 days) share the same birthday across the world each day, there’s still something very special about the day you were born.

People often remember their favourite birthday parties as a child, and how they celebrated their milestones. With the death of “snail mail”, a birthday card is becoming a rarity and so it’s one marketing method that will create real cut-through with your customer.

A birthday program will help you win the loyalty and attention of your customers – but only if you use it!

How many times have you been asked for your birthday details by different businesses? Dozens of times, perhaps? And yet are you surprised to receive say, only a handful of emails or mass-produced postcards from companies sending you birthday wishes each year?

People feel surprisingly indulgent on their birthdays and some (like my partner!) string out what he calls the “Festival of Me” for a good week or so. It’s their time to feel special.

Since I introduced an email AND handwritten birthday greeting program, my sales have zoomed. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Of those repeat purchasers who have received a birthday card for themselves, their partner or their child, 38% have bought another product within three months.

Here’s 12 tips on creating a great customer birthday program:

  1. If you don’t already do so, ask for your customer’sr day, month and year of birth upon registration. While the day and month is the minimum info you need, asking for the year will help you target those special milestones, such as their 18th, 21st, 25th, 30th birthday and so on, and fine-tune your demographic data so you know what age groups are buying your products.

  2. If you have a CRM system, and if the information is appropriate in relation to the products you sell, ask for their partner’s and/or their children’s names and birthdates too. Additional birthdays or anniversary dates give you several opportunities to target them throughout the year.

  3. Design branded, but blank interior greeting cards which you can use for any occasion. Don’t design it with a Happy Birthday message; it’s unlikely to be design-equally appropriate for young children and for adults, and if you ask for anniversary dates, they won’t be served by such a specific birthday card design!

  4. Create a basic message which can be tweaked depending on whether they were the original purchaser or the recipient, an adult or a child, and whether you’re mentioning their age.

  5. You’ll make the most impact on your customer if you actually handwrite the birthday card (hopefully you have nice writing) and get extra points for handwriting the envelope, too! Pre-printed, mail-merged greeting cards with only their name to differentiate customers aren’t nearly as special. What’s the expense and effort of a handwritten card worth to your company’s business? Remember: the only handwritten birthday cards most adults receive these days are from their mothers or grandmothers so yours will stand out!

  6. Enclose an offer to celebrate. Most people feel very self-indulgent around their birthday and may treat themselves then to a special offer from your company. Making it date-specific will push them to act, while open-ended promotions save you printing costs.

  7. If you’re sending the card to your customer’s workplace, ensure the offer or voucher code provides more than single-use: they may be delighted enough to show their birthday card to colleagues, and pass the voucher onto them. I have had several orders come in from company addresses where I’ve just sent the customer’s birthday card.

  8. Ideally, check your customers’ address details a month prior to their birthdays. Most people are open to receiving something on their birthday. I have open rates of over 30% on these “Can I please check your address?” emails with about 20% of customers responding with a new address.

  9. Send the birthday card at least one week before their actual birthdate. This gives it plenty of time to arrive, lets them enjoy prolong the Festival of Me, and it lets them display your card (which may be the only one they receive) for their friends to see.

  10. Another reason to mail their birthday card early is that they may have moved. If they’ve done a mail direction it may still reach their new address in time.

  11. If you receive their birthday card stamped Return to Sender, email them to update their address and wish them a belated birthday.

  12. Don’t mention their age if your customer is a woman aged over 30, or a man older than 40. Many people who are older than this are uncomfortable having people know how old they are, especially if you’re sending it to a work address where colleagues might see it.


Sign up for our email newsletter

  1. Kirstin Crothers September 17, 2012 Reply

    Great article! I send birthday cards to special clients and they often call me to thank me – even the ones who never take my calls! I’m amazed more people don’t send cards – but they don’t so you look amazingly thoughful and organised when you do.

    For a great range of blank cards at sane prices check out:

  2. Elizabeth Ball September 18, 2012 Reply

    Thanks Kirstin!

  3. Ashley Neal October 1, 2012 Reply

    Great tips Elizabeth! Thanks for reading and sharing on my post: Build Lifelong Relationships with Your Customers By Celebrating Their Birthdays:


  4. Brigitte Taylor March 9, 2013 Reply

    Excellent points. But Technology can really help. Especially if your business is growing (or like in our case a small chain of stores – fashion). Then programs like offer automated birthday greeting sending to customer exactly as your describe over text messages, email, or even printed postcards. You could even create or use different design and copy for different segments (boys, girls, women, etc.). I hope it helps.

  5. Elizabeth Ball March 14, 2013 Reply

    Thanks Brigitte – I haven’t heard of Alicanto before!

  6. Shannah Lynn February 19, 2014 Reply

    With identity theft on the uprise, I would consider it a respectable thing to NOT intrude on this antic of gathering their birthdate. IT may appear to be in the best of interest, yet lets face it, its done for the sale and not the true value of wishing them well. Perhaps their birthday month is more suitable in the work environment.

    • Elizabeth Ball February 19, 2014 Reply

      Hi Shannah, you may have a point however if you only ask their month and day, but not their year, identity theft might not be an issue. I think customers know we, as retailers, would like them to purchase from us, and since they are in the mood to indulge themselves around their birthday, it can be a win-win. It is still surprising how many companies ask for your birthday as a demographic capture yet never acknowledge you on the day.

  7. Paul Buchtmann June 26, 2014 Reply

    Elizabeth I have been doing birthday messages for more than 10 years now and while I have dropped of a number of times it is amazing the reaction from people when one does remember them and send a personal message.

    Thanks for the reminder to get back and just do it one never know the result until we try

  8. Elizabeth Ball June 27, 2014 Reply

    Thanks Paul for your comments. A curious thing I’ve noticed about birthdays is few people ever resent being wished a happy birthday, and if it’s done each year by a retailer they’ve bought from, they feel more appreciated than those retailers who take their money and then have nothing to do with them.

  9. Justin Shelby July 30, 2015 Reply

    This is a great article! My question would be, how do we indirectly ask the client what their birthday is? I’m in Hotel Sales, first year, and I’d like to start sending clients birthday wishes. I do think it would be easier to just ask for the month, but the day seems more surprising when you show up with a small token of appreciation.

    • Elizabeth Hollingsworth July 30, 2015 Reply

      Hi Justin, I would be completely transparent and directly ask them, “What date is your birthday? We’d love to send you a special hotel offer on your birthday.” You might find it worthwhile also to include a field for their partner’s birthday as then you can contact them twice a year.
      Not many people make the effort any more and most people do like to treat themselves – and be treated -on their birthday.

  10. Shannon April 29, 2016 Reply

    Thanks for the great post! I’ll definitely be sending my clients handwritten cards from now on!

  11. Carmen Culpepper Narvaez January 9, 2018 Reply

    Thank you so much Elizabeth for taking the time to write about this topic! Very helpful, as I have been wanting to implement a more consistent birthday recognition program for our clients!