Blowing Out the Candles

By Beacon Staff

My birthday was earlier this month and as I do every year, I take great care to notice (and reward) those businesses who paid attention in the past when I brought it up, as well as those who already have my birth date and use it wisely.

While not every business knows my birthday (or at least the month), there’s still a fairly good number who do.

Examples include: Attorney, anyone with any sort of financial contact such as CPA, stock brokerage (even the internet ones – and I use several), IRA, insurance of any and every variety, mortgage broker, Realtor, dry cleaner, financial planner, car salespeople, every bank I have an account with, the local movie rental places, the pharmacy at the grocery store, every doctor and dentist I’ve ever seen, and so on.

Wow. That’s more than I thought.

So here’s the breakdown of birthday contacts received this year from people I do business with:

Phone calls: One.

The call came from Jim Spence over at Eisinger Chevrolet in Kalispell. In the last 5 years, I’ve bought 2 used cars from Jim and given him a bunch of grief because he jokingly promised the dark blue one would never get dirty. Jim didn’t call to sell me anything, just to wish a happy birthday, and make some small talk. He’s also one of few who sends out a newsletter – even though I think he should send it more often.
Any guesses who I’ll call first the next time I’m ready to buy a car – even if I don’t want a Chevy?

Postcards: None.

Last year, a local hardware store sent a personalized one that even had my name mail merged into it.

Faxes: None.

A bit of a surprise.

Greeting cards: One.

A computer generated and computer signed card from my auto/home insurance agent using an online card service similar to the Send Out Cards service I mentioned several months ago. The card was mailed from somewhere else, so (as with SOC) the agent never saw it. I assume he chose at some point in the past to mail it or not mail it. I expect it might be a for-fee option in their corporate-managed marketing system.

Even so, that is far better than silence. The card included an insert to remind me to stop by the office for a free gift (probably a map – which is actually a pretty nice one). I usually wait until I manage to destroy the last one I got from them. When your rig is filled with kids and dogs several times a month, it happens more quickly than you’d think.
Emails: None.

The cheapest, simplest thing anyone could have done. Yet not one did.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t sit around all day fretting and wondering why I didn’t get more birthday loving from businesses who take my money.

What I do think, however, is that my work is far from done here in small business land. It’s clear from today’s results that a lot of people’s businesses aren’t personal – and in a post-bailout economy, that’s insane.

For those in the crowd who are freaking out that I expect someone to dig through their file cabinets at the mortgage company and find out your birthday – they really don’t even need that. The month would be acceptable.
The month and the day would be a bonus. Ask during the *prospect* phase, so you don’t have to waste time digging through files. Automation is your friend. Besides, I can find your birthday online for $15, so relax.

I really don’t care if you are 5, 25, 55 or 95, you still appreciate it when a business remembers your birthday and holy cow, stunned if they offer you a discount coupon, a BOGO or *some* sort of offer to get you in the store for a birthday gift, bonus or special.

Your next step: Ask your customers for their birthday month. If they don’t mind, tell them they can fill in the day only if they wish. Tell them why you’re asking, and then be sure to follow up with a card, call, email, a bratwurst and kraut, or something.

One last thing…Success in the New West is this Friday night (Oct 17). You might be thinking that you could use that $150 elsewhere. Well, maybe you can, but it’s going to be a well-spent, long-term investment in yourSuccess in the New West.

It’s clear that the Success topics and speakers were recruited while keeping in mind some of the things that keep small business owners, managers and staffers up at night.

Topics such as…

  • How to deal with the changing media landscape, Web 2.0, internet newspapers and how they impact communities in Montana – by NewWest.net founder Jonathan Weber
  • Economy outlook for the future, from your family to the world – by Jeff Thredgold
  • Attracting, engaging and retaining a wide generational range of employees – by Kristin Donahue
  • What each candidate’s health care plan *really* means – by Patrick Barkley
  • Montana’s Energy Future and the hidden opportunities that lie within – by Tom Kaiserski
  • New thinking and uncommon practices to help you hit your stride, business and career-wise, even in a down-trending economy – by Nan Russell
  • TMI. Dealing with Too Much Information. How to cope, balance, deal with time wasters, and still get it all done – by Michelle Skaletski-Boyd
  • Sustainable building: What it means to the builder, homeowner, environment and economy – a panel discussion with David Fischlowitz, Dan Stevenson and Susan Ross Dykhuizen, moderated by Mora McCarthy

To learn more, check out http://www.successinthenewwest.com.

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 [email protected].

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.