Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Is Your Online Business Making Best Use of its Consumer Information?

As of this month, I’ve spent almost four years online. In that time I’ve filled out hundreds of online forms at various business and consumer websites. Sometimes it was to register for access to the site, or to make a purchase, or just to get some really cool “free stuff.”

Each online form asked me for a lot of personal information, and on a good majority of those forms my birth date was one of the questions asked. We can assume this question is asked for a variety of reasons, including age verification and for the website’s in-house marketing research.

However, I’m always careful about what information I do provide on a form and I caution everyone I know to be at least as careful as I am about what I tell about myself to anyone online.

For instance, nobody but Uncle Sam and a few select affiliate programs need or deserve to know what my social security number is. If it is asked for at all it had better be on an SSL form.

I also assume (having a keen eye for a marketing opportunity when I see one) that websites asking for information from me and about me plan to use some of the information I provide to their best advantage, whatever that might be.

So I was really surprised when, of all the online retailers I have told about myself on their forms, ONLY TWO sent me a birthday wish and only one of those two thought enough to include a special offer this past 24th of August. Yes, only ONE!

Sad isn’t it?

I’m not too surprised that DOTCOM companies are starting to disappear like flies at a frog convention. From the way I’ve seen so many online retailers operate their businesses and handle their advertising dollars, when I learn of the number splashing down in bankruptcy, or simply closing their edoors, it doesn’t astonish me at all.

Many, if not most, will each spend many times the number of dollars in advertising for each dollar they net in sales in 2000, and then they will sit there with red ink all over their hard copy accounting notes and wonder why they are struggling, commercially.

Here’s a little advice, and a clue, if you want to call it, for the clueless who are running their enet businesses like a garage sale.

Instead of spending a cool million on that next banner ad campaign, hoping to squeeze a 1% or 2% click-thru ratio out of it, why not try a friendly business strategy that nobody else on the net seems to be using?

First, assuming you have asked visitors to your site to fill out a order form or some other personal data form, filter your customer database to find “matching birth dates.” Then plan to send a special birthday greeting and money-saving offer out each day to each customer who is celebrating a birthday on that day.

Wow! What a concept! And just what would it take? A few hours of database work to start the process, plus a few hours drafting an appropriate birthday card/greeting and offer and then–if your processes are automated efficiently–just a few minutes each day of the year to send a cordial, personal birthday greeting out to your astonished customers/site visitors.

Your offer is far more likely to be noticed in the mob of impersonal “sales letters” and other cookie-cutter marketing messages we all suffer through, and it’s even more likely to get more bang for your buck than money you might be spending to sponsor an ezine. Which is actually one of my preferred methods of advertising on the net but yet is still not as “cheap” as the “birthday method”.

The unexpected and nicely timed greeting and offer I received from practically jumped out of my daily email influx. I’m sure that site’s personalized birthday note and special offer sent to its other customers also make an equally pleasant impression on just about everyone else who at some point filled out a information form.

The parallel between this site’s reaching out to its customers and the way the real world works isn’t that remote, either. For years each of my kids has been receiving annual “Free Birthday Meal” coupons from both Burger King and McDonald’s, a week or two before their birthdays. Does Ronald McDonald know something Wendy’s and Arby’s don’t, about building consumer appreciation at an early age? I receive birthday cards annually from my chiropractor, and my mailbox also usually holds one or two special offers for birthday savings, sent a week before or shortly after my birthday.

So why do online retailers seem to ignore this simple but effective piece of marketing? In my opinion, it is most likely one or both of two reasons.

1. They’re too blinded by the online “mainstream” advertising methods that make no one but advertising agencies rich. They’d rather spend their advertising money on banners, ezines, and other costly ways of acquiring new customers instead of treating the customers they do have in a special way.

2. They just haven’t figured out that they can use their existing database of customers to fuel their next marketing campaign and make those customers feel special, both at the same time.

We’re not talking two-tier chocolate cakes with candles, followed by a magic show here. Just a simple effort that could reap untold benefits to the online sites that use existing customer/visitor information wisely and in a timely fashion. Wouldn’t it make the whole online world a lot more friendly if we started treating each other like family. After all, family members usually don’t forget our birthdays! 馃槈

*This article written by Lisa Schmeckpeper of LRS Marketing and published in their free newsletter, Website Success Monthly. To receive a free copy of this informative e-zine just send email to or visit their website at Copyright 2000 [LRS Marketing]. All rights reserved.

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