Practical Personalization: Birthday Lists

In this issue of List Building for Bloggers I’ll step you through using birthday lists to help deliver additional value to both your clients and you sponsors, via custom fields.

[This is the latest article in the List Building for Bloggers series “ Click here to read all the recent #LBB posts]

Birthday Lists – The Theory

The idea is to ask the subscriber as they subscribe what month they were born in, and then to email them something special from you – or your sponsors – to celebrate the birthday. Why is this a good thing?

  • It helps reinforce the relationship between you and your subscribers;
  • It helps incent readers to stick around for their rewards;
  • You can sell the birthday mailing to sponsors or use affiliate monetization.

Birthday Month, not Birthday Date

So we’re going to ask subscribers for the month they were born: January, February etc. We’re not going to ask them to enter their birthday.

  • Choosing a month is easy – there are only 12 options;
  • Entering dates is a hassle and error prone, especially if you have international readership;
  • We’re only going to use the month anyway (mailing them on their birthday is a daily chore – don’t want that) – the extra data isn’t any use in this case;
  • Some people don’t want to give their date of birth for a variety of reasons, but just asking for the month is basically harmless.

So asking for the month only make sense all round – less friction, no privacy issues, and much less work for us.

Birthday Lists – The Practice

Setting Up the Custom Fields

[Note: We’re going to use FeedBlitz’s UI for the step-by-step here, but most email services support this kind of thing too; ask their support function for help]

  1. In FeedBlitz, pick “Custom Fields” from the “Publisher Tools” section in the left side bar.
  2. Click “Confgure Custom Fields”
  3. Click the “Add Custom Fields” button

Now let’s define the field. Call it (say) “BirthMonth” (without the quotes). Since we want to make sure all the data is entered correctly, and we know the potential choices, define the field as “Choice” – a list is drop down box, which is more compact, whereas radios are easier to use but take up more space.

Now we have to enter the values we’re going to allow. January through December, right?

Not so fast.

Here’s the planning part. Are you going to require people enter the field? What about existing subscribers who have not shared their birth month with you? What will the default be?

If the field is optional AND you’re using the list version of the field, you need to add a 13th option. Why? Because if the user doesn’t pick a month the list box will just use the top value; you’re going to end up with a lot of folks in January! So for lists, add a 13th value, call it “–Pick Your Birth Month–“, give it the undefined value and drag it to the top of the list.

You also need to decide what you’re going to store in the custom field – the month name? The month number? FeedBlitz will default to the name you type in, but you can change that to 01 to 12, for example, or the abbreviations like Jan to Dec instead. This matters if you’re going to export the data later and use it in another system. Get it right now, otherwise you’ll have to “translate” the data when you export it for use elsewhere.

Anyway, by the time you’re done, you’re going to end up with a screen that looks something like this:

Note that we’ve made the field optional (so the new subscriber doesn’t have to enter it if they don’t want to), that it is not hidden on the form, and we’ve added a prompt and some popup help.

Creating Segments

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you defined the database values for the birth month to be the abbreviations: Jan, Feb, Mar etc.

Here’s the FeedBlitz segment expression that picks all the subscribers, like me, with birthdays in April:


Easy! You can do this when you send your first mailing to your April birthdays (on March 31st in this case) via Newsletters – Mailings – Newsflash. At the foot of the screen you can create the segment expression – and save it for the same time next year. (In FeedBlitz v4, you can define segments in advance, getting the job done much faster).

One List, 12 Segments, Happy Birthdays!

And it’s as simple as that. With a simple field, scope narrowed down to keep it simple, your one list has now become much more powerful. No need for fancy triggers or rules or what have you; just a single well-defined custom field.

Wait: What are you going to send?

With the mechanics out of the way, the real work begins: What are you going to send readers on their birthday?

  • If you’re e-commerce, a special coupon or discount code valid for the month.
  • For content marketers, perhaps a special offer on your e-Book or webcasts.
  • Service provders – a special consultation, an hour of your time, perhaps?
  • For crafters, an appropriate seasonal item or tip.

You get the idea. Everyone of us has something we can offer, and your subscribers will totally value that special something you’re giving them. Just make sure it is special.

Next Up

Before I get to DIY vs, outsource, I’ll address the audience request on graphic design.

About List Building For Bloggers #LBB

Written by Phil Hollows, the FeedBlitz Founder and CEO, List Building for Bloggers (#LBB) is a series of posts to help you make the most of your blogging by harnessing the power and capabilities of email, the universal social network, with your bog and social media communications. No matter whether you’re a novice or a more advanced blogger, there will be something for you to learn, apply and benefit from in this series. Click here to read more about #LBB

P.S. If you think your friends or followers would find this series valuable, please retweet on Twitter or “Like” on Facebook using the buttons below. Don’t forget to use the #LBB hashtag when you do. Thank you! And if you have a comment, contribution or something else to say, please comment too. 🙂