A free gift……

I recently celebrated yet another birthday. They appear to come alarmingly more frequent. As a kid I used to count the birthday cards but now count, with amazement, the number of good wishes I receive via social media. The greetings come from the world over as my friends and family get spread further and further.

In the old days of course, one had to make a great effort of keeping a birthday book, buying a card, the correct value in stamps and remembering to put the card in the mail. These days, thanks to technology, we’re reminded automatically and all it requires is to post ‘Happy Birthday’ and to add an emoji or an imaginative sticker, gif or what have you.

That’s not to deride the process as I for one really (no, honestly, REALLY) like to wish my friends the best on their birthdays and appreciate being able to do so easily and across the world. The technology is a huge help to my memory and I love (thank you Mr Zuckerberg) being able to maintain contact with contacts from school, various workplaces as well as family, wherever they may be.

However I digress from what I intended to write.

I also received messages from a number of businesses that want my business. Starbucks for example. I’m a gift card spending , app using, loyalty card carrying Starbucks follower and of course they have my birthdate. So I get the message offering a free coffee. I know that this is an automatic system that just pings off the email, and I know that the free coffee costs virtually nothing. I also recognize that I probably won’t even claim my gift. But it makes me feel good none the less. My ego thinks they really care, even if my marketing brain knows different.

So, tourism people, when that client registered on your website did you collect the birthday information? More to the point, when that traveler made a booking six months out from their travel date did you contact them during those months other than to send them a balance invoice?

Back in the 70s and 80s the travel agency I worked in used to make a calendar entry for all their clients bookings and regularly sent out postcards to the clients saying ‘only two months to your trip’, or ‘are you packing yet?’. We even considered sending postcards from their destination to keep the excitement going. It was a chore, delegated to the office junior, but mighty effective. We also sent out cards after the vacation asking how the trip had been, and later reminding them that as six months had past, they needed another break! The customers loved it and kept coming back.

These days all that information is easy to collect automatically (no need for the office junior!) and scheduling the emails, FB messages etc., requires little or no work. Cheap too – no postcards, stamps, addresses to look up or trips to the mail.

My free birthday gift to all of you in travel and tourism is to make use of your databases. Send out messages reminding people about their forthcoming vacation, thank them for their past trip (no, not the customer satisfaction survey, but a genuine ‘thanks for visiting and we want you back’ message), or even a ‘we’re missing you’ email.

For DMOs, when your collecting likes on Facebook, or addresses in your database, follow up with a message asking if they’ve booked? Send them Holiday Greetings – personalized of course – from The Sunshine State, The Red Fish Coast or wherever you are.

Yes, it’s corny. Yes, the customer knows it’s automatic. But they also, deep inside, appreciate it.

It’s like thanking them for their good review of TripAdvisor. It shows you’re listening and that, behind the technology, you do actually care.

Oh, and in case  missed it – Happy Birthday!Birthday Cards