This guest blog post was written by Michael Marchesani, CEO of BirthdayPak.
An entire industry has been built on leveraging life’s most memorable moments – from weddings and graduations to buying a new home or bringing a new baby into the world. Smart companies have always known that life’s important milestones are powerful triggers for enormous consumer spending.
But I’ve always thought that there was untapped potential in the celebration of birthdays. After all, every one of us celebrates our birthday and those of our friends and family…and they happen every year like clockwork. For the dining industry in particular, it’s an occasion that is a proven driver for indulgent consumer spending.
I also didn’t feel that any one company in particular was necessarily exploiting this niche very well. With that in mind, in 2010, leveraging my background in advertising and direct response marketing, I founded BirthdayPak.
BirthdayPak is an integrated cooperative turnkey marketing solution that connects upscale businesses with their best potential customers by sending them a birthday greeting through the mail featuring eight gift cards for local businesses. Reaching consumers with offers from great local businesses at the exact moment when they are likely to be treating themselves to those exact services in celebration of their birthday is the very definition of life event marketing.
Designing a Better Advertising Model
The idea behind BirthdayPak is simple but has proven to be very effective. BirthdayPak advertisers struggle for a meaningful way to advertise to their customer base in a way that drives immediate and sustainable results, while at the same time protecting the brand and image that they’ve worked so hard to cultivate.
Although group-buying platforms like Groupon and Living Social were popular for a time, they have proven to be unsustainable economically for restaurants, spas and salons by forcing them to offer deep discounts to an audience that never has to pay full price for those services…in effect, devaluing their products.
By contrast, I designed BirthdayPak to be a “win-win” for both advertisers and customers. The model allows local businesses to advertise directly to affluent women in their community – marketing to the consumer that is most likely to become their next loyal customers. And for the BirthdayPak recipient, the gift cards create the opportunity for them to visit local businesses and take advantage of great offers without feeling like a cheapskate. After all, gift cards are perceived differently than coupons or printed vouchers…gift cards are cash!
The cost is also significantly lower than many other forms of advertising and has proven highly successful in driving new and repeat business for hundreds of our clients. (For example, the BirthdayPak program drove 1,490 unique dining transactions and $115,000 in revenue to one prominent upscale restaurant outside of Philadelphia during a single twelve-month advertising period, averaging almost 125 unique transactions each month).
But the most distinctive aspect of BirthdayPak is how we build lasting relationships with BirthdayPak recipients on behalf of our advertisers and keep their brand “top-of-mind.” You see, each BirthdayPak is deployed with a unique activation code along with instructions for the recipient to visit our website for the purposes of activating their BirthdayPak offers.
Of course, during the online activation process, we ask the consumer for permission to continue a dialog with her by way of email on behalf of the advertisers featured in her BirthdayPak, turning the BirthdayPak marketing platform into a multi-channel marketing solution and not just a driver of one-time-only discounted transactions.
Furthermore, as BirthdayPak continues to expand nationally through franchising and our reach and brand awareness grows, the database of activators will also continue to grow creating “big data” on one of the most desirable consumers on the face of the earth. This creates opportunities within advertising verticals beyond those that we currently serve.
Growing the Brand with Franchise Partners
As with most new startups, BirthdayPak’s roots are humble. Launching a new business is always filled with challenges, but starting a company in a down economy brought extra hurdles that made success a real long shot. But we stayed focused and committed to our brand and our promise and by doing so, it has turned into quite a success story.
What was once a small town, fledgling cooperative direct mail distributed in and around the suburbs of Philadelphia has emerged as an award-winning, turnkey marketing solution for local, regional and national businesses in 10 states and 15 major metropolitan markets, and we are actively seeking marketing-savvy business people to bring BirthdayPak to the rest of America.
In 2014, we began awarding a limited number of BirthdayPak franchises to qualified, business-minded individuals. BirthdayPak franchise owners are carefully vetted and provided with extensive training and support along with customized cloud-based management tools to ensure their success.
Today, BirthdayPak has franchises in Charlotte, North Carolina; Southwest Florida; Central New Jersey; Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas; Tulsa and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; and Columbus, Ohio, as well as company-owned territories in Massachusetts, Maryland, Southern New Jersey, Delaware and our flagship territory in Southeastern Pennsylvania. We continue to actively seek new franchisee partners in cities across the U.S.
What the Future Holds
I am often asked about the lessons that I’ve learned in guiding BirthdayPak through the dark, early days when not only was there no light at the end of the tunnel, but the tunnel appeared to have actually imploded on itself. The lessons are easy…maintain a healthy sense of humor, make decisions quickly and decisively, be willing to admit mistakes and correct them, never take yourself too seriously, cherish the people that believe in your dream and vision, never underestimate the role that luck played in your success, and never ever, ever, ever lose faith.
The future for BirthdayPak is bright. Never in my 28-year professional career have I worked on a brand that brings joy to so many people. Bringing smiles to hundreds of thousands of people across the country as they celebrate their birthday using BirthdayPak Gift Cards, while at the same time helping business owners to meet their goals, is gratifying work and the peak of my career in marketing. Bringing BirthdayPak to your hometown may well be the culmination of yours, as well.
Michael Marchesani is the CEO and founder of BirthdayPak and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, please visit their consumer website, BirthdayPak.com, and their franchise website, BirthdayPakFranchise.com.