Good marketers have long recognised the power of using anniversaries or special dates as a relationship enhancing marketing tool. However, sometimes they can get it wrong and what should be a lovely gesture to bring your customers and professional network closer to you can go wrong.

So, here’s a quick guide for how to make a anniversaries a marketing gift not gaff.

First: who is this date important to?

Is this an anniversary or date that important to you and your organisation or to your customers and or contacts / their organisation? The distinction is important as it will determine the best way to use this special date to deepen your relationship with your clients and contacts.

If this is a date that means something to your business, then you are inviting your clients and network to share with you your feelings about the relevance of this date.

If the anniversary is something of relevance to your customers or network, then you are helping them celebrate something of meaning to them.

Let’s look at what this distinction means when it comes to marketing in practice.


Scenario 1. It’s your special date

When it’s your special date, such as a business anniversary, then it’s great to want to share the sense of celebration with the people who have helped you achieve it.

In this case, choose a way to do it which is relevant to your organisation (while still being respectful of what your clients and contacts might enjoy), in keeping with your brand and its values, and special enough to make it feel of worth to those being included.


Real examples

For KMS Marketing’s 2nd Anniversary, I sent out purple (brand colour) party bags of sweets to my clients and contacts with purple or pink or dark blue wrapped sweets (e.g. parma violets, those purple ones from Quality Street I can never remember the name of, some blue wrapped sweets I found in Tesco) and a party card stating that KMS Marketing was celebrating its 2nd Birthday and wanted to thank them for being part of that.

It worked because my brand values are being open, informal, a bit fun, yet very much ‘on brand’ (I am a marketer after all).


Your turn

1. Think about a special anniversary your business has coming up. Is it xx years since you first set up / had your first sale / turned your first profit? Or have you just hit a milestone – first 100 clients / employees / businesses helped? Whatever it is, write it down.

2.  Now write down your brand values and how you want your professional network to perceive your business.

3. Next, think about ways to share your sense of celebration and achievement. Go large – parties, boxes at Ascot. Go small – cards, gifts, messages. Go everything in between – drinks events, really nice gifts, coffees out.

4. Take your budget, be realistic about how long it will take to do everything, then decide which of the options best fits your brand values, your celebration type, your budget and the time you have.


Top tip: calculate all the costs even for ‘go small’ options

When I did my ‘party bags’ they cost £10 each by the time I bought everything, had cards designed and made, then posted them. I sent out 35. As my clients and contacts were geographically spread then it made sense to spend £350 this way.

If my network was in a smaller geographic location, then it might have made more sense to host a drinks event for a similar budget.


Scenario 2. Their special date

First, let’s be clear, I am excluding general celebratory dates like Christmas, Easter, sporting wins and so on. These are celebratory dates that are unique to your clients.

This means that you need to help them celebrate in a way that they will appreciate – it really is all about them.

Be imaginative.

It could be a year since you helped them win that big new client that set them up for a successful year. Or it’s six months since the system you designed went live.

Be sensitive.

As one of my clients, a solicitor said, “Our clients who we helped with divorces don’t want to be reminded by us it’s one year since they were legally divorced…and those who we represented when they were accused of a criminal offence don’t want a reminder of that. But we do recommend updating your Will every five years so we can do that!”

This approach of celebrating their special dates is manageable if:

  • you have a small client base so you get to know them and have those conversations where they share personal information;
  • or you have the budget /a person who has as part of their role finding this information out;
  • and you have an active Customer Management System which you update regularly as you find out or know about these special dates.

For most SMEs (Small to Medium-sized Enterprises) the pragmatic path is to make a diary note when you are talking to your key contacts and clients and then send them something when you remember / it appears in your calendar.

Real examples

One of my clients helps ambitious professionals make their next career move. She sends personalised gifts to them on the First Anniversary of their ‘new’ job that she helped them move into.

Another client keeps good records of ‘special occasions’ that are coming up for their key contacts at client organisations. For example, if they know through conversation that their contact is expecting their first child, they note it down, then find out when the baby has arrived and send an appropriate card and gift.

Your turn

1.Think about your current clients. What dates are important to them and which they would be happy for you to recognise and ‘celebrate’ with you? It might be a birthday or wedding anniversary or birth or a business anniversary.

My general rule is: if they have been chatting with you about it, they will be happy if you acknowledge it in a non-obtrusive way.wrong type of marketer

2.Once you have listed those clients (or key contacts) and their ‘special’ date, jot down some ideas of how you could acknowledge it. It may be as simple as a card or a message. It could be sending them their favourite chocolates, biscuits or bottle of wine. Make it something relevant to them.

3. Go back to scenario 1 and make sure you apply your brand values, budget and resource criteria as before.


To conclude…

With thought and care, anniversaries can be a real marketing gift allowing you to build a deeper relationship with your clients and key contacts.


The author, Kara Stanford of KMS Marketing, is a Strategic Marketing Consultant based in Hampshire, UK.

Contact her if you would like to improve your marketing and have a plan in place that will actually work.

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