Why birthdays matter for business

small__6967029762Particularly with the advent of social media, people’s personal and business lives are coming closer and closer together. Birthday greetings are no longer restricted to friends and family; friendship and camaraderie go way beyond that now. It’s lovely, but it needs to be managed with courtesy and consideration.

I write this the day after my, er, 39th birthday (again) yesterday. I have been overwhelmed by literally hundreds of birthday messages on the social media, via email, text, plus dozens of hard-copy cards and more. I am truly humbled and feel I don’t deserve all this, but I sure as hell appreciate it.

Even on Google I was astounded to see, when I clicked on the search page, that it was wishing me Happy Birthday with some cute graphics. Really helped to make my day although of course I know it’s all about software, algorithms and number crunching with not a human being in sight.

So, I can hear you ask, what do these “happy birthday” messages mean when all people have to do is look on their Facebook home page to see whose birthdays it is on any particular day? Or their Google Plus page? And then type in a standard “happy birthday” message and move on to the next one?

People care: whether they’re business contacts or not

I know how I approach the daily Facebook list of birthdays. If it’s people I know well, I send them a “happy birthday” message with a word or two to personalize it. If it’s someone I only know via the social media and not face-to-face, it will just be a “happy birthday.”

Other social media platforms are taking up the birthday trend, like Google Plus for example – who cleverly provides you with a convenient list of people who have wished you Happy Birthday from your circles, communities, pages, etc.

Even to the most cynical among us, birthdays matter. Come on: they happen once in 365 days. If they didn’t matter there wouldn’t be a huge industry involved with selling birthday cards, gifts, cakes, party favors, balloons, etc. It’s annual celebration that’s all about YOU.

So how does celebrating birthdays matter to business?

No matter how much you may divide your personal life away from that of your business, if you have provided your date of birth to any online database – especially within the social media sphere – your birthday will get flagged up somewhere, somehow.

Some people who insist on remaining tightly private will avoid giving away this information. But let’s be honest here. If you’re looking someone up on, say, LinkedIn or Facebook and you find that they reveal absolutely nothing about their personal selves, even to their “friends,” what does that make you think? I don’t know about you, but I wonder why they give so little away about themselves. Are they trustworthy? Why are they refraining from giving away a bit of social information – after all, that’s the idea behind social media?

We’re not talking the Spanish Inquisition here. The social media don’t force you to give your age away unless you want to. All you have to reveal is the day and date. And this provides you and your SocMed contacts with a warm, friendly way of connecting and indirectly reinforcing your business relationship.

small_3274252858What should you say?

Well, certainly on Facebook and other platforms where you’re likely to get a number of birthday wishes, you need to thank every single person for their kind thoughts. I spent a lot time on the day thanking each and every one of these people individually – over 200 of them.

Others in my shoes might just have posted a universal message saying something like “hey, guys, thank you all for your lovely messages – much appreciated.” But think about it. If someone takes the trouble to wish you a Happy Birthday, surely you can find 10 seconds or so to thank them personally?

Let’s not be too commercial here, but…

Everyone says that building relationships whether online or offline is key to developing your business and social stability in our current times. They’re not wrong.

Quite apart from the main reason – good manners – why you should thank people for their kind wishes, if there is a business connection it’s important, too, that they realize you’re a polite and appreciative human being.

With business today being increasingly about building trust, respect and good relationships (and with those relationships becoming increasingly social), birthdays and the goodwill they generate matter more than ever.

Do you agree? Or not? Please share your views!

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How to make it fun for your kids to say thank you

Despite being older than Methuselah, I remember the agony of having to write “Thank You” letters to relatives I scarcely knew, thanking them for gifts I didn’t really like, after the festive season. (And after my birthday, too.)

But relatives – especially older ones – thrive on the little thank-you notes that kids send them in return for their kindness, and frankly, I can’t blame them. Particularly in the case of elderly grand and great-grand parents, who often aren’t on large incomes, buying for and sending gifts to little ones is an expensive and involving activity. A thank-you note in response is the least the kids can do to make them feel appreciated.

The great Thank-You note battle

Although some kids are pretty good and quite cheerfully write nice letters to people who have sent them gifts – however inappropriate – the majority, in my experience, wriggle and squirm in the days following Christmas whenever the subject of writing TY notes is raised.

I remember that one only too well. Just when you should be thinking about the New Year and extracting the most from whatever remaining school holidays I had, I was shackled down by my parents and made to write TY letters to these relatives and friends, some of whom I had never even met. Not fair!

But necessary all the same. How do we make it easier for them? I know they should really write out proper letters, original in thought and execution, but failing that here are a few hints that might make your kids’ TY letter writing a bit easier this year.

Buy – or make – some nice Thank You cards

There are plenty of ready-made “Thank You” cards available in most stationers and supermarkets, and there are some delightful handmade choices like these, available online. But if your kids are craft-orientated they could well enjoy the chance to make their own TY cards. Origination sources include cut-outs from Christmas cards, collages made from bits of Christmas wrapping paper, or – for the inspired – original art.

If one or more of your kids comes up with a good original design, scan it and reproduce it on card so that it can be used across the board. As you know, kids are more likely to take pride in their own work and so send it on with greater gravitas to the people they should be thanking.

Tell them they don’t have to write 100s of words

The whole point of the TY note is to acknowledge and express gratitude for the gift, not write a lengthy thesis about it. Although my late mother-in-law expected everyone to comment at length about the gifts she sent us and sneakily tested us with detailed questions to make sure we weren’t cheating, she – thankfully – was in the minority. Most people just appreciate a straight TY, with love.

Get them to release their artistic flair

There’s nothing that says a TY card or note just has to consist of words. It can be a drawing, painting or other work of art that your kids will enjoy putting together. As long as someone makes it clear to the recipient that this oeuvre is intended to express gratitude for their gift, everyone will be happy. For example…

1.Bake some cookies/biscuits (or make some homemade candy/sweets) as a family activity, and send a small box of the produce with a label saying Thank You

2.Earlier in the year, suggest the idea of making Thank You gifts to your children’s school, as this might be a useful project for them to work on pre-Holidays as an alternative to making Holiday decorations

3.Take a picture of your child using, holding, wearing, etc., each gift in question, print them out, then get your child to make and decorate cardboard frames for each one with the words “Thank You” on them

4.Immediately post winter (northern hemisphere) Holidays, buy a bunch of early daffodils or other spring flowers and get your kids to draw them. Scan the result (if there is more than one person to be thanked) OR take a picture of your kids with the flowers and print that out, then send as a TY gift, getting your kids to write “TY (message) – and here’s your first sight of Spring!”

5.Get your kids to compose a short poem of thanks, type it out nicely, print it out and send.

6.Make up a collage of photos of your family featuring foremost the child who is sending the TY, scan it and send with a short TY note.

7.Make some small papier maché trinket containers out of Christmas (or Birthday) wrapping paper and send those with a TY label (paint the containers over if required)

8.And for those bolshie boys … get them to write a few lines about their favourite game/sport/other heroes, and why the TY recipients should love them too. The recipients may not quite see the kids’ enthusiasm for them but will appreciate their sharing.

Good luck!

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