How to send automated birthday cards when 2 people share the same email address

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By Michael Miller    8/31/2020

Summary: If 2 people in your contacts list share the same email address, you cannot send automated birthday cards directly to each person the way you would if they each had their own email address. This article gives you a creative solution, so each person can receive an automated birthday card. The compromise is that only one person's card will be personalized with the first name, but the second card will not. You can skip ahead to "The Solution" if you just want to get this done without explanation.

Automated birthday card campaigns when 2 people share an email address

The challenge: Many email services, including CorpNote, often use a contact's email address as the unique identifier for an individual contact in an address book. But this prevents a single email address from being shared by 2 people.

How CorpNote works: With CorpNote, we keep track of the history of ecards that a person has been sent, the events and surveys that they have responded to, and many other pieces of information that provide valuable contact insight, as your business relationships grow.

We use the 'email address' as each contact's unique identifier, instead of the person's name, for a few reasons:

  • Email addresses can be hand-typed or copied and pasted when sending CorpNote email. By tracking contacts by their email address, we can cross-reference when only an email address is entered, and associate it with an address book entry if there is a match. This enables a consolidated history for each contact.
  • While names often change, like for marriage, email addresses tend to change less often.
  • There are many variations of name spellings, which can cause confusion/duplication.
  • It is not uncommon for two contacts to have the same first and last name.
  • If people respond to a CorpNote invitation or survey with their email address, and they are in the address book, then we can match the response with that contact and record it in the contact's history.   

A challenge arises when someone has a contact – or rather 2 contacts – sharing the same email address. We see this often with our B-to-C clients, where a married couple shares an email account.

Online Email Address Book Options

CorpNote allows you to enter whatever you want in the first name field, and in fact, many of our customers put both people's names, who share an email address, into the 'First Name' field in the address book like this:

CorpNote's Address book lets you enter two names into the First Name field

Since CorpNote lets you "autofill (first) name" into any email, this way of setting up a contact is fine, as long as it's OK for the email to be addressed as "Dear Alice & Bob,".

But a shared email address can become problematic when you use email automation, especially if you are sending automated birthday cards, since you don't have the option to hand-edit each email before they are sent.

Before showing you our solution to automate birthday cards to two people who share an email address, you need to know what data fields are available in CorpNote's address book. Spoiler alert – we are going to use these fields a little differently than what they are intended for!

  • The minimum required data fields for an address book entry are: First Name, Last Name and Email Address
  • Optional data fields are: Company, Category, Birthday, Anniversary and Start Date

Enter contacts manually in your online address book.

Tip: View our Address Book Quick-start Tutorial to learn more.

As you can see, there's only one field for First Name and one field for Birthday. If you have just one person per email address in your address book, then you can easily do an 'automated birthday email campaign' that works like this:

On the contact's 'Birthday' date, send a pre-designed email template which autofills the person's 'First Name'.

This is very straight-forward, and once set up, will send a personalized automated birthday card year-after-year.

videocam Video: Never miss a birthday! CorpNote Automated Birthday Emails

Automated birthday email campaigns for shared email addresses...

But if two people are sharing an email address, and you use the first name field for both names, like our example of "Alice & Bob" above, then it looks like a mistake when Alice receives a birthday card addressed to "Alice & Bob" – because CorpNote inserts the first name information as you have it written. If your contacts are set up this way, then you may want to skip personalizing the greeting line.

The next challenge is that Alice and Bob (most likely) have different birthdates. An 'automated birthday email campaign' only looks at the one 'birthday' date in your address book. You need a way to enter a second birthday… and to send a birthday card using that other date.


The Solution: For this example, Alice & Bob Smith are sharing the email address 'a-b@emailaddress.com'.

When you prepare your address book data, put Alice's name in the first name field, and put Bob's name in the 'company' field (as long as you are not using the company information). Since you can only auto-insert the 'first name' field into an email, this means that Alice is the only one that can receive an email with her name in the greeting.

Put Alice's birthday in the 'birthday' field, and put Bob's birthday in the 'start date' field. Note: You could also use the 'anniversary' date for Bob's birthday, but you may want to use that field for their wedding or work anniversary.

If you are using a .csv file to upload your contacts, then the combined record for Alice and Bob would look like this:

Import birthdays into the address book for automated birthday email campaigns
Alice=yellow; Bob=blue

Tip: You can click here to download a sample .csv file for building your own contact list.

Here's how that will look when imported into your address book:

Contact with birthday and start date in the online address book

In my example, I've used the 'Category' field to write "shared email." I did this so I can quickly sort and view contacts that are sharing an email address.

Follow this format for ALL contacts where 2 people share the same email address. Once your contacts are entered/uploaded, you can create your email list and set up your automated birthday campaign by following the steps below.

Step 1: Create an Email List for "shared email" contacts

Automated email campaigns require an email list to send to. Create a new email list called "shared email" that contains all address book entries where 2 people share an email address.

How to create an Email List for birthday email automation

Step 2: Create two sets of birthday email templates. The first set will use the 'autofill' greeting; the second set will not.

  1. Create your first set of birthday email templates (with autofill) and send them to yourself to make sure they are correct.

    You can autofill a person's first name in an automated birthday card

  2. Once sent, your emails will appear in your 'Sent Emails' bin, where you will save them as email templates. (In the Options menu, select "Save as Template".)
  3. Create your second set of birthday email templates, with autofill turned off.

    You can create these from scratch, or you can copy the email templates you created, above. To copy them, go to Email > My Templates and select Use Template from the options menu for the email template you want to copy, to create a duplicate. Turn off the "autofill name" option, send the birthday card to yourself and then save it as a new email template as you did above.

    When you save these email templates, write "no autofill" in the template description as a memo to yourself, so you can recognize and select the correct templates in step 4.

Step 3:  Create an automated birthday email campaign and assign it to send to the 'Client Birthdays – Shared Email' List. When creating the email campaign, select the birthday email templates that use the autofill name option.

An automated birthday email campaign will send on people's birthdays

If your address book, email list, and automated email campaign are set up like my example, then Alice will get an automated birthday card on her birthday, addressed to "Dear Alice".

Step 4: Create a new automated email campaign, but instead of selecting Birthday, select 'Anniversary' as the Type, and choose 'use contact start date' as the date to send the email. Select the birthday email template(s) with "no autofill".

An automated birthday email campaign that sends annually on a contact's start date

This auomated birthday email campaign will now send an email annually on the 'start date' - which you are using for Bob's birth date - choosing from the non-autofill birthday email templates you created. Problem solved!

Note: Once you save your automated birthday email campaigns, they will start sending birthday emails on the next birthday date (or the start date) for each contact.


Closing words: While ideally all of your contacts will have a unique email address, this work-around is a helpful method of making sure your contacts are remembered, year after year.

  • CorpNote does not limit how many email lists or automated email campaigns you can create simultaneously. So, if you have multiple automated birthday email campaigns, make sure you don't have contacts assigned to multiple email lists for your different 'birthday' campaigns, or they may receive multiple birthday emails each year.
  • At any time, you can add new contacts to an automated email campaign (by importing or manually entering them in the address book). Just make sure the contact is assigned to the Email List being used by the automated birthday campaign you want them assigned to, and they will be included in the email campaign on their birthday.

Now it's your turn to dream up your next birthday card campaign or freshen up your existing one.

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Related Blog: Effective Birthday eCard Campaigns

Need help?

Give us a call today and we can help you come up with birthday email campaign ideas that will help you reach your goals.

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Related Topics: Email Automation, Email Campaigns
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