Modern marketers are awash in data, and that is a great thing.
Data provides amazing insights into people who are engaging with websites and even individual campaigns, and this level of information and tracking allows marketers to hone their tactics and prove the value of different marketing activities. And, all that data comes with a certain level of responsibility in terms of securing information that can be attributed to individuals and protecting their privacy. There are reasons why this should be important to marketers – both from a regulatory standpoint, and also from a business perspective.
Unless your business is operating in a very specific geographic area, you should assume your customer base is found across the globe. This means the data you collect, how you collect it and how it is handled falls under multiple jurisdictions with different definitions of what is acceptable and not. Going back to 1995, the European Union put into place a Data Directive that covered processing and transporting individuals’ data. That directive has been regularly updated and means anyone marketing in the EU must get consent to place a tracking device such as a cookie, flash or beacon.
“The objective of this new set of rules is to give citizens back control over of their personal data, and to simplify the regulatory environment for business," the EU data protection website reads. "The data protection reform is a key enabler of the Digital Single Market which the Commission has prioritized. The reform will allow European citizens and businesses to fully benefit from the digital economy.”
Canada has also implemented anti-spam regulations that came into effect just over a year ago. This law means you can’t send email, or “commercial electronic messages” without at least implied consent, with a 36 month grace period (now down to 24 months) to gain expressed consent from past customers. Also you aren’t allowed to install software on someone’s computer without their consent.
Currently the U.S. has a more lax view of consumer data collection and consent, but there are reasons why marketers should be interested in protecting their customers’ data beyond regulations and requirements.
Customer-led marketing requires transparency
Of course the threat of falling afoul of privacy laws in a jurisdiction where you are doing business should make you aware of how you handle your prospect and customer database. Being upfront and transparent about what you collect, why you collect it and what you intend to do with the information people share with you, and that you are able to glean about them via technology, goes a long way in making your marketing about the customer instead of the business.
Today’s consumer is pretty savvy. Beyond that, they have a lot of options when making a purchase. Proving that you can be a trusted resource for information (through your content marketing efforts), and a trusted partner (by showing that you are thinking about the person and not the desired transaction) makes your marketing much more effective, encouraging more engagement and sharing.
Dayman advised telling website visitors what will happen with the data they share with you in this manner:
- I need to borrow that information
- I'm going to do X, Y and Z with it
- I'm going to put it in this system
- No one but a select few people will have access to it
- I'm only going to need it for a week or two
- Once I'm done with it, I’m going to shred it and get rid of it
This level of transparency lets your audience know that you are thinking about them and provides them with a clear understanding of what you are collecting and how you intend to use that data. Customer data provides a lot of power and benefit for marketers, but making customer data privacy and security a focal point, and an area of openness, helps put the customer back in control, and in turn gives your marketing messages more credibility.