The rules of the game are changing. Digital marketers must comply with laws protecting consumer data, regardless of whether those rules originate in Europe (GDPR) or California (CCPA). A brand can just go along with the rules. Or it can turn data privacy into a competitive advantage.
Consider this: about half of all Americans decided not to purchase a product or a service online because they were concerned their data would not be kept confidential. For brands, this is not a dead end. It is an opportunity to build a relationship with that customer—based on trust. Allay the suspicions of that consumer and you may get their sale.
“Good marketers put compliance optimization first. Successful marketers can learn how to do that,” said Colby Cavanaugh, VP for product marketing at Integrate, a B2B marketing firm.
A private affair
Large online vendors have the resources to understand and deliver data privacy. Smaller outfits? Not so much. “We recognize that small- and medium-sized companies don’t have anyone paying attention to privacy, or someone who is ‘anointed’ and knows nothing about privacy,” said Jodi Daniels, founder and CEO at Red Clover, a data privacy consultancy. Brands understand selling, not privacy law, so having a specialist provide guidance is useful.
The data privacy issue intertwines with personalization, customer retention and having a customer-centric viewpoint. At the face-to-face level, the conversation between the brand and the customer establishes the relationship, Daniels noted. The more the customer trusts the brand, the more information they provide, she said. “This needs to happen online.”
“Each customer has their own values,” Daniels continued. It could be that e-mail offering a 10-percent discount, a free service or a reward. It could be offering recipes following the purchase of an appliance. If you are sending an e-mail promoting the purchase of another appliance, “that is not helpful,” she said. Nor is the hard sell. “Trust is where the company is not abusing information.”
“Marketers forget they are talking to a human,” Daniels said. “Put the customer first, then you start to realize how to build a relationship. The privacy part comes naturally.”
“You have to earn that trust,” said Integrate’s Cavanaugh. “Having that is like a line of credit.” In the B2B space, sales cycles are longer, about nine to 12 months. The marketer needs to build a trust-based relationship with the customer.
“We earn entry into the conversation,” Cavanaugh said. He described it this way: B2B is 70% customer service, 30% sales. In terms of data privacy, the marketer must offer seven pieces of information to the customer before asking for something back the other three times.
Once the marketer makes it very clear what the user data will be used for, they can offer that white paper or e-book with more product information in exchange for more customer information, Cavanaugh explained. Remember, the customer is trying to make a buying decision, so they need information to help them get to “yes.” Even the follow-ups should be well-timed, again offering more information after opt-in, rather than delivering the sales pitch, he said.
Use, don’t abuse
“When you are talking to large enterprise customers, they are very conversant with the need to protect and secure customer data.” said Grant McDougall, co-founder of BlueOcean, a “Strategy-as-a-Service” marketing firm. “Companies need to invite customers into the conversation using digital tools such as social and web experiences and then build meaningful relationships. The onus is on the brand is to be good; they should also be creating interesting content and experiences to keep themselves top of mind.”
“Customers are willing to share data when there is a disproportionate exchange in value.” McDougall continued. “Samsung did an excellent job in building a live loyalty program integrated with its handsets that provide content and experiences if customers opted into the program. REI [the outdoor gear and clothing brand] is another excellent example where shoppers provide their data to participate in the Co-op and reap the benefits of the community and their purchases.”
Trust cannot be compromised. “Brands should be wary of selling their customer’s data, interactions. I use a simple test of what would happen if a customer found out that you were selling their personal information for profit.” McDougall said. “Be transparent as a brand, lean into privacy, and allow your customers to opt-in and participate.” McDougall acknowledges that the environment is challenging, but also points out that “data is the new oil.”
“Companies that have [it] are moving and those that don’t are finding it hard to compete.” he said.
Build trust, get data
Privacy needs to be promoted on the web site, said Daniels. There has to be language on the landing page that addresses the privacy concerns of the customer. You have to use this content to bring the customer down the funnel. “Not all companies are doing this,” Daniels said.
That means arming the sales side with privacy information as part of their marketing material, Daniels said, since the sales people will be getting hit with privacy questions from the customer.
For Cavanaugh, it comes down to integrity. Marketers have to hold themselves to the highest possible standards regarding data privacy. Doing all the work up front to convince the customer that their data will be held safe frees up the marketer to focus more on the customer experience.
McDougall sees digital privacy as a step to enable greater creativity. “Understanding of the context of your audience and how to meet them where they are will be the next competitive advantage.” he said.
McDougall offered this checklist:
- “Accept that the tools we have been using for the past twenty years may not be fit for the next twenty.”
- “Build a real connection with current customers. Earn their trust and provide real value. They will opt-in.”
- “Remain top of mind as people opt out of your cookie pools. Rebalance between Brand and Demand. Likely [use] more video and distributed experiences and tools.”
- “Be more creative and embrace the opportunity to make emotional content that resonates with people and supports the key brand attributes. We are moving beyond tactics like retargeting and programmatic banner ads and back to the romancing of products.”
In short, there is a virtuous cycle around which data privacy turns. If people trust you to keep their data private, they will give it to you. With that data, build the relationship. Then sales will happen.