Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Customer information is like gold to marketers - handle it with care!

For all businesses, and especially those that classify themselves as small or medium-sized, good customer data is the cornerstone of any decent marketing function.

Email marketing, the second most important marketing tactic according to marketingsherpa.com (next to social network marketing), is quite simply impossible without good email addresses. Direct mail, making a comeback of late, also depends on accurate data.

We all know how hard good data is to collect. Marketers want it, and consumers want to protect it, thus creating the most significant struggle marketers face. So when we have an opportunity to collect it, what can be more important than showing gratitude to the prospect for their willingness to offer it to us, and thanking them afterwards?

Still, I see examples of unappreciative data collection, which to me is quite troubling.

Take this example: This is the online registration process for submitting a classified ad in our local newspaper. As you can see, there is no indication of how my information will be treated by this organization. I am asked to submit my information and move on to the next step without being promised that my information won't be sold to the highest bidder. In this case, because I am the one that wants to place an ad and I'm led to believe that this is the only way to do it, I am forced to submit.

They are saying to me: "we don't really care what privacy concerns you have, if you want a classified ad, this is what you have to do."

Not exactly the treatment I expect as a prospective customer.

And they SHOULD be treating me better than this. This is a newspaper! Newspapers, perhaps more so than any other type of business, are threatened by the prevalence of online news and information. They need my information. They need me to like them. They need to treat me better than that. If I had a better online experience with them, I might be more tempted to subscribe to their paper. Instead, I will rely on local web sites and media sites for my news, thank you.

After some digging, I did discover that they have a decent privacy policy, but I shouldn't have to dig! Make it obvious for me early on in the process and treat me like the valued prospective customer that I am.

  1. You need good customer information. Check the accuracy of the information you have.
  2. When you have an opportunity to collect customer information, there should be nothing more obvious than the privacy policy (only a link to it is required) that dictates how delicately you will treat it.
  3. Your privacy policy better not be three pages of legalese.
  4. Thank the customer for it!
  5. Give them something in return! You can sell them something later. Now is the time to thank them.

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