I’ve been reading over the past few days the allegations coming out against Apple, Google, and others about how they are tracking and storing personal data such as where you are at every minute of the day.  Collection of personal data has been an interesting struggle over the past few years.  As we get more sophisticated with our technology, we are also making it easier for people to get data that we don’t necessarily want them to have.  There is very little privacy today.  In the U.S., the patriot act makes it possible for even the government stick their nose into your business.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s a fine line.  I want to feel safe and if our government having more information that helps them stop terrorists means they also know more about me than I feel entirely comfortable with, so be it.  And with the barrage of media today, the more a company knows about my personal preferences, the more they can help cut down the noise and focus in on the ads that I want.  I’m not against browsers tracking my behavior online because hey – I’m not visiting any sites I’m ashamed to admit to.

But on the flip side, it is much easier for data to fall into the wrong hands.  We regularly hear about security breaches, such as the recent one at Epsilon.  The mass of data floating around out there about me means that it is easier for someone to steal my identity and put my life into a tailspin trying to sort it out.  I have a greater burden now trying to keep my data secure.  And then there are the companies out there exploiting that fear and offering paid services to help you feel more secure and monitor your own data.  Where does it all end?

So let me get off my soapbox for a minute and relate this back to marketing for global B2B firms.  As marketers, it is our responsibility to make people feel safe about the data they are giving us.  The 8-pt font grayed-out link at the bottom of your email to your privacy policy and allowing people to unsubscribe is no longer cutting it.  You need to be more proactive.  Here are a few thoughts for you:

  • Use opt-in, not opt-out lists.
  • Create your own opt-in house list.  That way you ensure only the people who really care about your products and services get your messages.  You’d be amazed at how much this can boost your open and clickthrough rates.
  • Create a preference center for people to manage their own subscriptions.  Why annoy them with stuff they don’t want?
  • Focus your efforts more on inbound marketing, such as paid search.
  • When you ask for data, be very clear on the form page how you are going to use it – don’t bury that information in your privacy policy in a bunch of legal speak.
  • Don’t collect anything you wouldn’t want collected about you – minimize what you ask for on forms as much as possible.  Use progressive profiling forms where you can.