Verrah Blog

This is getting a little too personal

August 24, 2017


Why you shouldn't use the data you're collecting.

You've invested time, effort and money into learning everything you can about your customers and prospects. There's a strong temptation to put every data point out into the field to start cashing in those dividends. 

But let's talk about the value of restraint. We'll go point-by-point to explain why later in this article, but first let's take a look at what common types of information modern marketing techniques collect.  

  • Full name 
  • Email address
  • Physical location
  • Social media profiles and associated demographics
  • Social media post content
  • Referral source to site
  • Browsing patterns
  • Download history
  • Email opens and clicks
  • Social shares
  • Purchasing history

As modern marketing software collects these data points bit-by-bit, you start to develop a pretty clear portrait of each contact. But with great power comes great responsibility. 

Marketing is very much about establishing trust and only thoughtful, respectful and strategic use of consumer data will move your brand forward.

Inbound marketing is founded on the recognition that the consumer is in charge, not the marketer.  It provides prospects the option to say yes to the next step in the sales cycle, moving ever closer to conversion or a repeat sale. Break that chain and you lose everything you've worked toward. 

What to avoid:

1. Moving too fast too soon.  Use personalization tokens judiciously. It's OK for a first email to use "Hello {first name}," but design your workflow so that anything more than that is triggered by the contact's behavior, not your impatience to move things forward. The amount of personalization at any given time should be based on where the customer is at in the buyer's journey. If they are exploring, first name is plenty.  If they're further along in the sales cycle, you can consider adding in more, like purchase or download history.

2. Collecting or inferring invasive information. With great power comes great responsibility.  If you don't remember Target's PR nightmare from a few years back, here's the recap: the retail giant used its collection of buyer history and demographic information to develop a pregnancy index that not only assigned a likelihood of pregnancy, but an estimated due date. Target then used that information to market baby-related items to those customers, including customers who hadn't yet disclosed their pregnancy. 

Same goes for overusing someone's activity on social media to send location-specific ads. Your brand isn't going to be helped if you're acting like a stalker. 

3. Over-the-top persistence. Retargeting ads work, and most customers don't mind them, up to a point.  Keep on top of your retargeting workflows to make sure they stop after three weeks.  If someone hasn't converted by then, your retargeting ads are going to feel like a pushy salesperson, not a welcome reminder.  Sending automated email follow-ups that aren't realistic about how much is too much is more than wasteful, they're hurtful to your brand. 

4. Making incorrect assumptions.  Purchase history doesn't necessarily enhance your understanding of that contact. People buy things for their company on their personal accounts. People buy gifts.  Don't leap to conclusions about who someone is by their collected information. All you really know about John A. is that he bought a blow torch, not that he's definitely a welder.  It's good data, but it's only that.  And just because you think someone's name is "a girl's name," don't add Ms. to their salutation. Leslie. James. Are you sure you know what gender they are?  People who have atypical names tend to be particularly annoyed by these kinds of assumptions.  It's an easy thing to avoid.  Just don't do it. 

Most consumers appreciate a light dusting of personalization. In fact, most consumers now notice when things aren't at least slightly personalized, and generic messaging tends to be far less successful.  We recommend you take a good look at your plan for gradual personalization. Each step that includes more should have a campaign-relevant purpose and value to the customer. 




Topics: Best Practices, Privacy, Marketing

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