Privacy vs. Personalization - The Creepy Side of Small Business CRM

  |  July 14, 2014   |  Comments

There's a fine line between impressing your customers with what you remember about them and creeping them out with your extensive knowledge - here are some tips for how to stay on the right side of that line.

Small business customer relationship management (CRM) is awesome. You can serve customers better, anticipate their needs, delight them, and overall treat your many customers as if they were the only one.

However, as you implement CRM, it's important that you are careful to build personalization and customization into your system, while not invading privacy or being creepy.

These are a few things to consider as you implement CRM and intelligence into your sales and marketing process.

Website Tracking: There are technologies that enable you to know the moment someone is browsing your website. You can then call them or do some other action. It MIGHT be creepy for customers to know you're "tracking their movements" on your website. Be sensitive.

Birthdays: Everyone loves to receive a birthday card on their birthday. While you want to delight your customers and share this special occasion with them, it's also important that you respect the privacy or personal space of those who might want to keep their birthdays private. If you are able to capture the birth date of your customers - set an expectation. Let them know that you'll use their birthday to send them a card...or special offer.

Loyalty Rewards: Remember the story of the department store who knew a young girl was pregnant, based on her purchase patterns? The store then sent her father (as the girl and her father shared an email address) information related to pregnancy. Be careful with loyalty reward systems. Incentivize your customers to buy from you, yet respect their right to buy in privacy.

Use Customer Information in Aggregate: If you're sharing information with third parties, it's important that you share customer information in aggregate. For example, it's OK to share that you have a 20 percent rise in customer orders in a particular neighboring state. However, without permission of the customer, it's not OK to share that individual customer information.

Use Clean Data: Remember how the Department of Veterans Affairs sent information resolving a medical issue to a deceased veteran? These types of actions are in part due to using "dirty data." When you don't update customer information, it's easy to send wrong or inappropriate information to customers. Keep your data clean and give customers an opportunity to update their own information.

Be Careful With Customer Buying History: Sure, your customers know you have their buying history. However, when using this information, use it like a warm introduction not like a rude or annoying greeting. A friendly, "John, based on your buying history, I thought you might like these types of shoes," is good. But be careful with, "We saw that you bought a black shoe last week and a green shoe the week before - want another one?".

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Ramon Ray

Ramon Ray is Marketing and Technology Evangelist at Infusionsoft and He's a speaker, media pundit, journalist and author. His latest best seller is "The Facebook Guide to Small Business Marketing".

Some of the events Ramon has produced include the Small Business Summit, Small Biz Big Things with Seth Godin and the Small Business Technology Tour. As a speaker, Ramon has presented at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas with Guy Kawasaki, SXSW, Inc 500 and more.

As a journalist and freelance writer, Ramon has written for Inc Magazine, OPEN Forum, and Although Ramon is not a comedian, his audiences find him humorous. Despite no law enforcement experience, he is a graduate of the FBI Citizens Academy. Although Ramon does not know Jim Henson, he loves to do puppet shows in developing countries. See Ramon's full bio on his website.

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