How to Use Customer Data Without Being Creepy


As a modern marketer with practically unlimited consumer data at your fingertips, it’s not uncommon to feel a little bit like Big Brother. The sheer volume of information available to you is impressive and can help fuel a positive experience for your prospects—but, if mishandled, can be downright unnerving. If your marketing gives your audience the creeps, it will turn them off from your brand.

Last week, we talked about the six tactics you should avoid like the plague. Today, we’re going to talk about how you can personalize successfully.

  1. Start Small

Once a prospect has given you the go-ahead by providing their information, don’t come on too strong—you don’t want to scare them off. Rather, use progressive personalization. At first, just include their name. As time goes on (and you obtain more details about them), you can begin making references to their specific interactions with your brand and slowly make the customer experience (CX) more personalized.

Most people have come to expect a personalized experience as they browse the internet, but it’s important to consider your audience’s level of comfort with technology when building campaigns. Older demographics may not be as used to seeing personalized ads as younger audience segments. Do your research.

  1. Listen to Your Audience

Ask for (and use) feedback from your visitors to help improve the CX. Allow them to choose the types and frequency of communications they receive from you. Always ask for their permission and give them the option to opt out entirely. While there’s certainly the possibility they’ll choose to decline future contact, if they’re automatically opted in without their consent, the probability of unsubscribing increases substantially.

  1. Earn Credibility Naturally

Whichever way you acquired a prospect’s information is mostly irrelevant (as long as it was legal, of course), but don’t reveal to your audience exactly what you know about them or how you procured this data. Instead, demonstrate the benefits of your customer data collection strategies by providing them with personalized ads and helpful, relevant content. Over time, you’ll establish credibility and earn their trust.

  1. Be Friendly, Not Chummy

Yes, the goal of personalization is to establish deeper connections with your audience, but that doesn’t mean you should address prospects as if you’re friends. Don’t use language which denotes a more intimate relationship than what you have—it’s off-putting and makes people uncomfortable. Instead, be respectful and authentic.

Just how clean is your data? Identify where your data requires attention, allowing you to choose which areas to improve.

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Take the time to validate the information you use. If you misspell a name or make an incorrect assumption about your prospect, it counteracts your personalization efforts.

  1. Delight Your Audience

As we’ve discussed before, the biggest pitfall of personalization is being too personal. For example, let’s say you want to increase attendance at an upcoming conference you’re sponsoring and decide to target millennials who live in the Midwest and have downloaded an eBook about furthering their career. Below are examples of an email with the right amount of personalization and one that is way too specific:

Good: “Hi Oliver! Thanks for downloading our eBook. We wanted to let you know that registration is now open for a professional development conference in your area.”

Bad: “Hi Oliver! Thanks for downloading our eBook last Tuesday at 3:04 p.m. We wanted to let you know that registration is now open for a professional development conference near St. Louis. Make the most of your bachelor’s degree from Northwestern!”

Personalization shows your audience you’ve put time and effort into understanding their pain points and specific objectives. However, they’re likely to drop you like a hot potato if they feel you’ve crossed the line. Put yourself in the shoes of your audience—empathy is crucial to using personalization without being creepy.

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