Corporate motivation: Evolving into an age of personal value and privacy

I recently attended two conferences, the DX Summit and Gilbane, and share my key takeway on a shift in digital.

Kristina Podnar
December 5, 2017

Over the last several weeks I attended two significant industry conferences – DX Summit and Gilbane. Both conferences target those creating a superior digital user experience, but from slightly different perspectives. DX Summit is a broader digital marketing event, while Gilbane is heavily focused on content. The two venues both honed in on a hard trend in the digital arena that has been developing for some time: our industry is moving beyond talk of products and services to customer engagement that balances person value and privacy.

What does this mean? It is no longer enough to create good online content, and hope that the masses will be converted into customers. We are in a new age where companies need to think far beyond the immediate buy/sell and into creating lasting relationships with prospects and customers by demonstrating trustworthiness through personal and explicit values. 

Users are showing an increased awareness of the value of their privacy and personal data – ranging from simple product preferences to sensitive data including their religion or family status. Combine this awareness with a slew of new regulations (e.g., GDPR, POPI) and you quickly understand why companies will need to demonstrate trust and obtain consent for gathering any personal information. Only this demonstration of trust will allow a business to establish a relationship that may result in a sale, support, or other engagement. In other words: 

Trust + Need = Personal Data = Relationship = Sales

In the words of best-selling author Bob Burg who wrote the book The Go-Giver, “All things being equal, people will do business with, and refer business to, those people they know, like, and trust.” Traditional business has always worked this way, but for many   years we have pretended that this doesn’t apply when it comes to digital business.

What does this mean for the world of digital marketing? 

As you examine your digital marketing efforts, which will increasingly blur the lines between online, offline and deep technology, what does this mean to you? Consider a scenario where your customer interacts with a chatbot that can read facial features and respond to user emotions in order to help pick that perfect coat for the user’s upcoming holiday event. Then imagine that the chatbot automatically schedules shipping of the said coat to the user’s mother-in-law’s address for the user to receive it 2 days ahead of their event.  The chatbot pulled the correct address from user’s contacts list.  Plus, the chatbot knew the user’s location from accessing their calendar which included their upcoming flights.  

That scenario might seem a bit futuristic, but all of the technology is available today and is likely to be mainstream within 3 to 5 years. Ask yourself if you are ready to provide that type of experience to your prospects and customers. As we all know, it is more than just technology. It is about having the right controls and approaches in place to leverage the technology and marketing into a relationship.  It is equally important to do that in a way that isn’t creepy and doesn’t break privacy regulations.

Most organizations simply are not ready to take this effort on today and they likely won’t be ready for some time. The technology may be straightforward, but ensuring you get the right balance between personal value and privacy demands a lot more. It requires: 

1.     A clear understanding by the organization of the trust proposition for the prospect or customer.  That means every single person (including the CEO and leadership team, marketing director and team, IT, customer service, sales, and even the receptionist) needs to be able to answer: Why should someone trust us, and want to buy our products or services? We understand the prospect or customer and create digital in a way that services them, speaks to them, and is “all about them” and not about us?

2.     A convenient way for prospects or customers to manage consent for collection of their personal data. If you have a central venue to allow for users to give and revoke permission to use their private information, you essentially give them full control over the information sharing relationship. You will further build an ecosystem where more individuals will feel comfortable sharing their data.

3.     Establishing a relationship and not a one-off experience. Everyone in the organization needs to understand and start treating content and conversations as ongoing operations and not one-off marketing campaigns. This requires significant organizational change as we shift the mindset away from a “one-and-done” to “steady wins the race” mentality. The goal is to ensure that the conversation with prospects or customers can last a minute, a day, a month, a year, a decade and still make sense over the long haul.

4.     A sale that converts back into the relationship. Nobody wants to have a one-time sale and everyone wants to have repeat customers. Repeat customers mean post-sales relationship management to keep the relationship going. At Gilbane, I saw a great presentation from Keurig, the coffee company. The point was made about tracking the customer past the coffee machine purchase into helping the user maintain the machine, choose favorite coffees, and even change preferences over time.  They have an ongoing relationship with their customers – essentially for life. Now that is a conversion, but it is also fundamentally a relationship.

What does it take to get it done?

All of this might seem daunting to implement in your own organization. Just remember that we are all evolving into the privacy and personal value space, and nobody will get there overnight. But you do need to start taking steps now. They likely include: 

1.     Define and document policies that capture the trust proposition for the prospect or customer. This includes the weighing of your offering and guiding principles against regulatory and legal privacy requirements in order to understand how you will balance those factors.

2.     Acquire, through purchase or development, the technology to support central data collection management by prospects or customers. Depending on the type of information you are collecting, you may already have the capabilities in house that can be leveraged with some adjustments.

3.     Shift your organizational mindset to one of a prospect or customer relationship. Consider and map the user journey so that an outcome for your organization is just another event on the continuum of a long-term relationship, especially one that places the customer at the center of all that you are doing across digital channels.

4.     Expand existing post-sales customer communications and service in a way that clearly continues to add value and doesn’t drop off in quality or touchpoints. You want your customers to feel like a purchase is a natural event that benefits them and is a natural extension of your relationship, not the only reason for its existence.

For me, it is always good to step away from client work and the office and consider what is happening in the broader industry and the practical implications of the trends that I follow. It was personally rewarding to be at both of these events and realize that customer personal value and privacy are starting to gain more and more recognition with marketers and digital content managers. I am excited to see corporations will implement this and how it will all play out in years to come.

Photo by Joshua Earle 

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