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Does asking for too much data alienate customers?

In case you haven’t noticed, it appears that the Internet is not the only place where privacy is a great idea but an apparently unobtainable reality. In the latest installment of “Government Gone Wild” we find that the Feds have been monitoring every call on the Verizon network since a top secret order (well, not so secret now thanks to the Brits at The Guardian) was issued in April. No matter which side of the political aisle you find yourself this should send serious shivers down your spine.

Well, if you shrug this off as “no big deal” or “business as usual to protect the country,” then you apparently once thought the Patriot Act was a minor inconvenience at best. So the question begs, for the purposes of the Biznology blog, what does this have to do with marketing?

In short, everything. In America, it is becoming more and more obvious that privacy is not to be expected any more. That said, it doesn’t mean that people still don’t want to have it. In fact, the zeitgeist might start to shift severely from “we need more and bigger government” to “what can we do to get rid of the government?” And where will people start to feel that they have at least some semblance of control over data about them? Well, if the government becomes a source of distrust then the only power people have is in the area of economics and, in particular, in their consumer behaviors.

robin reporter... sort of
Photo credit: robinhamman

We as marketers have ridden an extremely fine line in recent years by talking very loudly about “big data.” Big data simply means more data. Larger data sets. And what fills those data sets? More and more information about customers and prospects. Their habits, their needs, their desires … you name it. Until recently, the public has almost become numb to this data collection and simply figured “It is what it is.”

Now, we have evidence of average Americans being under the watch of the government even if they are not suspected of ANYTHING. Let the conspiracy theorists and big brother plot lines take hold. The paranoia and concern that will now be a part of those who are paying attention (marketers please be fully aware that those who are paying attention are your customers because they are the ones with the money) will impact how much they are willing to share with companies. In addition, they will be suspect of anyone who asks for too much information. Can you blame them?

I can’t tell you how many times I have started down the road of downloading an app or doing just about anything with a brand only to stop short in my tracks because they want to gain access to things that just are none of their freakin’ business. I remember those brands and their “techniques” and it will be a cold, blustery, snowy day in Hades when they get ANY money from me. I don’t think I am alone either. Just in my own Facebook feed I see more and more complaints about companies overstepping boundaries with data and privacy. Although I didn’t have direct experience with that brand, I take note, because my friends felt they were wronged and that brand goes on my naughty list toot sweet.

So, you need to ask yourself, “Where is the tipping point with my customers? How much will they tolerate from my brand in terms of getting more and more information about them? At what point do they say sayonara and go to the competition to give them a shot at being civil?”

Do you have any idea how many people you have chased off or have prevented from completing a call to action because you pushed too far in data gathering? It would be an interesting thing to know wouldn’t it? I hope you don’t learn about it after it’s too late. The trouble is:  how will you know where that line is unless you cross it?

It’s a very different world out there today. Don’t assume that people are just blindly clicking “yes” to everything. So, where are you today with your data requests in this brave, new and extremely unprivate age?

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