Technology’s recent surge in big data capabilities has also spawned a number of concerns – perhaps most notably the issue of privacy — and whether or not it actually exists.

Most technology executives have similar attitudes on the subject. Google CEO Eric Schmidt remarked, “If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place.” Sun Microsystems former CEO Scott McNealy even went as far as saying, "You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it."

A Fair Exchange

As a consumer, I tend to agree. I'm happy to share my information as long as I get value out of the transaction.

For instance, I have no problem letting The Weather Channel know my location so it can send the right weather forecast.

And I’m ecstatic about the possibilities of the Internet Of Things, especially with three growing boys at home, I can’t wait to have a refrigerator that orders milk before I run out. Talk about convenient ... even if it means giving up a bit of personal data in the process.

Attitudes toward sharing personal data might be a generational thing. Despite having too many candles on my birthday cake this year, my attitude is more in line with the younger generation. According to a recent report by Mintel, 60 percent of millennials are willing to share personal information and preferences with marketers (especially if they get something out of it) -- more than GenX and Baby Boomers.

As a marketer, however, I have to be careful with how I use shared information. As a B2B marketer, I have to be even more careful, since most B2B software purchasers have grey hair like me and tend to be less trusting when it comes to privacy.

Secrets of Success

The trick is to leverage data in a way that provides the best experience possible, without risking your customer relationships by creeping them out. To accomplish this, here are three rules of thumb I like to follow:

1. Collect as much data as possible

At the heart of successful marketing is being as knowledgeable as possible about your customers before selling to them. Knowledge is power, and the more information you have about prospects, the more powerful your marketing message will be. For example, at Domo, we recently purchased several tools that allow us to gather information about visitors to our website. This includes knowing what company they are with and details about the organization that can help us better understand their needs. These insights have been extremely valuable as we define marketing campaigns and tactics around our site.

2. Measure and analyze your data

Chances are you’re currently collecting hoards of data, but missing the second part of the equation where you make sense of it all. To help you answer questions that are key to your business, be sure to identify what metrics are most important for you to measure, and how to crunch these numbers in a way that provides meaningful interpretations. For me, these are often questions like:

  • What online networks are most effective in driving quality web traffic?
  • What ad copy resonates best with certain target audiences?
  • What content is most effective for streamlining the sales cycle?

3. Start using that data

Numbers on their own are pretty worthless. But the knowledge you gain from extracting important insights (from what used to be jumbles of Excel documents) is where the value comes into play. These pieces of information will help you provide a customer journey that meets and exceeds the buyers’ expectations -- instead of scaring them off.

Consider this: If you know a website visitor is from a particular company, you can integrate this knowledge into your marketing strategy tactfully, without being overbearing.

Instead of populating a large banner that says, “Welcome employee of XYZ Company!” -- which might weird them out -- you can subtly shift the page’s content to make it more relevant for that visitor. You might present more customer success stories from the visitor’s industry, or language about how your product or service can best help companies of their size. Such subtle changes can make sweeping improvements to your marketing efforts by delivering more relevant messaging.

Whether you’re just starting your foray into the world of data-driven marketing or are looking for new ways to make these strategies work better for your company, these three guidelines remain constant.

Remember that data should work in both your and the customer’s favor. As long as you’re respectful and responsible regarding boundaries of privacy, using these insights can create a more personalized experience that your customers will not only approve of but also appreciate.

Title image by Philippe Teuwen  (Flickr) via a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.