My career started around the same time that Don Peppers and Martha Rogers published their book, "The One to One Future."

Their ideas shook up marketing at the time and predicted a future when customers would be won using personalized relationships akin to an 1800s corner store, but at modern scale.

Ever since then, my career has been built around trying to achieve this one-to-one vision and today, we finally have enough data and tools to make it happen.

However, there’s a catch. 

All the advancement in the world can’t fix the state of many B2B organizations’ data right now. It’s a mess, and such disorganization leads to account blindness, which then thwarts any chance of real personalization and connection between vendor and buyer. Add in the need for data privacy, and the B2B industry has itself in a real bind. 

Luckily, there’s a solution: account intelligence. Here are five ways to use account intelligence to achieve personalization while also respecting customer data privacy:

1. Provide Personalized Experiences at the Account Level

Terrible customer experiences happen when buyers are deluged with irrelevant communications. In response to such a landscape, buyers have become increasingly anonymous during their buying journey, making it harder for companies to spam them with unwanted junk.

This is part of why relying on third-party data to provide insight at the account level, instead of the individual level, is a highly effective way to go. 

For example, tapping into intent data that reveals a given company is looking for your category of solutions will help you reach out at the right time. Or using technographic data to know what technologies the company already uses will help you be more relevant.

Account-level data allows you to deliver great experiences while still respecting privacy, because the information you have is about the company, not the person.

Related Article: The Future of Personalization and 1st Party Data

2. Defragment Your Data

Next, pull together all your first-party and third-party data under one roof to ensure consistent experiences across channels. Once your first-party and third-party (including technographics, firmographics and intent data) are all together, you’ll have much greater visibility into otherwise anonymous buying signals and can reach buyers with more precision. 

3. When in Doubt, Don’t Personalize

In many areas, some of something is better than none of it — but not when it comes to personalization. In fact, some of the worst customer experiences occur when personalization is based on inaccurate data.

For example, let’s say someone comes to your website and fills out a form to download an ebook. Your marketing team gets notified that there’s a “new lead” and routes it (either manually or through marketing automation) to a sales development rep for followup.

If you had account intelligence, you would know this alleged lead is actually already a customer — and would therefore treat them much, much differently. But without that intelligence, this person will be approached as if they’re brand-new to your company and likely inundated with sales outreach and other communications that are misaligned. 

The same happens in B2C. For instance, a company might notice the signal that a buyer has purchased a children’s book. If this is their sole source of information, they might immediately think the buyer is a parent and begin spamming them with ads and messages promoting their children’s products.

Learning Opportunities

But, what if the buyer is actually a 22-year-old college student who bought the book for their older sister’s child? 

You can see how such attempts at “personalization” can quickly become alienating, if not downright aggravating. So, an excellent rule of thumb is to avoid personalizing until you have complete data.

It’s better to say less and not risk irritating a potential customer than do too much inaccurately and incur the consequences.

4. Always Work With Reputable Data Vendors

When it comes to walking the tightrope between delivering personalization while maintaining customer privacy, it’s imperative you work with quality companies. The data you get must not only be highly accurate, but also ethically sourced.

Ideally, your data provider should be getting it from multiple sources and then triangulating against those sources to ensure its accuracy. If not, you’ll still be operating from a place of account blindness and failing to satisfy buyers or grow sales.

Related Article: Is Consent and Preference Management the Key to Balancing Privacy and Personalization?

5. Don’t Be Creepy

This is one of those pieces of advice that’s a must in both life and marketing. In terms of data specifically, though, personalization cannot be creepy. If you go past the line of relevance into stalker-like territory, you’re likely to lose a buyer forever.

For example, avoid sharing just how much you know about a person. Don’t say something like, “I saw you visited our site at 1 p.m. today, and then spent two minutes browsing our product page before you filled out our form and requested our pricing.” Too, too much. 

Instead, keep it simple (and not creepy). “I noticed you’re interested in this topic, and wanted to send you a helpful piece of content about that.” Use the data behind the scenes to be more relevant, and do not over-share. 

It is absolutely possible to deliver excellent customer experiences while still valuing and upholding customer data privacy standards. Aim to achieve account intelligence and then use your robust data to reach customers with relevant, timely, truly personalized communications that help them move forward toward their goals — and toward buying from you.