Direct Marketing and Privacy Image

Are you looking for leads in all the wrong places?

When trying to attract new customers, your small business may consider purchasing a prospect list from a direct marketing company.

Prospect lists allow small businesses to partake in a little B2C speed dating — you craft promotions, mail them out, and hope customers will see you as a great find.

Sounds great, right?

While prospect lists can be a solid part of a small businesses marketing strategy, they’re useless without due diligence. Why? Because success stems from the intricate, and often overlooked, relationship between direct marketing and privacy.

What’s the big deal? (Why is privacy an issue?)

Nothing will give a customer cold feet more than realizing a complete stranger already knows all about them. Where did they find me? How much do they know about me? Why am I getting this?

At the end of the day, your unsolicited promotional postcard, letter or email can seem rather invasive.

In the 2016 U.S. Consumer Privacy Index, the top privacy concern cited by consumers was “companies collecting and sharing data with other companies.” People don’t want their information shared, and for good reason — we live in a connected world, where identity crimes thrive.

From identity theft to scams, criminals make a living manipulating others’ personal information for financial gain. It’s a scary reality but it’s making consumers wise up, as 89 percent say they avoid companies that do not protect their privacy.

So when you purchase a direct marketing list, you are starting your customer relationship off on an unsure foot. Did the customers even consent to the sale of their personal data?

Don’t be one of those privacy-poor companies consumers just love to hate — look for these data protection deal breakers to ensure your direct marketing and privacy strategies fit expectations.

Direct marketing and privacy: 3 deal breakers

  1. You have inadequate internal data protection
    Data privacy is more than just keeping hackers at bay (although, small business cybersecurity is vital). It’s also about ensuring consumer data is secure. Embed these internal security measures into daily operations.

    Encrypt sensitive data — names, contact information, payment cards, health data, etc. (Learn more about encryption)

    Destroy unnecessary data — properly dispose of old or unused customer data via shredding or wiping the files from your computer’s hard drive.

    Lock down devices — restrict access to devices, use strong passwords, prohibit BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and maintain anti-virus software. (Learn more about computer security)

    Request consent during collection — notify customers if you collect or store their personal data. A customer privacy policy should also be accessible on your website.

  1. You can’t find prospect and vendor background information
    Every prospect list has a story — become acquainted with both your vendor and prospects before purchasing a list.

    Get to know your direct marketing vendor — Review your vendor from independent third-party sources, including the Better Business Bureau. Look for testimonials and a long-standing reputation of privacy-aware, client-oriented operations.

    Get to know your prospect list — ask your vendor how prospects were obtained, if individuals gave consent to the sale of data and when it was collected. This ensures privacy while giving you insight into the value of the list. After all, no one wants to buy an outdated list of addresses — but it happens.

  1. You’re clueless about privacy laws
    Small business owners know about specialties, from artisan bakeries to customized business solutions, but I’ll make the assumption that no matter your businesses’ specialty, it’s probably not direct marketing and privacy laws…

    That’s a job for your direct marketing vendor that you must verify. Make sure they adhere to direct marketing and privacy laws, like the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991. They should develop a data-driven, law-abiding marketing solution to fit your businesses’ goals and budget.

    Walk away from anyone arguing that budget constraints can’t fulfill such requests, and look out for low-cost marketing alternatives such as unlawful robocalling. Unethical vendors may hope to use robocalling as a substitute for law-abiding telemarketing services.

How do you ensure privacy while spreading the word about your small business? Share your direct marketing and privacy stories or concerns in the comments section below.