A huge thank you to our guest contributor Simon Vreeswijk, Director of Marketing from Shift for sharing insights into data privacy—dive in to learn more:
Businesses rely on data to narrow their marketing efforts. If your business depends on marketing, you probably know all too well the importance of targeting customers. If you can reach an audience that is likely to be interested in what you offer, you’ll be more likely to get a decent ROI.
But successful marketing relies heavily on data. You need access to lists of people who fit your target demographic. Unfortunately, gathering this data has caught the attention of privacy advocates, who are concerned about protecting the very customers you’re trying to reach.
Governments and platforms are looking out for the needs of their customers, though. Yes, your marketing strategy is important to you, but to regulators, customer privacy is top priority. This applies to business-to-business (B2B) marketers as much as it does to B2C. If your business uses data for marketing and advertising, here’s what you need to know.
Why Data Privacy Is an Issue
Technology is making it increasingly easier to collect information on consumers. Every mouse click and website visit can be tracked and paired with the general demographics of the person.
Not surprisingly, consumers aren’t too excited about having their activities monitored. Sure, it helps ensure that the ads they see show products and services they like. But knowing that their movements are tracked and their information is collected adds a “creep” factor for many customers. That gets even worse if you’re selling that information to third parties.
This puts a huge burden on you, the business collecting the data. It’s not that you can’t gather information on customers. That’s fine. It’s that you respect the trust that customers put in you when they visit your website, input their contact and payment information, or otherwise interact with your brand.
If you violate that trust, there are consequences. Yes, there are regulatory compliance issues, but that’s only part of it. If customers find out their information has been compromised, you could find yourself in the middle of a customer service nightmare. Once that trust is shattered, you may find clients and vendors no longer want to do business with you, which can be far more devastating than any fines or sanctions could be.
Know Your Regulations
You aren’t the only one looking out for your clients. Governments also keep the best interests of their residents in mind. Regulations exist that restrict how you collect data and what you can do with it.
As you’re putting those policies in place, pay close attention to any regulations that might apply specifically to the information you’re collecting.
- GDPR – Businesses that interact with those in the European Union (EU) should read up on the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). These standards require you to protect the data you collect using cookies just as heavily as you would Social Security numbers or health data. You can read GDPR in detail here.
- CAN-SPAM – The U.S. requires businesses to comply with the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing (CAN-SPAM) Act of 2003. This set of regulations requires some due diligence before you can send emails to people. Read more about the CAN-SPAM Act here.
- CASL – Canadian customers are protected by Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL), which governs the messages you can send to Canadians. You’ll need to get permission before sending messages to those in Canada. Read details of CASL here.
- HIPAA – The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) applies to any medical information you collect about your clients. You’ll need to take extra measures when collecting and storing this data to avoid fines. Learn more about HIPAA here.
- PCI DSS – If you accept credit card payments, you’ll need to thoroughly study the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). The official standards are available for review here.
Risks of Data Collection
If you suffer a data breach, you could face serious problems. In addition to alienating clients, you’ll also possibly be required to notify all potentially impacted clients and purchase identity theft protection for them.
With that in mind, it should be no surprise that data breaches can be expensive. The average cost of a data breach in 2020 was $3.86 million–a cost most B2B organizations can’t afford.
But perhaps the biggest hit you’ll take after a data breach is to your reputation. You could forever be known as that company that didn’t properly safeguard your client data. That’s why it’s important to do everything you can to protect the data you’re collecting on customers, as well as only collect the data you need.
How to Remain in Compliance
From there, you can protect other businesses and their employees by only collecting the data you need from B2B audiences. When you do have that information, make sure it’s safeguarded. Only the necessary employees should have access and you should have cybersecurity in place to prevent breaches.
When it comes to data privacy, it’s important that you have documented procedures. You should also be able to demonstrate that your business takes measures to protect information. Having this type of documentation in place will not only ensure you can demonstrate to regulators how you handle things, but it will also help with alerting employees to your company’s policies about data security and privacy.