Consumers no longer live under the illusion of anonymity. They know you know information about them. Probably more information than their comfort level would prefer. The question is, though, what are you going to do with that data?

The choices and opportunities seem limitless and marketers tend to foam at the mouth at the prospect of being all-knowing. As the saying goes, though, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Big data can be used for good – or for evil. It can be used to build relationships with added value, or it can merely be used to sell, up-sell, and up-sell some more.

It all comes down to this: There is a lot you CAN do with Big Data…but, what SHOULD you do?

Take re-targeting for example. This is when a site recognizes that you have visited it, collects information about that visit, and then uses that information to place ads throughout your experiences with other (non-related) sites through one of many online ad placement services. A prime (no pun intended) example of this is when you search for something on Amazon.com and then go to your favorite news site only to see an ad from Amazon.com for the exact thing at which you were just looking!

From a technology and marketing perspective, the ability to do this is absolutely amazing. However, depending on the execution, from the consumer’s perspective it could range anywhere from value-added to creepy.

If it happens immediately after navigating away from Amazon.com and only promotes the exact product at the exact same price, it could be viewed as creepy and big-brother-ish. If there is a time lag, though, and the ad provides a special discount or incentive, then it could be viewed as a helpful reminder that builds the relationship and adds value.

The technology and opportunity are amazing either way. The timing and the content/execution dictate whether it is creepy or helpful…

Here’s another example. There is a site I have recently been shopping that is a niche seller of specialty apparel and other items. The other day I was shopping the site – without logging in. I placed a couple of items in the shopping cart but then decided against completing the purchase. Within an hour, I had received an email from the site asking me if I wanted to complete the purchase and offering a 5% discount on my next purchase if I did.

So, let’s break it down. They added value by offering a future discount for completing the purchase. OK, so it’s not great value – it doesn’t apply to the current purchase – but it could be viewed as value nonetheless. But, how did they know it was me? I never logged in! Now, of course, I understand how they knew – but the average consumer does not. And that, my friends, is the epitome of creepy.

So, what is a marketer to do? We finally have more information than we ever imagined possible – but the opportunities to mess it up are around every corner.

According to Brand ManageCamp 2015 speaker and best-selling author Ted Rubin (“Return on Relationship: Relationships Are The New Currency – Honor Them, Invest In Them, and Start Measuring Your ROR”), it is all about relationships.

As Ted puts it, Return on Investment (ROI) is about dollars and cents. But Return on Relationship (ROR, hashtag #RonR) is all about people. It is about sharing. It is about building strong relationships and the value that comes from them. It is about what people share, what they talk about, and the closeness they feel to your brand and your organization. And, most importantly, it is about the trust you build and the loyalty produced by that trust.

One of the great dichotomies of our time is that it is now easier than ever AND harder than ever to build relationships.

So, the next time you are thinking about using the massive stores of data you have on your customers, ask yourself if what you are about to do is being done because you CAN or because you SHOULD. CAN is about you – YOUR needs, YOUR wants, YOUR volume commitments, YOUR conversion numbers. SHOULD is about them – THEIR needs, THEIR wants, THEIR added value, THEIR relationship with your brand(s).

And, if you want to learn more about how to maximize your brand’s potential, how to scale building relationships online, how building engaged and responsive communities around your brand will significantly impact your bottom line, and the importance of moving from convince and convert to converse and convert, please consider joining us at Brand ManageCamp 2015. Ted Rubin will be there – along with a slew of other amazing brand marketing thought leaders who will deliver 2 days of actionable insights, tools, & techniques to help you better connect with your consumers/customers, build/grow/manage more profitable brands, and become a more effective marketing leader.

Hope to see you in October!

  • Ted Rubin

    Relationships are like muscle tissue… the more they are engaged, the stronger and more valuable they become. Brands/Companies that use social successfully reap the rewards of customer satisfaction, deeper employee loyalty, more effective knowledge sharing, improved brand reputation, lowered costs, and importantly, increased revenues. #RonR… #NoLetUp!