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What B2B Marketers Need to Know About Data Privacy Today

Data Privacy in B2B Marketing

Data Privacy in B2B Marketing You enter a dim and shadowy room. Sitting before you is a wizened fortune teller, staring deeply into the mysterious glowing orb before her. As her hands hover over the crystal ball, she notices your skeptical frown. So, in order to validate her mystical powers, the stranger begins reciting facts about you: your name, where you’re from, where you went to college, which restaurant you ate at last week. “What is this sorcery?” you cry, your face growing pale. She pauses, smirks, and turns around her orb for you to see within. Turns out it’s merely a computer display, with your personal online data aggregated and readily available. The fortune teller reaches up and pulls off her mask to reveal… she’s an advertiser! And suddenly she’s pitching you on accounting software! via GIPHY You awaken from your nightmare with an unsettling feeling in the pit of your stomach, knowing it was all too real. One might expect their personal details to supernaturally emerge in the fortune teller’s booth, but not during their leisurely exploration of the web. Oh, wait a minute … For B2B marketers and customers alike, data privacy is a hot-button issue that won’t be going away anytime soon, with only 17% of consumers believing their personal information is “very secure” online. Here’s a rundown of what you need to know, both now and as you look ahead to your future.

What is Data Privacy?

We all know that when we use the internet, our activities and information are often recorded and stored. But data privacy governs the way this info is collected, shared, and used. There has always been a contingent of the population with concerns around online data privacy (my mom refused to enter her credit card information on the internet for a good 10 years), but now these concerns are becoming more rampant and pervasive amidst prominent news headlines and frustrating first-hand experiences. Data privacy is now a part of our societal consciousness. Every business must account for it — especially as trust becomes an increasingly essential factor and regulations begin to clamp down.

The State of Data Privacy in the Business World

We’re coming up on the one-year anniversary of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) being implemented in the European Union. The sweeping new data privacy law showed its teeth in January when a $57 million fine was levied upon Google for disclosure violations. Essentially, GDPR comes down being clear about how you’re collecting and using data, and gaining explicit consent to do so — which is especially applicable to marketers as we strive to be more data and insight driven to create personalized experiences. Companies that operate in the EU have already been forced to reexamine their data privacy practices to ensure they’re aligned with the new guidelines. And across the world, proactive business leaders are showing support for the initiative, recognizing without the need for a crystal ball that this path represents the way of the future. Privacy Statistics in Light of GDPR
(via Demandbase) Apple CEO Tim Cook has suggested that the U.S. should follow suit. “We at Apple are in full support of a comprehensive federal privacy law in the United States,” he said during a keynote speech in Brussels late last year, adding that our personal information is being “weaponized against us with military efficiency.”

This crisis is real. It is not imagined, or exaggerated, or crazy. – Tim Cook, CEO of Apple

Meanwhile, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella opines that the GDPR is “a fantastic start in treating privacy as a human right. I hope that in the United States we do something similar, and that the world converges on a common standard.” We seem to be heading that way. There are already regulations in place governing commercial communications, such as CASL in Canada and CAN-SPAM in the U.S., but it seems inevitable these will eventually give way to broader data privacy laws. As a result, brands everywhere should take a hard look at their own customer data practices, not just because of these looming legal implications but even more so because it’s plain-old good business. In fact, a study by SAP found that 79% of consumers will ditch a brand if they learn their personal data is being used without their knowledge.

Considerations for B2B Marketers

In discussions of data privacy, there’s almost always a focus on the consumer impact, which can make it seem like more of a B2C issue on the surface. But of course, business buyers are people too, and when brand assets are at play, the scrutiny around data protection can be heightened. Here are some things to keep in mind as you contemplate data privacy and how it relates to your B2B marketing strategy.

Transparency Holds the Key

The tricky thing is that while we can all understand the reservations people have about their data being leveraged for marketing purposes, we also know that customers (whether B2B or B2C) want personalization. And the only way we can really deliver on that is by leveraging data for marketing purposes. Therefore, it’s all about transparency. Whenever possible, be up-front and clear about when you’re collecting data, and why. Clarity is key: don’t bury them in small-print legalese. [bctt tweet=”It’s all about transparency. Whenever possible, be up-front and clear about when you’re collecting data, and why. – @NickNelsonMN #B2BMarketing #DataPrivacy” username=”toprank”]

Be Cognizant of the Company You Keep

When polled by DemandBase last year, 80% of B2B marketers expressed some level of concern that their marketing technology vendors could expose them to risk for running afoul of GDPR guidelines. This speaks to another potential hazard: people will hold our brands accountable if they have a bad experience with us, even if we’re not the ones who ran afoul. It’s smart to be rigorous in vetting the data privacy practices of other businesses you partner with, especially if they influence customer touch points.

Collect Only the Data You Really Need

Have you ever downloaded an app and had it ask permission to access information on your phone for no obvious reason? “Why is this calculator asking to get into my contacts?” That kinda thing immediately sets off alarms. Quality over quantity. Be judicious in the data you seek to acquire and make the most of it. [bctt tweet=”Quality over quantity. Be judicious in the data you seek to acquire and make the most of it. – @NickNelsonMN #B2BMarketing #DataPrivacy” username=”toprank”]

Protect Your Customers, Protect Your Brand

Will.i.am is a musician, not a fortune-teller, but he still laid out a compelling vision for the future in a piece he wrote for The Economist recently. “Tomorrow’s entrepreneurs will create virtuous companies that honour people’s data,” he foretold. “They will make use of my data with my consent but I will always own it.” Why wait until tomorrow? B2B marketers would be wise to adopt this mindset now. I’ve argued before that data-driven marketing can play a major role in restoring the trust that has diminished amidst high-profile corporate breaches and fraud. Be virtuous in your approach. Honor as sacred the personal information of those you serve. Gather consent but understand that you don’t own the data; you’re only borrowing it to be helpful. This is a new world and we’re all figuring it out together. There are no magical solutions. But the first and most important step to a strong data privacy program is to be thoughtful and purposeful about how customer data factors at every level of your B2B marketing operation. Hungry for more insights on this topic? Check out my recent post to learn about the state of trust in marketing, how we got here, and where we’re heading.

The post What B2B Marketers Need to Know About Data Privacy Today appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

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About Daniel Rodgers

A lot of news that you will not see in the paper. A lot of technology that is coming out that will not see in the paper.

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The Community Imperative: Engaging in Conversations Rather Than Disseminating Information

Building Online Communities in B2B

Building Online Communities in B2B

What does effective marketing engagement look like?

In the common model we see today, it’s something like this: Brands push out relevant messaging, hoping to compel a response or interaction that leads to a conversation (and maybe ultimately a conversion). This can be anything from a comment on a social media post to a chat window initiation.

Nothing wrong with that. These back-and-forths between brands and individuals are important ingredients toward building trust and loyalty. The problem is that, as a sole method for driving engagement, the cast-and-wait approach is too dependent on explicit triggers to spark these interactions.  

Devising and creating content that drives targeted engagement is hard work. It’s worthwhile, but hard, and sometimes even well conceived plans miss the mark. What if you were able to develop a self-driven engagement engine, which fostered strategic conversations built awareness among your most valuable customers and prospects?

Enter: Communities.

Why Communities Matter to Digital Marketers

In his seminal book, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, Seth Godin writes about turning scattered groups of followers into a unified “tribe,” which he defines as “a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea.”

Human beings have long gravitated toward these communal experiences, elevating the collective power of their interests, beliefs, or passions. According to Godin, a group needs two things to become a tribe:

  1. A shared idea
  2. A way to communicate

The internet has taken care of No. 2, making it easy for strangers around the globe to come together via message boards, social media, subreddits, etc. So really it’s about identifying that mutual idea, or focal point, and taking the lead in rallying people around it.

Coordinating Communities for B2B Marketing

It’s not uncommon for tribes to form around a B2C product or service. For example, my fiancée follows several social media groups dedicated to Oreo cookies. People in these communities share updates about new flavors, and where they can be found. Other examples of strong brand communities include Sephora, LEGO, and Starbucks.

In the B2B space, this is more challenging. People aren’t generally drawn to, say, cybersecurity software in the same way they are to their favorite coffee or cosmetics brand. But that’s not to say there isn’t a deep level of passion for cybersecurity — it’s a prevalent issue throughout our society, and one that many professionals spend their entire days thinking about. The key lies in hitting the right resonant note and facilitating connections.

In the case of cybersecurity specialists, we have to ask: What questions burn in their minds? Which elements of the subject excite or agitate them? Where do discussions among hardcore followers tend to center? This type of empathetic mindset should be at the core of our DNA as modern marketers.

Building B2B communities doesn’t always mean trying to create a “brand community” where your company and its offerings are the primary focus; this can be tough to accomplish, and even when you do, you’re unlikely to pull in many members outside of your existing customer base. The more effective approach, from my view, is building communities around interests and commonalities that align directly with what you do.

Pinpointing the ideal focal point for your community requires an acute understanding of the people you serve, derived through copious research. We can apply many of the same tactics for identifying best answer opportunities to arrive at data-driven conclusions about the most avid areas of curiosity for our audiences. If your customers are repeatedly asking the same questions to Google, they probably want to discuss them amongst one another as well.

Where Can You Build Online Communities?

Let’s say you’re interested in starting a community around a certain topic relevant to your brand. Where might go about doing so? Here are some popular options:

  • Facebook Groups: It’s the world’s most popular social media platform and a prevalent hub for connecting around common interests. We wrote recently about the value of Facebook groups for B2B brands. And Facebook’s recently announced redesign will put groups at the center of the experience.
  • LinkedIn Groups: Often a better contextual fit than Facebook for B2B social media groups, as LinkedIn is (of course) structured around professional topics. Last year LinkedIn made its Groups feature more accessible by integrating it into the mobile app.
  • Forum/Message Board: The online message board traces its origins back nearly to the dawn of the internet, when it was called a bulletin board system (BBS). Today, these platforms for organized digital discourse remain prevalent and — when well populated — highly active and engaging. This post from HubSpot offers some step-by-step guidance for launching your community in such a fashion.
  • Microsite: A special section of your website dedicated entirely to allowing your customers and audience members to interact with one another. It might be a message board built within your site, or a more customized setup. Whatever the case, you’ll want to make sure it’s easy to navigate and follow conversation threads.

Benefits of B2B Community-Building

“Community is important because it brings people together. Community keeps people loyal, makes them feel like they matter. It also lets the company show how much they appreciate their customers,” according to Mary Green, a community-building specialist who shared her insights with B2B News Network.

Beyond the overarching loyalty imperative, here are a few other practical advantages to creating an online community:

  • Firsthand audience research. Marketers are always endeavoring to understand what matters most to their audiences. In many cases, this requires considerable guesswork. But by monitoring a community, you can watch conversations play out organically, seeing what impassioned followers talk about and how they talk about it. This can serve as a crucial springboard for your content planning. It might even help inspire new product features or service offerings.
  • User-generated content. “Brands and influencers can make great content, but the phenomenal stuff comes from the discussion. User-generated content is gold,” says Green. I’ve written here in the past about the power of UGC for authenticity, and online communities can be an excellent resource for uncovering it.
  • Finding and cultivating influencers. Within these communities, you’ll frequently see particular experts emerging with strong voices or magnetic insights. These might be candidates to incorporate more deeply into your influencer marketing strategy.

B2B Brands Running Strong Communities

Looking for inspiration? Here are a few companies that set the right example with B2B community-building:

Bank of America

They major national bank created a small business online community, which they describe as “a forum for small business ideas, insider tips, and the industry knowledge you need to help your small business grow.”

As you scroll through the links and discussions within, you’ll find that much of it is unrelated to banking or even financial matters, and that’s just fine. The point is that numerous customers and prospects are coming to BoA’s website to talk shop.

Bank of America Online Community


The QuickBooks Community is basically a public knowledge bank where users can help each other solve problems and learn new things. There are product-centric areas for QB troubleshooting, as well as general business discussions. Intuit company reps are also active participants in the community.

QuickBooks Online Community


Jamf Nation describes itself as “the largest Apple IT management community in the world.” It’s a perfect example of owning a niche, and mobilizing a community while keeping product promotion on the backburner. Members are welcomed to “Dialog with your fellow IT professionals, gain insight about Apple device deployments, share best practices and bounce ideas off each other.”

Jamf Nation Online Community

Find Your Tribe

As marketing emphasis shifts more and more toward delivering holistic experiences, community-building should be a key consideration for practitioners everywhere, especially in B2B where the opportunity is especially ripe. Herein lies the next frontier of digital engagement.

Want to learn more about B2B brands that are finding more authentic ways to engage? Check out our post: Flipping the B2B Marketing Script: 7 Brands That Talk to Consumers, Not Companies

The post The Community Imperative: Engaging in Conversations Rather Than Disseminating Information appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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