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The privacy paradox: Respecting it gets you more information

Kord Davis, author of Ethics of Big Data: Balancing Risk and Innovation, explains how consumer trust can give you a competitive edge.

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“Organizations can reap huge economic benefits by being more transparent.”

—Kord Davis, digital strategist and author of Ethics of Big Data: Balancing Risk and Innovation

As the use of consumer data for business benefit grows, so too do concerns around privacy. Consumers value their personal data as much as companies do. And they are quick to lash out, publicly, thanks to social media platforms, when those concerns appear to be ignored.

As the volume of data and its potential for business benefit grows exponentially, consumer trust is becoming a keen competitive advantage. Internal usage policies, ethical codes of conduct, consent forms—they’re all innovative ways successful companies are demonstrating careful stewardship of consumer data.

Kord Davis knows first-hand how data transparency can lead to greater consumer trust and access to personal information. A digital strategist and author of Ethics of Big Data: Balancing Risk and Innovation, Davis reveals how data-centric sales and marketing teams can be more open about their data usage.

How can data-driven sales and marketing organizations benefit from being open about how they collect and use customer data?

Kord Davis: Organizations can reap huge economic benefits by being more transparent. Just look at highly profitable companies like Patagonia, Toyota, Ben & Jerry’s, and Newman’s Own. They have long, trusted relationships with their customers. This is because they’ve always been wide open about what they believe in, why they believe in it, and how their actions support these values. They know that it’s important to acquire data that’s useful, but they do so while explicitly working to respect people’s privacy. Companies can benefit from learning how to improve that balance and to develop and implement data-handling practices that honor their values.

What steps can sales and marketing teams take to drive a shared—and trustworthy—understanding of customers?

Davis: Sales and marketing teams typically have different attitudes toward data privacy. To reduce any friction between these groups, it’s important for them to understand that there are both internal and external benefits to protecting personal data and garnering consumer trust. For example, if sales and marketing takes the time to foster a deeper, more trusting relationship with their customers, those individuals will be more likely to adopt new products and services. But it’s important to establish that trust first.

How can sales and marketing work together to achieve greater consumer trust and access to personal information?

Davis: One way sales and marketing can come to an agreement over data privacy is by encouraging greater communication. For example, marketing executives should tell sales leaders that they have a lot of nuanced data about their customers and that they’re welcome to leverage it, but that they must follow usage guidelines.

For this reason, marketing needs to have a set of documented, well-known, and widely shared privacy guidelines on the use of customer data in any given sales process. This is one way to reduce the risk of a sales representative damaging a customer relationship and negatively impacting marketing’s ability to gain more information about their consumers. Without these guidelines, marketing and sales risk undermining their own efforts rather than earning consumer trust.

To learn more about how respecting privacy can be a competitive advantage for sales and marketing leaders, read  Ethics of Big Data: Balancing Risk and Innovation.

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