Affiliate Marketing, Autoresponder Software, Small Business, Starting An Online Business March 13th. 2010, 7:35am
Privacy concerns in the online environment have been a hot topic for a long time. Credit card scams, phishing, and other crimes are in the backs of a lot of peoples’ minds when they’re online. It doesn’t seem to be affecting their willingness to shop online, but being proactive about your customers’ privacy concerns will make you look good and help build customer relationships.
Google gets in the news a lot for privacy issues. So many people use Google for so many things that it is able to collect a lot of data on people. There was an uproar when it was revealed that China may have been hacking Google’s user records and Gmail, and there was another uproar when Google released Buzz.
But Google isn’t alone. Netflix, for example, also faced some bad publicity regarding the privacy of its users. Netflix had to cancel a million dollar contest for a movie recommendation engine when it was sued by people claiming their privacy was compromised during the first contest.
Why does this matter to you? Because once you started a work from home Internet business, you shifted over to the “supply side” of Internet privacy. You—or third party providers you’ve contracted with—have information about all of the people with whom you do business. You may have addresses and phone numbers, credit card numbers, and more.
Your autoresponder services are also collecting data, to a greater or lesser extent depending on your services and preferences. But they are almost certainly set up to track the habits of your customers so that you can effectively market to them in the future. If your enterprise is doubling as a home based affiliate business, hackers snooping around your networks may find links to an ever larger groups of users.
Okay, well, you’re not Google. You’re not even Netfilx. You don’t have millions and millions of customers’ profiles stored and you’re almost certainly not the target of high-rolling Internet scam artists. And your hosting and other providers, if they’re reputable, certainly have privacy protection in place. Do you even need to worry about the whole privacy thing?
Yes, you do. And not just because protecting your customers’ privacy is the stand-up, ethical thing to do. You need to worry about privacy issues because your customers are. They’ve seen news articles—in many cases, sadly, sensationalistic, extremely exaggerated “news” articles—about huge credit card theft rings and other privacy crimes.
Online sales are surprisingly strong, even in a bad economy, and the numbers are continuing to increase. That means that, whatever your customers have heard about online privacy risks, they are continuing to shop from online merchants. Nevertheless, the concern is still out there, and you would do well to address it proactively.
A PR consultant will tell you that it’s not enough to avoid wrong-doing. You must also avoid the appearance of wrong-doing. In other words, it’s not enough that you would never put your customers’ confidential information at risk; you should also be actively demonstrating that you’re not putting them at risk.
These are simple steps that cost nothing and take very little time, but which will go a long way towards showing your customers that you have their best interests at heart. Since, via email marketing, social networking, and other tools, you are hoping to build relationships with your customers and generating repeat business, building trust seems like a good idea.