Small businesses are constantly looking for new ways to attract the attention of potential customers. But unfortunately, not every small business has the means to launch elaborate, worldwide marketing campaigns, so most are left to fish for more economical ways to make a major impact.
In a recent VentureBeat article, Brent Dyke, author and evangelist for customer analytics at Adobe, discussed the ways some companies, such as Pandora and LinkedIn, are sharing useful data with their customers in an attempt to educate, engage, and retain them. By offering something of value to their customers, these companies are forging stronger relationships and earning increased loyalty.
You don’t have to be a large company to share data with your customers; this unique approach can work for your small business, too.
The Many Benefits of Data Sharing
Data sharing has the potential to make consumers feel more connected to your company; a concept especially important to digital marketers, who rarely get face-to-face customer interaction.
Sharing data can also promote loyalty and help consumers recognize the value and quality of what your small business offers, and that can positively impact your sales. After all, educated consumers always buy more because they feel more confident in purchasing decisions. In this case, data is your education agent, and when used properly, it will strengthen your customer relationships.
Consider this scenario: If you wanted to buy a new ring and could see what kind of jewelry your friends were buying, wouldn’t you feel better about splurging on a ring that had their stamp of approval? Of course you would! Similarly, data sharing can intrigue your customers by revealing trends in consumer behavior. And as the seller, data sharing will show you information on your customers so that you can upsell them.
Data sharing can even generate additional customer engagement, further fueling the cycle of new business, new users, and more data. Best of all, data sharing, unlike traditional advertising, is free. The data you’re sharing with customers is information that your company has already been gathering; it’s just a matter of putting that information into a new format for the customer.
Related Article: Mixing Business and Pleasure: Data Storage in the Digital Age
Harness the Power of Data Sharing
Sharing useful, insightful data with potential and existing customers is still rare for small and growing businesses, but it should be at the top of the to-do list. Here are some valuable tips for implementing data sharing in your business:
1. Target your message
You wouldn’t send HR data to your finance team, so why would you send irrelevant data to your customers? To make your messages truly effective, only send your customers information that’s applicable to them.
Too much irrelevant or extraneous data will cloud your message and distract or turn off your customers. On the other hand, offering customers a targeted message with data about products or services they’re interested in will pique their curiosity, keep them reading, and encourage them to search for more info.
Begin by testing a targeted message on a small group and analyze the feedback. Your trial group will be able to tell you what information was interesting and useful and what was not. With this insight, you can then create targeted, digestible messages for all of your customers. You should also use granular data to customize offers and messages that steer your customers to the right product or service at the right time, at the right price, and through the right channel.
2. Find a good rhythm
There should be a rhythm when you’re sending out information to your customers. Depending on your industry, this could be weekly updates, daily emails, or monthly reports. However, finding the right rhythm shouldn’t be taken lightly. If your rhythm is too fast, your customers will feel bombarded with information. If it’s too slow, they’ll be forced to relearn how to use the data every time they see it.
Step into your customers’ shoes, and try to think about how much data you’d want to see. Ask your test group to provide feedback on your messaging frequency. Then determine the best schedule and stick to it. You want your customers to get into the habit of seeing your messages at the same time.
3. Be smart with security
Data sharing is a great way to build an authentic relationship with your customers. Don’t blow it by letting a security breach jeopardize the relationship, not to mention your customers’ personal information. Data breaches are a growing problem for companies of every size and in every industry, and recovering from breaches can take years and cost you millions of dollars. Plus, incidents can cause irreparable damage to your reputation that no amount of money can fix.
If you want your customers to trust and engage with your company, make sure you protect their information at all times. Try using tokenization or two-factor authentication to protect personally identifiable information. You can also invest in any number of security software platforms that can protect your precious data resources.
Related Article: Lock It Up: 9 Tools to Keep Your Company’s Data Safe
4. Continue to monitor value
The benefits of data sharing can be amazing; but only if both sides are gaining value from the information. Monitor your messages and feedback carefully. If you notice that your messages aren’t getting much of a response (i.e., there’s a lack of feedback or engagement), take a break so you can refocus your efforts.
5. Integrate your data resources
All of your programs must work together seamlessly for data to be gathered, analyzed, and utilized properly. If apps aren’t correctly integrated, it can waste time, bring in inaccurate data, and even lead to the loss of valuable information. Hire developers or purchase app integration services (such as Zapier or IFTTT) to properly link all of the components of your business.
6. Always offer a way out
You never want to force customers to receive messages they don’t truly want. If your customers don’t see the value in the data you’re sharing with them, give them an easy way to opt out of your messages.
Customers are constantly evaluating purchase decisions and analyzing whether their resources are being allocated in the best possible way. By sharing relevant data with your customers and assisting them in these efforts, you’re demonstrating that you have their best interests at heart and that you’re focused on improving your products and services. There’s no better way for small or growing businesses to stand out from the competition than to share useful, focused data with their customers. So what are you waiting for?