What Your B2B
Brand Needs to
About Data Privacy

What Your B2B Brand Needs to Understand About Data Privacy

5 years ago · 5 min read

Every brand knows that data privacy is a major concern for B2B customers today.

Data breaches, data-selling scandals, unauthorized data-sharing—these issues pop up in the news regularly, and customers are keenly aware of them.

And yet, too few brands truly understand how their own data privacy policies and, perhaps more importantly, the ways they communicate those policies, are impacting their customer relationships.

Data privacy is a complex issue, and it deserves a measured, thoughtful approach that goes beyond the typical legal jargon of a “Terms and Conditions” disclaimer. A recent report by Tealium, “Trust is Golden: How Brands Can Prioritize Privacy in the Age of Data,” takes a deep dive into this issue, showing how brands can not only balance customer demands for both customization and privacy, but go even further by earning and keeping their customers’ trust.

Here are a few of my takeaways from this report, and what your brand needs to understand about data privacy to ensure your customers are with you for the long-term.

Customers want to trust your brand

Whether I’m speaking at a conference, in the boardroom with clients, or participating in a panel, I hear—and speak—a great deal about trust.

It’s the holy grail in the marketing industry, after all. Without trust, your brand doesn’t stand a chance. That’s why, especially in today’s digital world, it is essential for brands to “walk their talk”—to not only profess strong values, but to demonstrably live them out. All it takes is a single tone-deaf social post, or one viral article exposing an instance of brand hypocrisy, to cause major damage to your customer relationships, and set you brand back almost to square one.

But here’s the good news: Your customers want to trust your brand.

Part of this, of course, is because most simply don’t have the time or energy to spend educating themselves on the ins and outs of your privacy policies—who wants to read every word on that Terms and Conditions document?

The trick, as the report underscores, is to develop that trust.

So how can brands do that?

Brands need to put data privacy front and center 

One of the quickest ways to lose consumer trust is to relegate the topic of data privacy to the far reaches of your website, cloaked in legal jargon.

Instead, B2B brands need to be transparent, explicit, and plainspoken when it comes to how they collect, treat, and protect their customer data. The numbers gathered by Tealium demonstrate just how much of an imperative this is: according to Tealium’s research, 97 percent of consumers are somewhat or very concerned about protecting their data.

My agency, Zen Media, saw this phenomenon at work as well in our research into the connected consumer.

Consumers today are deeply concerned about privacy, although they also want the personalization that is only possible through the sharing of copious amounts of personal data.

In fact, as Tealium found, while 97 percent of consumers are worried about how brands are using their data, 71 percent of those consumers also say they don’t think it’s possible to have total control over their own online data.

That leaves brands with the task of reassuring customers that they’re being responsible with the data they’re collecting. The best ways to do that, according to the report, are:

  • Rewrite those Terms and Conditions. This might be one of the most profound changes a brand can make—currently, privacy and data sharing policies are almost uniformly written in lengthy legalese that make it nearly impossible for the average customer to read in their entirety.

    While a lot of that legal language will need to remain, one option is to create a translation document that tells consumers, in plain language, how the company collects and uses data.

    Imagine how you’d feel about a brand if you visited their site, and it had a section right at the top called “Privacy.” When you clicked on it, you’d see something like this: “Our brand collects X data, Y data, and Z data from our customers based on their past behavior on our website and data we purchase from Google …” and so on.

    That’s the kind of behavior that banks are adopting in order to appeal to Gen Z, a demographic that is incredibly skeptical of brands in general, and banks in particular. And why? Because this is the kind of behavior that builds trust.

  • Tell the story of how your brand uses data. Storytelling is a hugely effective way to show customers why and how you collect their data. One great example of this is Airbnb’s videos and reports, which use data to tell stories about where their travelers are going. For example, their New Year’s Eve video from 2015 showed that more than one million travelers were staying in Airbnb homes over the holiday.

Spotify, which is referenced in the Tealium report, is also a leader when it comes to storytelling. They show how they use listeners’ data to create unique, personalized playlists based on what they’ve been listening to all year.

In the B2B realm, this kind of storytelling could look like charting a client’s growth for them according to their purchasing timeline, or creating a case study to share with a client using the data they’ve consented to share with you. The key, of course, is being entirely transparent about your methods and sharing the information only with your client, unless they’ve expressly consented to sharing it more publicly.

Earning and retaining customers’ trust is vital in this age when data is everywhere and everyone, it seems, wants access to it.

Start by making it a core element of what you communicate with customers, and get creative when it comes to showing why and how you need it. If you can do these things, you’ll find that customers trust you not only with their data, but with their dollars, too.