Provide value to gain powerful opt-in customer information

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As demand grows for more relevant communications, b-to-b customers are increasingly willing to share in-depth information. They do so with the expectation that marketers will use their opt-in information to deliver more targeted communications.

For the marketer, opt-in preference profiles result in the creation of powerful databases that drive consistent increases in response and revenue.

However, customers are willing to share in-depth information only as long as they trust the marketer to reciprocate and use this information to drive more relevant offers and communications. This has become an important indicator of the value a company provides.

Here are some guidelines to help direct marketers improve the effectiveness of their multichannel programs, summed up in some preconditions that customers have when deciding to share in-depth information:

  • Customers have to trust the company to safeguard the information they provide, and use it responsibly.
  • “Responsible” use of opt-in data means that the information will not be rented to third parties and will be used to drive increasingly targeted communications and offers, per the preferences of the individual customers.
  • It also means that the company will have a “clearinghouse” to evaluate the communications that different divisions and business units want to send, and will not hesitate to suppress those that are not relevant according to the opt-in preferences of customers.
  • The value customers receive in exchange for providing in-depth information must be obvious and compelling.
  • Customers must have confidence that the company has the ability to execute on the promise of providing this preference-driven information, and sustaining this over time.

There is growing recognition among customers that in order to receive or access increasingly relevant information, they must share increasing amounts of information about their preferences. If they trust the marketer and see a useful value proposition, they will opt-in and self-profile by providing significant amounts of information.

I call this the reciprocity-of-value equation. Marketers who provide increasingly relevant information and offers, in turn, receive increasingly detailed opt-in preferences provided by customers and prospects.

This preference-profiling can lead to the creation of a uniquely accurate opt-in database, because the information is self-profiled by the individual. As a result, the database cannot be replicated by competitors, and thus becomes a significant corporate asset and competitive differentiator.

Here's a takeaway: Find out what your customers expect in terms of targeted communications and offers, and determine what opt-in, self-profiling information they consider appropriate to share with your company.

When you ask customers and prospects to self-profile their preferences, it is critical that you explain the benefits they will receive. Also explain what information you will be requesting, why you're asking for it, and how this information will drive increasingly targeted and relevant offers and communications.

Ernan Roman is president of marketing consultancy Ernan Roman Direct Marketing. He can be reached at

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