When Is Personal Too Personal?

By | March 23, 2011

In today’s world of personalization, it begs the question: when is personalization too personal? It’s on my mind tonight because I recently sent out an announcement about an update to my QR codes primer. I was checking my opens and click-throughs and noticed that the numerical tallies of click-throughs in my reports are live links.

I selected the report for my QR code primer link and, sure enough, there was a list of everyone who had clicked through. The report showed their sign-up email address, and if their name is in the database, it was there, too. I even had a mail icon in case I wanted to email them.

These are called “warm leads.” They are called warm because these people were interested enough to click through for more information but not interested enough or yet ready to make a direct contact.

This raises the question: if these people aren’t ready to contact me, why should I contact them? After all, they had likely read my newsletter in the privacy of their offices or on their phones while sitting at a stoplight on the way home from work. When we’re on a blog or webpage, we expect to be tracked. But when clicking links in your mail, on your cellphone, in your car, isn’t that different? At least . . . shouldn’t it be?

So here I have valuable data — the people who are interested enough in my report to check it out. Do I use it? For me, the answer is unequivocally no. But the broader issue is something that 1:1 marketers and their service providers need to wrestle with all the time.

We’re used to telling people to gather data, use data, build the depth of their database. Then we tell them to personalize, personalize, personalize. But aren’t there times when we should not personalize? Or at least recognize that there is certain data we should not use?

This flies against everything we seem to be saying to clients, but when we start making a distinction between what we can do and what we ought to do, that’s when we’re really marketing.

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5 thoughts on “When Is Personal Too Personal?

  1. Marion

    You bring up a really good question here Heidi!

    Two things come to mind for me – one is about the expectation of privacy and the other is about marketing.

    First, I wonder how much privacy is really expected from users these days? Whenever I log into my Google account, I am surrendering some privacy – in exchange for all of the services I get from Google, blogger, etc. In your case, you’re giving people access to some information – not all of the information, but enough. In exchange you get access to their details. Sounds fair…

    Still, what do you do with that information? If you use it to create marketing messages that are more relevant and appealing to those people, that’s when I think it works.

    Thoughtful post, thank you!

  2. Jeff Stewart

    I agree that you may not want to call them, but they have expressed enough interest to take a next step in a sales processes. The know could be recipients of another message with more information that they may be interested in.

    Curtailing the act of clicking on a link is not an announcement that they want a relationship. But they are saying that they are interested enough to take that call to action. What you do next it depends on the market, the product, the offer, ect. But a marketer you now put those recipients into the next step of a sales funnel.

  3. Mary Ann Fong

    Very interesting discussion. I can see validity with both viewpoints.

    Perhaps the light turned green and they didn’t have time to go farther. I know my mobile web browsing is usually in stolen moments waiting for an appointment or some other event, and I rarely have time to follow up. Then, I forget by the time I get back to my desktop.

    Conversely, if I consciously decided not to pursue, I’m put off by the next communication, and they become an “instant delete” from that point forward.

    If you do decide to use the addresses, I think the communication needs to be very thoughtful. I think it’s wise that you are considering the volume and assertiveness of marketing communications that barrage consumers each day.

  4. Jim Dornbos

    For me, the answer is that you have a list of people interested in what you’re selling, but not ready to buy. Those are the folks that you nurture.

    To me, it still bugs me when I get a phone call to follow-up on my “non-buying” visit to a web site. I often break the relationship right there. If the vendor didn’t trample too far – I am interested and possibly need more info. Maybe I’m just information gathering for what I know will be a future need. But the idea is to keep in touch with useful, related information, so that when the buy time does come, I consider this vendor favorably. If they’ve done their job, I think of them first as a favored solution to meet my needs.

    Hopefully they haven’t blundered too far, too fast and completely turned me off to using them.

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