Marketers, it's time we behaved like humans.

What do you expect from a brand when you share your personal information? And by personal information, I don’t necessarily mean your name and email address. I mean your search queries, browsing behavior and product interests. So the question is, what do you expect in return when you share this information?

Most people don’t know how much they are actually sharing until they receive an ad in their Facebook newsfeed for the exact pair of shoes they were considering buying an hour ago. Or even worse, they get targeted with an ad for the same duffle bags they just purchased—that happened to me recently.

As marketers, we collect this data and, yes, it’s personal. We promise value in return. It’s how we use the data that determines whether we’re going to have a successful, long-term relationship or a bad first date.

A few years ago, marketers were megaphones. We yelled at the top of our lungs, hoping the message reached our intended audience among the masses. We’ve come a long way. Now our goal is to reach each customer in a highly engaging, personalized manner. Data makes that possible. We have access to detailed information about our audience. We know their interests, their communication preferences, their location, their purchase history and much more. 

Here’s the kicker: Now the expectation from people is that our digital relationships will behave like our human relationships. Just as in human relationships, people expect some meaningful value exchange when they share personal information. But just as in human relationships, they may not always get something positive in return.

Here is some advice that will help you earn customer trust and loyalty over time through a sustainable data relationship:

  • Avoid coming on too strong. This can be a turn-off when you meet someone for the first time, and the same goes for new customers and your marketing efforts. If you’re not intimately involved yet, don’t act like it.
  • Do more listening than talking. In our industry, there is always a rush to show quick return on ad spend. But impressions no longer measure success. If you’re just getting to know a customer, show some restraint. You’ll be amazed by what you learn, and your next interaction will be more meaningful.
  • Timing is key. If you have something important to talk about, pick a time that’s appropriate and not full of distractions so that you’re more likely to have an engaging conversation. In marketing, apply data to understand where the customer is on her journey, where she is in her day and what else is on her mind before delivering your message.
  • Keep secrets. Someone you care about has entrusted you with his or her most personal, cherished information—so prove you are trustworthy. We need to embrace this concept as an industry. If we can earn our customers’ trust by being good stewards of their information, they will keep sharing.
  • If the relationship doesn’t work out, learn from your mistakes. As marketers, we conveniently don’t account for the customers we’ve lost because of our own missteps. If you’re retargeting people incorrectly or misusing data and consequently losing relationships, stop and adjust.

To see an example of this strategy in practice, see our recent work with Hilton Worldwide.

Check out our latest video in our "Being Relevant Matters" series. Watch "Marketers, It's Time We Behaved Like Humans" now.