Marketers employ a broad spectrum of behavioral tracking techniques to differentiate good leads from bad leads, effective campaigns from ineffective campaigns and to establish the best way to respond in either circumstance. Analyzing email click-through, email open rates, time on site and page views are among the many different statistics accessible today to qualify leads.
However, as the online privacy debate builds momentum in Washington, D.C., the day when consumer online activity data ceases to be available to marketers could be near. Despite that, no marketers with whom Direct Marketing News spoke admitted to losing any sleep over this nightmare scenario.
"We're concerned about privacy," says Jeff Hassemer, VP of product strategy for the data management services group at Experian Marketing Services. "But I wouldn't say we're worried." Hassemer says Experian makes sure its clients comply with privacy practices and regulations. "We want to ensure the practices are in line with what consumers want, as well as what's good for the industry."
Although he acknowledges that legislation might impact the way Experian executes business, he says it's difficult to speculate how. "Do Not Call completely changed the way we did suppressions on telemarketing lists," he admits. "But the Can-Spam legislation [a 2009 law that set the rules for commercial email] didn't materially affect the way we do email opt-ins."
"I don't foresee any major changes in how business is done," says Kathy Sexton, VP of marketing at ZoomInfo, a provider of business profiles. The basic tenets of the proposed McCain-Kerry privacy bill, Sexton claims, require that people be notified, that people can opt out and that people can see what information you have on them. "
"Privacy has been on the forefront for years," explains Michael Harris, director of list sales at Lorton Data. "Companies are becoming more and more aware of the need to cater to clients." He claims there is something perhaps more important than customer preference. Companies want consumers to have the ability to opt out of tracking initiatives if they're not interested because "it's expensive to mail things," Harris says.
Steve Tafaro, president and founder of business advisory firm Steve Tafaro & Associates, admits that privacy regulations will change the marketing industry. "Inbound marketing is going to take on a greater role than outbound," he predicts. "Small companies haven't yet figured out inbound. They're still using traditional marketing. But the world is changing."