Earlier this month, I attended the annual meeting of the Email Sender and Provider Coalition (ESPC) in Washington DC. Salesfusion, becoming Sugar Market, is a member of this organization. The ESPC is a cooperative group of industry leaders working on solutions to spam and deliverability concerns through a combination of legislative advocacy, technological development, and industry standards.

The meeting was packed with some of the smartest and most influential people in email privacy and deliverability. Needless to say, there was a lot of great information disseminated from an all-star panel of speakers. I wanted to pass along some of the information presented in the keynote as these practices are highly relevant to anyone who uses marketing automation, in fact, for all marketers or anyone who touches client/customer/prospect data.

The keynote was presented by Jessica Rich, the Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the FTC. She discussed the pros and cons of big data, and the challenges the FTC faces in addressing it.

Big data drives innovation.

Enhance traditional products and services to identify your ideal prospects and customers. Data collection is ubiquitous, it is going on all the time, all around us and can be impossible to avoid – even if you try. As consumers we’re not always able to control the collection of our data – from supermarket purchases, spending habits, and medical information to name a few.

The FTC’s main focus is to protect consumers from harmful risks of big data without undermining its beneficial uses. Consumers continue to have decreasing control of data collection and laws are limited.

As marketers, we rely on quality data to move the needle on our marketing efforts. Ensuring that our data is accurate, relevant and secure should always be a consideration as we acquire and use or data in our automation efforts. Quality data, when used in marketing automation, is beneficial in building leads, creating buyer profiles, and executing relevant marketing campaigns.

In 2012, the FTC published a report Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change. Implementing the practices described in this document are very relevant to anyone collecting data at any touch point. In this report, the FTC outlines three major points:

  1. Privacy by design: Companies should promote consumer privacy throughout their organizations and at every stage of the development of their products and services. Build privacy protections in at every part of the business model. Use reasonable collection and storage limits, data accuracy, security, and promote consumer privacy throughout every stage.
  2. Choice: Companies should simplify consumer choice. Give consumers the ability to make reasonable decisions about their data at relevant points. Give notice and choice at a time in which the user is making a decision about his/her data.
  3. Transparency: Companies should increase the transparency of their data practices. Provide transparency in data collection and use, and give consumers reasonable access to their information.

Take a look at your databases and programs – how do you handle your data? What protections do you have in place? What type of choice do you provide to your customers or prospects? Do you allow for updates, corrections, etc. to occur? Do you have policies in place to ensure your customers have access to the information you have, and if they are able to update or edit it? Are you transparent in your data collection process?

Data quality and collection are directly tied to the success of any email program, and directly tied to your bottom line. As you build your products and marketing campaigns, keep in mind the above. Transparency and choices will go a long way. These best practices and are even more relevant today as data driven decisions define marketing automation.