Balancing marketing efforts with privacy concerns is something we discuss with every new client, and something that everyone involved with marketing or sales should consider carefully.

We recently spoke with an entrepreneur we met at a trade show.

“I just started a new business venture, and of course I want it to be successful. We have an innovative product and I need to do everything I can to get the word out.”

I asked what his plans were for marketing his new business. He listed the “usual suspects” – a website, pay-per-click ads, magazine ads, trade shows, and so on; but complained that all of these venues were “so expensive!”

Since he was concerned about cost, I asked if it was likely that the target prospects for his demographic would be on social media.

“Well, yes, I’ve heard a lot about that, but I’m not willing to go on social media.  Just because I want to make a profit doesn’t mean I’m willing to give up my privacy!”

We didn’t have time to go into the details that would be required to explain that using social media is not an automatic divulgence of all of the details of ones life!

Like many people, this man was confusing the medium with the message.

Families at the turn of the nineteenth century were afraid to have telephones installed in their homes and businesses because they were afraid that the neighbors,  the government, and the competition would be listening in on every conversation.  They quickly became more comfortable as they learned that the telephone only “divulges” to other parties the things you actually say on an open telephone line.  (Before the NSA became involved, anyway!)

Granted, there is MUCH information shared by telephone that should not be, but that doesn’t make the telephone at fault!

These days, privacy concerns about simply having a telephone installed in your office have been minimized,  and it would be unthinkable to run a business without a telephone.

(It can be argued that cell phones have active microphones and tracking devices, but that’s another story.)

The point is,  these devices have limitations. Social media channels such as Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Twitter can seem creepy simply because many of the people who use these services tend to “overshare” details of their lives that nobody finds interesting but themselves; but in an of themselves, they are simply communication devices, like the telephone. The content of the information shared is up to the parties on both sides of the conversation.

It’s a great idea to have policies in place regarding what employees are allowed to share in any public forum, including trade shows, dinners with friends, telephone conversations AND social media.

Regardless of the media, here’s our recommendation.

Things You Should Share.

Your photo. 

  • The privacy concerns:   You might argue that you’re not photogenic, or camera-shy, or that you don’t want your face to be stored in a database somewhere as a biometric identifier; but frankly, if you’re running a business, you’re a public figure. You probably have a drivers’ license. You’ve probably been in a bank or an airport at some point. Like it or not, your smiling mug is probably already a matter of public record.
  • The marketing concerns:  Who would you rather buy a product from – someone who stands behind a product publicly and personally, or someone who looks like he or she is hiding from customers? (Or someone else?)
 profile profile 2
 From this profile photo, I might assume that this person does not want to be associated with his business, or does not want to be recognized for some other reason. (Maybe he’s wanted by the FBI? In a witness protection program?)  Either way, he’s not my first choice of a business partner or vendor. From this profile photo, I might assume that this person “stands behind” his company and his product.  I also might recognize him as someone I met at a networking event. I assume he’s open to discussing his product or service and I’d be more likely to call him on the phone or click a “contact” button to find out more.


Customer Testimonials and Reviews

These may include customer satisfaction surveys that customers gave you permission to share, or comments that people published on your social media pages.

  • The privacy concerns:  Naturally, we want to keep our “dirty laundry” to ourselves and resolve conflicts as privately as possible. We also don’t want to share anything unless we have permission from the customer to do so.
  • The marketing concerns: What customers say about us is much  more credible than anything we might say about ourselves.  And hopefully, most of these testimonials and reviews  are favorable.  But even if they’re not, showing the public how you acknowledged a misunderstanding or problem and attempted to make it right will give new customers confidence in doing business with you.

Your Competitive Advantage

What do you do better than anyone else?  Why should customers buy from you rather than your competition?  Can you show the difference with a side-by-side comparison? A chart or graph?  A product demo video?  An interview with a subject matter expert or a celebrity?  By all means, produce that material and publish it everywhere you can.

  • The privacy concerns:  Many people are afraid that if they show their competitive advantage, their competitors will use that information to improve their own offering.  Well, that’s the risk you take being in business!  If your product is not actually better than the competition in a demonstrable way that is hard to replicate, it may be time to go back to the drawing board!
  • The marketing concerns:  Aviation consumers are very smart. In most cases, this is exactly the information they’re looking for to make the purchase decision.

A bit of personality.

We like doing business with people that we know SOMETHING about.

  • The privacy concerns:  Of course we don’t want to share any personal, private, financial or sensitive details of our private lives.
  • The marketing concerns:  There are plenty of things that we can share that help people get to know us a little bit that don’t compromise our privacy but are interesting, entertaining or funny.

My Starbucks Name.       I have to say, the coffee was worth it.

Little snapshots of daily life in the office, in the hangar or workshop or on the ramp can provide a little bit of insight into your personality and give people a chuckle.

By not taking ourselves so seriously, we make potential customers feel more comfortable picking up the phone to talk to us.

Things Not to Share

  • Anything you’re not comfortable sharing.  Any online media has the potential of being shared with ANYONE. Pretend you’re standing in Times Square with a megaphone.  Are you comfortable sharing this information with your grandmother, your kids, your competitors, and your ex-spouse?
  • Deals or negotiations that are “in the works” and not public.
  • Your “secret recipes.”  Anything about HOW you create your product or service and make it better than the competition.
  • Any personal, financial or medical information.
  • Anything that is NOT entertaining, educational, or interesting.

Whatever media you choose to use for your marketing, it’s important to have a policy, to follow it yourself, and to educate your sales, marketing and customer service teams to protect themselves and each other while doing a great job of marketing. .