Criminals have never been slow to exploit an opportunity, and identity theft is rampant in the United States. One of the reasons so many consumers are reluctant to provide their personal contact information is because once a savvy thief gets hold of direct marketing data, it’s a short step to having enough information on someone to access their credit report. And we all know what happens next, right? The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) recommends that responsible marketers take necessary steps to protect consumer information.
Protecting Your Data
So when you’re asking prospects to give you their information for direct marketing purposes, expect a percentage to ask what you’re going to do with it and how you plan to protect it. If you can provide this information upfront when you’re soliciting address info, you’re likely to encounter fewer objections and boost the number of names you’ll collect to market to. Here are 4 ways you can ensure the security of your direct marketing data:
#1: Establish a Sound Security Plan
Most customers will want to know that you have at least made provision for security breaches. Create a written plan that reflects the size and scope of your business, and which addresses all areas of your operations including direct marketing campaigns. Set regular review policies and dates for implementing them, to ensure that your plan stays abreast of developments in the security arena.
#2: Train Your Staff
One of the biggest risks for data security is lack of staff awareness, so whether you have two staff or 200, make sure they are trained to protect your data at all times. Information used for direct marketing purposes is just as sensitive as financial data, because it can lead to identity theft. Limit access to confidential direct marketing data data to a select group of employees, such as those who prepare your campaigns and those who handle financial matters, and arrange specialized training through expert service providers for them.
#3: Use Technology
There are a number of useful technological methods that you can use to protect your data and complement your staff training methods. The days are gone when a portable paper shredder would do the trick; now, sophisticated hackers can access any mainframe or network that isn’t sufficiently protected. Keep your direct marketing data behind a rigid firewall with controlled user access, and ensure that you have a backup system for recovering the information in the event of a loss or breakdown.
#4: Keep the Chain Strong
You can protect your direct marketing data all you like, but if other service providers allow weak links to exist in the chain then your information security is threatened. Before you can educate prospective customers to believe that their data is safe with you, it’s essential that you ensure the same thing applies to any “middle men” that you use.
For example, what happens if you send out a direct mail campaign using an insertion or mailing service? How can you be sure your hard-come-by names and addresses won’t be stolen during the addressing process, either to sell the mailing lists to a third party or to use the information to create false identities?
To be able to honestly promise your prospective customers that their direct marketing data is safe in your hands and you’re using it wisely, you have to cover all these possibilities efficiently and have policies and procedures in place to address any eventuality.