Your business can’t run without customer data. You need it to understand how they interact with your products, your marketing, your content, as well as what their needs were that drove them to your website and offerings in the first place.
But first, before you can do anything, you need that all-important data, which comes in many different forms.
There’s the kind customers explicitly provide by filling out forms, emailing you, or writing comments on your social media accounts. There’s also implicit customer data: their behavior on your website, which search terms they used to arrive on your website, and their demographic data as sorted by either Google or Facebook.
Filling out forms with direct details on their name, phone number, and email address are valuable for obvious reasons: how else will sales or customer support get in touch with them? You can also ask for information such as job titles, income, or even something fun, such as a birthday. Explicit data is directly given – but because it comes directly from the customer, that can mean that they may fudge the details a bit.
But the implicit data that you can gather through tracking cookies, marketing software, Facebook advertising, or Google Analytics? That data paints you a much more detailed (and accurate) picture of your audience. That data is what tells you if your audience is really who you think they are, or how they describe themselves. Since you’re getting this indirectly through marketing tools, you can gather much of it without asking.
That being said, you can gather even more detailed data if your customers are incentivized to connect their social media profiles to log in to your website, or generate a log in and unique user ID. Behavioral data is one of the most valued ways that businesses create email campaigns, nurturing funnels, and decide which website pages need updates or changes.
How do you encourage – and incentivize –customers to share both explicit and implicit data with you? There are multiple ways that will help your customers happily share that information:
#1 Ensure that they get something valuable in return for their data
And it can’t end with, “sign up for our newsletter,” because let’s face it, no one is going to care as much about your newsletter as you do.
Instead, offer something of actual value to your customer.
Who determines if your offering is “of actual value” to the customer or not? They do.
So, think this over: what would your customer find valuable?
Is it a checklist, or PDF version of blog content? Or does it need to be something more tangible? Is it something to do more with their experience using your product, app, or working with the service you provide?
Sometimes, the value is in how easy something is for the user. When was the last time you used log-in information to access a website, app, or service with your Facebook or Google login?
When you did that, you exchanged information for convenience. For your customers, pure convenience may be just as valuable.
#2 Offer exclusive benefits for customers that offer the most data
Let’s build on the idea of offering value in exchange for data. You could and should offer rewards for the customers who are most willing to provide you that data.
It’s not just that you offer rewards in exchange for site or in-store visits, so they can spend more.
You should offer a rewards program that helps you learn more about those high value customers. The people who sign up for rewards programs are telling you, in no uncertain terms, that they plan on shopping with your business again, and again, and again.
You incentivize such people to provide you with more information by giving them rewards and/or benefits in exchange.
Companies such as Ipsy are doing this with immense success – their products get dozens, if not hundreds, of reviews, all because their subscriber base is trying to build up points they can redeem for exclusive products.
And their subscribers aren’t just submitting these reviews for the rewards points; on their end, there’s a real, tangible benefit. Their feedback improves the quality and the types of products they get in their monthly subscription.
#3 Gamify the data they’re providing
This requires a fancier set up than simply dumping forms onto your site and hoping people fill them out.
Instead, set it up as a game: the more information customers provide, the higher the their score.
You can combine exclusive benefits with gamification by generating points from the game-style interactions, which your fans/customers can then redeem.
How precisely you gamify your data collection is up to you. Does it make sense to have interactive quizzes or puzzles related to your content? Can you set up reviewer leaderboards, rewarding people who leave the most reviews with a bit of branded recognition? Play around (pun intended) with some formats and choose which one works best.
#4 Incorporate social media – and make sure you have the right tools to do so
Incorporate social throughout your buying process and customer support.
To maximize social media as a customer support tool, you need the right tools to analyze your audiences on each network. The more engaged your audience, the more potential data lands right at your fingertips.
It only takes a little encouragement to become a fan or follower – which you can do through coupons, sharing great content, or by providing excellent customer service.
You can gather a considerable amount of data about your audience with the right social media analytical tools, or even the built-in audience insight tools provided by most major social media networks.
You gain that audience in the first place by providing excellent content, coupons, or other value forms to your audience. It’s that whole “providing value to your customer” thing again.
#5 Instead of purely incentivizing data exchange, earn it with trust
There’s something that many customers value more than a discount coupon or free donut.
It’s knowing that businesses handle your data in a trustworthy way. Or, more simply, it’s just plain trusting the company you’re handing all your personal information to, few questions asked.
You can build that trust through providing an FAQ or easy to find document that demonstrates transparency in what you do and why you do it. This transparency is a hot topic, particularly among millennials, and by demonstrating that you’re gathering data in the customer’s best interests, you’ll score plenty of points.
On top of that, once customers realize that their provided data is really for themselves, they’re often more than happy to continue providing personal information. It gives them a better experience, after all.
Let’s go back to that Ipsy example: Every month, their subscribers will tell Ipsy exactly what they liked, didn’t like, and often, they’ll explain their opinions.
Ipsy uses the feedback to better tailor deliveries for the subscribers, while also combining other best practices such as rewards and value for their customer.
It’s also a matter of trust; because Ipsy uses the data to better tailor the products to their subscribers, subscribers have no problem giving Ipsy even more data.
So how will you incentivize your customers?
What should be clear by now, is that you can’t encourage customers to share information by exclusively focusing on one or two tactics.
More often, businesses need a variety of incentives, combined with effective retention marketing to ensure that your customers stay your customers.
But what will work best for your business? Only you can decide. Experiment with each tactic, and with variations on how much of each you use.
Maybe your business benefits the most through incentivizing reviews, rather than setting up content offers and upgrades and forms upon forms upon forms. Or, instead, maybe you turn reviews into a game – people who leave the most reviews, with the highest scores, see their names and their reviews featured on a special page on your website.
The sky is the limit, really…
as long as your incentives are ones your customers actually want!