If you're a local brand, you have even more responsibility to be honest with your customers.
Facebook recently launched a new video to manage perceptions about its data protection and privacy policies. In the video, Facebook works to remind us why we all originally joined the social network … to connect with people from all stages and parts of our lives. And then to connect with their friends. And then to find others out there like us who we want to friend. And so on, and so on, and so on.
In the video, Facebook works to assure us that the privacy issues of yesterday will remain in the yesterday, so that we can continue to connect safely with friends again today.
Are we buying it? Do we believe that Facebook will correct its mistakes of the past and take our data and privacy more seriously? Is this one video enough to convince us?
Not sure about that, but the video did get me thinking. Data protection, privacy … fake news, fake followers, fake data.
Facebook is a global brand. What about small business owners and entrepreneurs. Does any of this apply to them? Does any of this relate to the relationship that small business owners and entrepreneurs have with their own customers?
It sure does!
I would argue that small business owners have a more personal duty to their customers than a mega-brand like Facebook. As business owners, you see your customers at each interaction, sometimes every day, and you probably know many of your customers by name.
Your duty to prevent fake news and data infringement is even greater. You owe safety, privacy, and accuracy to your customers, just as much if not more than Facebook does.
So, what do you do about it?
Be careful about exaggerating what you do.
It is so easy to get caught up in our own marketing messages and start to over promise. In an effort to promote our goods, we sometimes push our offering to greater lengths than perhaps it's really worth. We can’t help ourselves -- we are marketing! In the era of fake news, be especially honest with yourself about what you offer and don’t exaggerate its effectiveness.
Provide real data and real case studies of what your business has done for others and let that do your talking for you. And if something is beyond your abilities, say so. Your customers will appreciate your candor when you say that something is not in your area of expertise.
Stick to what you’re good at and you’ll develop a great business based on your own strengths, not exaggerated claims.
Protect your customers' privacy at all costs.
In this day and age, you simply can’t take customer privacy seriously enough. Under no circumstances should you use customer data outside of your own organization, especially without permission.
Keep it all in house. Even internally, think hard about how you’re using your customer data and always ask yourself if it’s completely necessary. We can no longer ask for forgiveness after the fact … ask for permission up front and only use data internally. Without exception.
Be transparent at every interaction.
Part of the problem with the Facebook data issue is that the brand isn’t perceived as being honest and transparent. While the leaders may have done nothing intentionally wrong, because they weren’t communicating throughout the process, it felt like they were being dishonest. Hearing about it after the fact doesn’t help either.
There’s no longer an excuse for being opaque. So, at every move, tell your customers what’s going on and what you’re doing. Make your intentions public so that even when you do make a mistake, then your customers will know why and will likely forgive you. Assuming you’ve be honest at each step.
Stay true to your brand.
Assuming that you’ve articulated your brand proposition, stick to it at every interaction. Use your brand values to guide your decisions. Communicate your brand positioning publicly so that your consumers can buy into it and so that you can use it to guide all of your communications. Consistency will be rewarded with loyal business from your customers because they know what you stand for and because you stick to it.
Fake news. Fake followers. Data protection. Privacy infringement. Leave all of that to those who don’t know what they’re doing. You know better than all of that, and you’ve worked hard to stay in the clear. You’re an entrepreneur and a small business owner. You know your customers intimately. Stay true to who you are and communicate regularly to your customers.