Customers don't want businesses to collect data for tracking them, so use content marketing to let them find you.

The technology available to small businesses these days is staggering compared to what marketers had to work with in the past. Even the simplest computers have access to Google Analytics, spreadsheets and databases with nearly limitless storage for customer information. It’s natural to ask the question: What’s next?

Marketers would probably say they expect even better client retention software, including programs that let businesses track prospects and past customers even more closely. According to recent research, this is exactly the opposite of what consumers want – and that might not be so bad for content marketing.

Leave customers alone – for now

Communispace recently surveyed customers and asked if they would click “do not track” if presented with the option when they first arrive at a website. Around 86 percent said they would take advantage of this feature. Considering consumers can (and DO) avoid being tracked by disabling cookies or browsing incognito, it isn’t terribly remarkable they would pick this option. However, more striking is the number that would pay for anonymity: 30 percent would actually for over a fee for a guarantee their data wasn’t being recorded.

Collecting information about potential customers is the backbone of many marketing departments, especially those in the B2C sphere selling products online. However, this data should serve as a reminder that companies need to focus on what makes internet marketing such a subtle but successful tool: Content. The same Communispace survey found 62 percent of consumers want to go to websites to find information about products and services, rather than having ads or promotions sent to them.

Be the object of their search

The days of monolithic advertising are ending, and the internet has made choice commerce’s most enduring attribute. Consumers are savvy and will only make purchases when they’re thoroughly satisfied there isn’t a better alternative – so don’t let there be any kind of comparison. Position your brand in their field of purchasing vision with a healthy mix of SEO, content and social media.

By ranking highly in search results, there’s no validity to the claim companies are following customers. Instead, the customers found them because of businesses’ expertise and content. Both search engines and users will consider a website useful and engaging if it has regularly updated content that’s relevant to users, no matter whether it’s written or video form. Social media will help disseminate content and stretch its reach, thereby strengthening search efforts.

The bottom line is customers don’t want to be tracked – they want to be identified in the abstract. Jane Smith doesn’t want a company to know her name is Jane Smith, resident of 18 Appleford Road, in Billings, Montana. The relationship should begin and end with the fact that she’s a college-educated middle manager at a medium-sized office, empowered to make software purchases for the entire company. Tracking her exact personal data is technologically easy, but off-putting, while following her via her purchasing interest is a bit more difficult in its execution and a lot more appealing to her as a person. Follow the latter course with well-developed content that’s integrated with other internet marketing techniques for a seamless online experience. 

Alex Butzbach is a Marketing Writer at Brafton. He studied Communications at Boston College, and after a brief stint teaching English in Japan, he entered the world of content marketing. When he isn't writing and researching, he can be found on a bike somewhere in Metro Boston.