Is website visitor tracking going too far?

This question was recently asked in B2B Lead Generation Roundtable, one of the LinkedIn groups I belong to. Some comments suggested “Big Brother” mentality, and some even suggested that the information has debatable value and is being oversold by solution vendors in the space.

One person, Bob, even commented that the practice is intrusive and voyeuristic and that if people realized how much they were being “watched” while they visited your website, they would not be very happy. “Whatever happened to opting in,” asked Bob.

Here’s my take…

I think it’s important to keep in mind that there are different types of data being collected–some is Personally Identifiable Information and some is not.

The notion of opt-in is not compromised. You still have to fill out a form telling me your name before I know your name. Until you do that, I may have anonymous data about what you’ve looked at on my website, how often, and for how long, but I can’t in any way attribute it to you as an individual. That means I also can’t contact you about it.

That anonymous data has marketing value in aggregate. It helps me discover which content and tools are popular, and which are not. It helps me determine how well my website facilitates discovery of useful information. It tells me if I’ve put the right links in the right places, and if I have created content that aligns with how you are naturally behaving as a potential buyer moving through your decision-making process. Or it may tell me that you’re actually a competitor, or a job seeker, or that my AdWords keywords are sending me too many of the wrong kinds of visitors.

Once you tell me who you are and how to contact you, then it becomes personal. Now I know what you are interested in, what you are doing, and when. If I’m a smart marketer or salesperson, I’ll contact you when your actions suggest you might want to hear from me. In fact, I will do a lot less intrusive cold calling because I’ll have many more sales-ready leads identified that are more worthwhile to follow up on.

In my personal experience and opinion, the majority of people are less concerned about data being collected and more upset when that information isn’t used to improve how the information collector relates to and interacts with them.

As an information collector, it is also important to think through what information you want to collect and why. The more context you can gather, the more relevant you can be if/when you contact the person. Ask where they are in the decision-making process. Ask what their role is. Ask if they would like you to contact them, and if so, when. You’ll be surprised how much information people will share willingly once they understand how you plan to use it, and how that will ultimately benefit them.

How do you use visitor tracking information you collect to market and sell better?

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