Michael Russer, a.k.a. Mr. Internet®, is CEO of Russer Communications. He is a leading speaker and author in the real estate industry and has been writing about Internet marketing and virtual outsourcing since the dawn of the commercial Internet.
October 1, 2008
Privacy is one of the most important things you can offer to your Web site visitors. Why? It's all about trust. Buyers love to use the Internet because it's convenient and they can do it anonymously—no strings attached.
The vast majority of consumers who send you a legitimate online inquiry are just in the information gathering stage, not fully ready to make a purchasing decision or even ready to look at homes in person. When they fill out a form on your Web site or send you an e-mail, they don't want to be bombarded with solicitations, phone calls, and e-mails asking for their business.
As the Direct Marketing Association accurately says: "Privacy policies put consumers in charge of their information."
Anything you can do to on your Web site to reassure prospective buyers that their anonymity will be preserved during their home-search process will help you convert them to clients when they are ready.
- Notice. This covers what information is collected by your site. Web sites can collect information passively (without visitor knowledge or action; for example, cookies) and actively (such as through forms). Notice also covers what you, as the site owner, will do with the information collected. Do you intend to share the information with third parties or not?
- Access. Sites should provide a way for visitors to access and update the personal information they previously provided to you, or at least give request the updates be done for them.
Keep It Simple, Visible
Last but not least, the policy must be easy to find on your Web site. After all, if you have a great policy but no one knows about it, what good does that do?
To get the word out, tell your colleagues, clients, and prospects about the policy. Include a brief article about it in your customer newsletter and be sure that your personal assistant and other coworkers know the policy's details so they can answer questions.
Not an Afterthought
Privacy should not be an afterthought to the way you do business online. It is an integral part of successfully speaking the language of the online consumer. It literally forms the foundation of trust that equates to converting more online leads into closed transactions.