Seth Godin has some great insight about consumers and the "privacy" we so often hear that they are demanding. Seth makes a great point that when you delve down and really look at it -- what people actually want is to have their information "left alone" and they don't want any person or company using their data in any "surprising" way. This is an interesting take on privacy -- especially because in the last few years we have heard so much about how the Internet is destroying our privacy, and how anyone can find out anything about you.
But really think about it and perhaps apply it to how you reach your customers. If I have OK'd a company to email me special offers based on my buying preferences then I am not "surprised" or "worried" when the company emails me about snorkel gear after I have bought swim fins. However, if I have not OK'd this use of my information, and I get the same email, it annoys me and worries me that the company is "mining" my data.
It's easy to see how this applies to your customers. Make sure that you ASK permission to contact them. Make sure that you keep their information in the manner in which they expect, and if you want to try something different when marketing to them, ASK them if it is OK. Also, try and think of ways to market to them that won't surprise them about how you are using their data.
Putting privacy into this context, I think, helps marketers market creatively and effectively. If you understand what your customers expect, and don't expect, you will go further. And think about what Seth says in his post -- those people who truly are paranoid, and truly are freaked out about their privacy, are probably not buying from you to begin with!
Sabrina Parsons aka Mommy CEO