Thanks to cable TV and Christopher Guest’s hilarious Best In Show mockumentary, even cat people are familiar with the snobby, persnickety world of dog competitions. 

The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is the second-longest-running sporting event in the United States, second only to the Kentucky Derby. Every year since 1877, when a group of rich “sporting gentlemen” decided to put the tall tales they told each other in an NYC hotel bar about their canine companion’s hunting exploits to the test, the Westminster Dog Show has brought dog lovers together to celebrate man’s best friend.

What might surprise you, however, is that the show wasn’t originally focused on pampered purebreds. In fact, at the first show, there was a Miscellaneous Class that included, according to the Westminster Kennel Club site, a dog that was a “cross between a St. Bernard and a Russian Setter and a dog named Nellie, born with two legs only.”

So how did a dog show that basically started as a drunken bragfest turn come to represent perfection, and what does dog judging have to do with privacy? 

It all has to do with how dog shows are judged. Most people don’t realize that judges at these shows don’t judge the dogs against each other but rather against what the ideal dog of that breed should be based on standards that have evolved over time.

Just like the dog shows of the late 19th century, early consumer privacy programs were a hodgepodge of whatever businesses could (or would) pull together at the time. 

But just like the first dog show, which was so popular that “the streets outside were blocked with livery carriages . . . almost at the opening hour . . . until the close,” the fight for individual digital privacy rights caught on.

In the dog world, standards developed around what a labrador should look like and how tall a poodle should be. When it comes to privacy, laws like the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California’s California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) established principles for collecting and managing user data.

One of the most effective practices to emerge from the privacy movement is the use of preference centers, dedicated pages on your website or in your app where users can tell you what they want you to do with their information.

Preference centers are like—to continue a metaphor—the herding dogs of the privacy world. They can help you corral all your data, gather all your consent needs for GDPR and other laws like CASL. Because of the very specific requirements for laws like GDPR, these softwares are a huge compliance help. 

What’s more, these softwares can also help you improve the quality of the data you collect from your users. These first-party data collection processes will become increasingly important as more privacy legislation comes online and as browsers eliminate the use of third-party cookies.

Preference centers are especially effective for helping manage email subscribers for your digital marketing campaigns. Here’s how you can develop preference center best practices that are Best in Show.

Get your pedigree paperwork in order

Dog show entrants have to provide proof they’re registered with the American Kennel Club. This paperwork often gives details about the dog’s pedigree going back at least three generations, breeder verification, and medical records, all of which are used to demonstrate the dog’s right to participate.

In privacy, AKC registration papers are a lot like a data inventory, also known as a data map. A data inventory gives you the ability to follow a single data record through the entirety of its journey through your system. It will show you:

  • What types of data you’re collecting and from whom
  • Why you’re collecting it
  • What you’re doing with it
  • Who you’re sharing it with or selling it to
  • Where and how long you’re storing it
  • Where it’s at risk of exposure

Data maps can also track and manage a user’s history of consent to the collection and use of their sensitive personal information.

You need to know all of this information to efficiently and effectively manage your preference center. After all, it won’t do you much good to let your users tell you how they want their information used if you can’t make sure you’re following through.

Explain the rules of the game

Like any competition, dog shows have strict rules that everyone, participants and judges alike, have to follow. These rules provide transparency and help reduce confusion about the results. 

When it comes to a privacy program, your company’s privacy policy is the rulebook everyone should use as operating instructions. A good privacy policy is easy to understand, and clearly explains your data collection and processing practices.

Your privacy policy should be front and center in any well-designed preference center.

Your users are the trainer, not you

From both a legal and a best practices standpoint, a preference center page has to have an unsubscribe option. One of the best ways to get people to opt in to receiving marketing materials is to allow subscribers to choose the types of emails they get from you. Some users may only want sale information, some may want to know when new products drop, and some may want your full newsletter.

The more diversified and specific content types are in email preferences centers, the more likely people are to join an email list.

This principle also applies to frequency options for email contact. One of the main reasons people unsubscribe from email marketing is because they get tired of their inbox being full of the can’t miss, don’t forget, best deal emails that seemingly show up all day, every day. You’re more likely to be given a user’s email address if you let them tell you how and how often they want to be contacted.

While historically email marketers have believed that more contact is better, allowing users to pick and choose the types of content they want and when they want it has the potential to improve engagement and decrease unsubscribe rates. 

Pick your event

Dog shows have multiple events, and entrants don’t have to participate in every event. Some dogs specialize in obedience, some in agility, and some are just really good at sitting still and looking pretty.

In addition to an unsubscribe button and content options, your preference center should give users the ability to select the channels you use to communicate with them. You can give them options for SMS or text messaging, email, regular mail, or phone calls based on the type of information being shared.

For example, a user may want sale information via text and email but want a phone call for recall information. 

Get the right tools for the job at hand

You wouldn’t train your dog on an agility course built for horses, and you shouldn’t build a preference center using outdated technology.

Recently, major corporations have started shifting from using customer relationship management platforms (CRM) to process their user data to using customer data platforms (CDP).

A CDP is like a fancier, upgraded CRM that creates a single source of truth by collecting and unifying the customer data you’ve collected (first-party data for the win!) into a complete user profile that includes both their consumer behaviors and their marketing preferences.Using a CDP, companies can run simultaneous micro-campaigns based on highly specific criteria while still maintaining compliance with privacy regulations.

You don’t need to use a CDP to have a preference center, though. It’s important to consider what you really are looking to accomplish. Do you need all the bells-and-whistles of a CDP? Or would a streamlined, standalone product accomplish your goals without the expense, commitment, and stress of a fully loaded solution? 

If the latter sounds, there are many effective stand-alone preference centers that can integrate with your various marketing platforms out there from companies like OneTrust, SalesForce, or Securiti, to consider. 

Best in Show is yours for the taking

No matter where your business is in its privacy journey, creating a preference center can put the blue ribbon within your grasp. Red Clover Advisors have years of experience helping companies build practical preference centers that work with their operations.

Contact us today to see how we do it.