GDPR; Strength, Weakness, Threat or Opportunity?


For those who have been swotting up on GDPR (sorry), you will know that the new regulations come into effect later this month. Let’s be honest, who doesn’t?

For marketers planning for the greatest change to personal data security ever, depending on your systems, GDPR may have been appearing regularly in the ‘threat’ box of any SWOT Analysis, but it needn’t. With common sense, suitable tools and a genuine respect for the new boundaries, GDPR may actually represent an opportunity for marketers; an opportunity to build long-lasting, strong relationships with an engaged audience group.

How does GDPR affect marketing?

Ok, so GDPR is forcing organisations to take a long, hard look at how they are collecting, storing and using their customers’ personal data. And this applies to both B2B and B2C contacts. But for those prepared to invest in the necessary tools, be innovative in their approach and use what tech colleagues call repeatable, agile based processes, GDPR can actually be used to understand customers better, improve communications and engagement, increase revenue streams and provide a demonstrable ROI. Yes really!

On the surface, GDPR might seem somewhat extreme, realistically though, there are only three key areas that marketers need to worry about – data permission, data access and data focus.

I think this means, how you got it, what you said you would and what you can do with it, who can access it and what timeframes you need it for. Marketing basics really.

With this in mind, consider the ‘threats’ posed and balance that with the ‘opportunities’ presented in this new era:

  1. GDPR is designed to create transparency and consent for the consumer in how their data is collected and managed.

Compliance will allow your organisation to build high-levels of trust with customers through transparent, authentic communication policies. Showing your customers how much you value their data, and how you will secure it will demonstrate a level of respect and accountability within your organisation that all customers want.

  1. GDPR is designed to limit or stop entirely the number of unwelcome messages a consumer receives and limit the way their data can be shared or used without their consent.

Where companies may have failed to gain proper consent in the past, marketers can demonstrate they know their audience and provide valuable insight and content to maintain a connection and indeed compel customers to stay in touch. Where poor communicators will see a large percentage of opt outs, you can generate significantly more opt ins!

  1. You will disengage from a large proportion of your database

Whilst there will inevitably be a reduction in the size of your database, this needn’t be a negative. When you audit your variety of data sources, realistically, how many lapsed. old or legacy ‘customers’ still respond to any of your marketing campaigns? How much time and money do you waste on DM campaigns that are misdirected, returned or remain unopened? Instead, create clever, targeted campaigns to a smaller more receptive audience. Isn’t that what we all ever want anyway! Plus with more buy-in you may be able to segment your audience to make campaigns more customer-centric and you will see a much better return on investment.

Of course, as always, there isn’t a silver bullet for this, and earlier in the year, the ICO released a 12-step guide to some fundamental themes all organisations should understand in order to implement best data practice. The titles of the themes below and can be downloaded from the ICO web site.

  1. Organisational Awareness
  2. Information you hold
  3. Privacy Information
  4. Individual Rights
  5. Subject access requests
  6. Lawful basis
  7. Consent
  8. Children
  9. Data breaches
  10. Data Protection by Design and Data Protection Impact Assessments
  11. Data Protection Officers
  12. International

These themes, as with the impact of GDPR, are organisational wide, but from a marketing point of view, there are some more specific function requirements too:

  • Audit your mailing list. What personal data do you hold, where did it come from and who do you share it with? For any data you don’t have ‘opt in’ records for either remove them or instigate a re-permission campaign, outlining the benefits of staying on your data base. For new subscribers, make sure they confirm they are happy to join your various subscriptions individually and create an automated welcome e-mail campaign to create the double opt in status that ratifies these new subscriptions. Remember that all data collected prior to May 25th is still subject to GDPR rules.
  • Review the way your organisaiton collects personal data. Do you have necessary consent and opts ins? An automatically ‘ticked’ radio box on a website won’t stand up anymore, so un-tick all boxes and let the customer request information from your organisation. The upside is that making a conscious decision to connect with your organisation will make for a stronger relationship in the long run.
  • Create a content marketing strategy using white papers, guides and eBooks that visitors to your web site can access and download in exchange for them sharing their contact information. But then you must re-connect to inform them of other ‘benefits’ to engaging with your organisation and manage subsequent permissions separately.
  • Think about investing in a CRM system to centralise your data collection and interactions to create a single customer view. The time for using Google docs or Excel spreadsheets to store customer data is over. A good CRM will allow you to record where and when data interactions occurred, allow you to manage a customer’s preferences, and allow users to access their data records enabling them to make any changes as necessary. All GDPR compliance requirements and all possible with the right system.
  • Understand the nature of the data you’re collecting in more detail. Is it all necessary, or are there elements that you don’t really need? Only ask for what you need, and be explicit about what you will use it for. For B2B marketers, full name, email address and company name is usually more than enough to engage.
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GDPR potentially represents a big change to the way companies operating in EU countries handle personal data. But it isn’t designed to stop businesses from communicating with their customers. Where GDPR may lead to a decrease in data quantity, it should lead to an increase in data quality, which is the opportunity marketers have to delve deeper into the profiles of their prospects and customers, rather than using the traditional “one-size-fits-all” approach to marketing.

One final caveat though, is if you really don’t know whether you are compliant or not, ask a solicitor as to what is or is not a legal requirement for your business.

*originally posted via Linked In February 2018





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