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March 14 2017
When EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into effect on 25 May 2018, it looks at first glance as if two seemingly opposing forces are set to collide. From one direction comes Big Data, the lifeblood of digital marketing. From the other, personal control over private data, the guiding principle of EU GDPR. In this article, the second in our series on EU GDPR, we suggest a third perspective:
Big Data + EU GDPR = Marketing opportunity.

Read our overview of EU GDPR here.

GDPR Checlklist

How does EU GDPR affect personal data?
The broad-reaching marketing implications of EU GDPR compliance are significant for organisations that collect and store private data as a core business activity. But GDPR consent is not just an IT problem. It affects any B2B or B2C marketer that relies on a valuable database as part of its CRM strategy. In real terms, all of us.
The most substantial shift that GDPR brings about is in the balance of power between private subject and the organisation collecting data. From 25 May 2018, the new rules are as follows:
  • Individuals must give clear, recorded consent to receive marketing communication. That means unambiguously worded opt-in agreements will replace vague, often misleading ‘opt-out’ boxes.

  • Organisations need to show greater transparency regarding the personal data they store andprocess. Crucially, the burden of proof is on the organisation to show that consent wasobtained, that the data is being stored for the agreed purpose, and that it is amended or deleted immediately upon request.

  • Communication around data storage and collection needs to be in clear, concise language. Individuals will no longer find themselves ‘agreeing to’ an avalanche of newsletters, third-party promotions and cookies because they missed checking a box hidden among pages of small print.

  • Individuals are protected from (or have the ‘Right to Object’ to) data profiling that results in decisions being made ‘with legal effects’ based solely on automated profiling.

Is this a threat to data-driven marketing?
If 2018 heralds a robust tightening up of data privacy, it should be pointed out that we’re hardly in the golden age of anarchic, unregulated data collection as it is. In fact, EU organisations are already accustomed to operating under some of the strictest data regulation on the planet.

But with big data well-entrenched as the driving force behind marketing, EU GDPR forces us nevertheless to take stock. Yes, we will continue to tap into customer analytics to improve the quality of sales leads, improve conversion and align content with the sales cycle and buyer journey, but it must be with a shift in focus. The good news is that it’s a shift that chimes harmoniously with the received wisdom in marketing – that an inbound, customer-centric approach is more effective than a product-led strategy.

How inbound marketing provides the solution
If they haven’t started doing so already, marketers have a ripe opportunity to initiate a whole new conversation with their customers, using an entirely new language.

For a start, any organisation that manages a customer database should be tackling the task of re-permissioning, obtaining fresh, unambiguous consent to receive communication. Even if the database is from a purchased customer list, organisations must still ensure that the consent of the individuals on that list is clearly documented. It might look like an ordeal, but think of the opportunities. Here’s the chance for marketers to craft compelling, engaging content with the objective of nurturing renewed customer interest. It means targeting the right customers with the right content. Above all, it means adopting an inbound marketing strategy, finding customers with exactly the right content at the appropriate stage of their journey.

The second source of encouragement is that EU GDPR is designed to be fully supportive of aproactive approach, not poised to penalise those who hesitate. Quite simply, the EU recognises that Big Data is big business, with an estimated value of 1 trillion euros by 2020. Collectively, GDPR creates an environment where better regulation leads to improved consumer trust. For marketers, customers who are rewarded with a more trustworthy product are better disposed to progress through the sales funnel.

GDPR Checklist

What should marketers do next?
There’s work to be done, but this is at least a situation where every completed task now reaps its rewards later on. Priorities include:

Take the time now to review your customer database thoroughly. Can you document how each individual opted in, for what, and until when? Do you have permission, for example, to track an IP address throughout your site? If you are using an automated system, are you certain it’s not sending the wrong communication to the wrong person. The slightest breach could result in a fine.

Are you including a subscription link in all your communication, across all platforms? If your customer is completing the decision process, are you making sure that an invitation is extended to remain delighted, to become an advocate?

Get creative. Now is your chance to fashion an engaging campaign with the specific purpose of re-permissioning your database. A challenge that your copywriters, your creative team and your planners should relish.

Learn a new language. The chances are that your terms and conditions, your sign-up agreement and your subscription settings no longer fall under the GDPR’s requirement to be in clear, concise language. Perhaps rewriting T&Cs is not the Holy Grail of copywriting, but here’s the opportunity todefine a new, vibrant, dare we say fun tone of voice that finally addresses customers as they want to be spoken to.

To see how BBD used its Content Marketing expertise to help the RNLI implement a proactive re-permissioning campaign, download our case study here.

To see how your organisation can prepare for EU GDPR, 


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