After four years of negotiation the European Union adopted the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) on 14 April 2016. This brings many changes to EU personal data protection.

The GDPR replaces the previous EU Directive 95/46/EC as well as all EU national legislation on data protection, such as the UK’s Data Protection Act 1998.

Here is a brief summary of the main points of this new Directive:

  • There is no distinction made between personal or business email addresses
  • All emails relating to an individual will require “opt in” consent and the sender must be able to prove consent was given
  • Implied “soft opt in” is no longer acceptable
  • Everybody has the right to be forgotten i.e. personal details removed from databases
  • Fines will be tough; up to 4% of global turnover or €20 million

These changes and clarifications will have a big impact on how GDPR applies to B2B marketing. Let’s take a look at 5 things you can do to alter or improve your practices to meet the GDPR regulations.

1. Ask permission

If you haven’t previously executed a defined opt-in policy you may not have asked consent to market to your contacts. You will need to execute a programme to seek permission to your existing database. Make the email friendly and positive; give your prospects a reason to want to engage with your company and content. Make it really easy for users to provide consent, for example by clicking a single button in an email. Don’t forget to record the interaction with a date/time stamp.

2. Focus on inbound marketing

Modern marketing has shifted away from data lists and outbound communication, to content, social and inbound channels. In an inbound world, users should be coming to your site and furnishing you with their information (usually as part of a content gating strategy). Further communication such as email nurturing doesn’t come as an unwanted surprise and sales conversions are usually much higher. Effective use of inbound marketing requires effective web conversions, which brings us nicely to the next point.

3. Optimise web conversions

A web conversion is the point where an unknown user on your website becomes known to you through a web form or similar information exchange. Simply putting a form up on your website is not enough though. An optimised web conversion will make that user known to tracking technologies such as Marketing Automation and Web Analytics. It will also gather as much additional information about that user as that point of conversion such as: location, company data, how did they reach the site, what caused them to convert. A structured and well-developed web conversion strategy should also incorporate opt-in processes. Opt-in’s should be consistently implemented across all website forms.

4. Expire old data

Those in an outbound mind-set might be tempted to cling onto their old data. Just because you’ve got 100,000 contacts in a database doesn’t mean they’re all valuable. Clean out hard bounced and remove unsubscribed addresses. Remove contacts that haven’t responded or engaged in a long period of time; if they haven’t clicked or opened in over a year, they are probably never going to. Carrying out this exercise regularly is going to keep your data leaner and meaner, resulting in higher conversion rates and a reduced chance of falling fowl of privacy issues.

5. Consult with your suppliers

Lots of marketing technologies store contact information in some form or another. Check with Marketing Automation, CRM and Analytics providers on their response to GDPR requirements. Find out what their processes are for removing data from systems. Determine what time stamps are automatically added when updating opt-in or unsubscribe information so that you can feel confident in having an audit trail for consent.

Many in the digital marketing industry welcome regulations such as GDPR as an important part of regaining the trust of consumers and buyers. Privacy regulations are here to stay and making the right strategic decisions now could put you on the front foot and ahead of your competitors. And as such, ensuring that your data capture on any forms is a critical aspect of this.


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