There is no way around it – the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will be fully effective on 25 May and organizations have to deal with it. The regulation will influence organizations quite significantly in the first months of the year.
First, we will see work being done to ensure personal data is mapped and managed, consent for communication and data processing is obtained, and processes are in place to deal with the right to erase and the right to access information about oneself owned by organizations.
Second, processes and systems will need to be adjusted to ensure people can update their preferences, how organizations interact with them, and what information they are willing to share. Systems will be key to ensuring there are smooth processes to obtain consent and we will see many organizations rushing to get this consent by emailing too much and too often to contacts in their current databases. It will be the storm before the calm.
Lastly, we will see some organizations falling back on the “loopholes” in the regulation and invoke “legitimate interest” for activities where it would be quite difficult to get consent. How much of this approach will work remains to be seen.
With GDPR, the value of an active contact will increase. Hence, the need to guarantee this person is even better treated from a marketing and sales perspective. Ensuring there is wide respect for a person’s preferences in terms of communication will force marketers to only communicate what they are allowed to in terms of topics and channels.
Earning this permission will be a different game. Without relevant and timely content, it will be harder for organizations to get people to opt-in to their communications. There is only one way forward: better and better content that builds trust and drives people to opt-in for regular communications.
This will lead to a virtuous cycle: the more content an organization produces and the more its audience consumes, the better the data to plan for more content and to ensure that relevance and trust stay high. A recent study by WARC seems to corroborate this idea: “a study of 616 marketing and advertising professionals found that drawing insights from data is seen as one of the most important areas of focus for both brands (55%) and agencies (59%) in 2018”.
But you need to have content so you can draw insights, which means that having a strong content plan for 2018 is key. To keep the levels of awareness and engagement high, one has to replace unsolicited email marketing with more available content.
Digital content and permission-based marketing are only part of a good customer experience. There is more to it. There is a full thinking that goes from first interaction with your organization to the regular service you get once you become a client.
Personalization of content adjusting it either to the buyers’ journey or to a pre-defined segmentation is critical to ensure relevance and a good customer experience. The good news is that marketing automation / engagement tools easily support you in this process and allow a level of personalization that can improve your customer experience.
Without such tools, your organization, and you yourself, are at a disadvantage: not only do you lack the tools to increase productivity, but you also miss out on the data to make better decisions. I cannot stress this enough: the data that is being gathered regarding interactions, success and behavior will be fundamental to continuously refine the customer experience.
The importance of personalization has been proven in several studies, including a study from Adlucent research where they found that consumers crave a personalized advertising experience and that 71% of respondents prefer ads tailored to their interests and shopping habits. Furthermore, 44% of respondents were willing to give out information including name, address or email address in order to get more personalized advertising.
With GDPR, we will also see a decrease in email marketing – not only will buying lists be reduced as an activity, but also outbound email communication might be limited to consent / preferences. As marketers with the responsibility to promote the organizations we work for, we will be required to innovate and find new channels to engage with clients and prospects.
Thinking of a typical buyer journey, platforms like LinkedIn or industry-specific social networks / websites will be great for the early stages. As will be the need for better search engine optimization and search engine marketing. Or to think of potential new approaches for your organization such as influencer marketing, account-based marketing or co-promotion. The hypothesis is that keeping a consistent high level of awareness and capturing leads will, most likely, require a multi-channel approach.
As your prospects move further into their buying journey, other channels will become more relevant. For B2B, the principle of “High-tech to high-touch” remains one of the best strategies to adopt. Perhaps it is time to dust off your event skills, or your community building skills. And the 70/20/10 approach should still remain true: 70% of what you do is what you know works, 20% is evolution from previous successful activities and 10% is where you let your creativity go loose (it’s the fun part).
2018 will definitely keep us marketers busy. The trends above are the “safe” things to focus on, but there is much more coming up.
Read more on how Nortal can help you tackle these challenges with our Revenue Science offering.