While many businesses are addressing GDPR compliance on a general level, it’s also crucial for them to drill down into varying departments and understand the implications it could have – and one of these is marketing which is likely to be affected in a number of ways.

For those that aren’t aware, the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), is a new set of regulations which will be enforced across the EU on May 25th 2018. The law is being put into place to ensure businesses are now using consumer data in a transparent manner and for its intended purpose. Huge fines are being mooted for those that fail to comply which is why it’s crucial to understand how it could impact your business’s marketing efforts and the steps you can take to prepare for May.

We’ve looked at the role it’ll play in how you go about your marketing and how you can avoid falling foul of the huge penalties which are set to be put in place.

How will the GDPR impact your marketing efforts?

The main aspect of marketing which look set to be impacted by GDPR is email marketing. While many businesses have spent years creating email lists, the vast majority of these are likely to find that the manner in which individuals were signed up will simply lack what’s required by the GDPR.

Some businesses, such as JD Wetherspoons, have taken the extreme approach of deleting their entire mailing lists and have moved away from email marketing. They communicated with their customers that they could keep up to date with news and offers via their website and social media channels during the move which saw over 600,000 contact entries deleted. While this is a fail-safe way of avoiding any GDPR breaches, it’s also something that not all businesses can afford to do. Therefore you should be looking at how you can cleanse your data and take action in building it again in-line with the GDPR.

One way of cleansing your data is through repermissions. This will allow you to clearly establish who would like to receive marketing communications, however it should be done sooner rather than later to grant enough time to get it completed thoroughly. The process of seeking repermission should still be done with care. Big brands such as Honda and Flybe fell foul of this last year after they contacted individuals who had already opted out of receiving marketing material and asked them whether they would like to be contacted. While it might seem innocent enough, the process of seeking repermissions is still regarded as marketing and therefore isn’t permitted for targeting individuals who have already opted out. Be sure to only contact those who have already given you consent, don’t see it as an opportunity to re-engage with customers who have opted out as you could well be punished for this.

How to collect data for marketing in-line with GDPR

There are a few key aspects which are crucial for data collection for marketing under the GDPR which we’ve outlined. You should be looking to implement best practice as mentioned below as soon as possible to ensure any new contacts you add are all done so in accordance with GDPR.

Firstly, don’t pressure individuals to grant consent by making it a pre-requisite for signing up to a service. If their consent isn’t necessary than it shouldn’t be requested. You can instead help to sell the benefits of granting consent by highlighting what they’ll receive in return; or better yet actually improve the content offered through your email marketing so it serves real value.

Secondly, you’ll need to revise your lead generation and consent forms so they allow users to opt-in in a ‘freely given, specific, informed, and unambiguous’ way. This means you can no longer have pre-ticked boxes and it should be made crystal clear to the user exactly what they’re signing up for. The clearer you make it, the better guarded you are against breaching the GDPR guidelines. This process will help to evidence that the user has explicitly agreed to receive your email marketing which will play in your favour if it’s ever brought into question.

Thirdly, if you’re collecting data for multiple marketing channels (for example SMS & direct mail as well as email) we recommend breaking down permissions on a micro scale – so instead of giving the option “tick box if you’d like to receive offer and news”, provide separate options for each channel. This will allow them to pick and choose exactly how they’d like to be contacted and will ultimately improve their experience moving forward too.

Fourthly, the need for clarity is further extended if the information you collect is likely to be shared with 3rd party businesses. Merely defining their category may well be deemed as being insufficient so make it clear exactly who the information will be shared with and how it’ll be used. Granted, this added degree of openness is likely to impact the rate of sign ups, however it’s a measure which needs to be taken.

Finally, the process of opting out should be just as easy as it is for them to opt-in. This once more follows the general premise of the regulations which are set around granting users the freedom to have the information used as they wish. In addition to this, people can also exercise their ‘right to be forgotten’, which allows them to request their details be completed deleted. The ease of opting out along with having information deleted means that businesses now have to manage the content they serve vie email campaigns with even more care so as to not lose subscribers.

Final words

Don’t head into May under the false pretence that “you’ll be okay because there are plenty of other businesses that aren’t prepared”. The penalties for failing to comply means it’s simply not worth the risk. Take action now in cleansing your data, and if there Is a degree of uncertainty then a last resort may well be to delete your records. Allow yourself time to establish other channels of marketing to make up for the shortfall in email activity if you feel it’ll be hampered greatly.

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Ian is the founder of Opportunity Marketing marketing, with over 18 years of experience in successfully setting up marketing departments, creating marketing strategies and implementing these strategies across a wide number of SME companies in both the B2B and B2C sectors through a variety of channels.