May 22, 2018 JK Burke

GDPR for the American Marketer

The General Protection Data Act (GDPR) has probably been something you’ve seen on LinkedIn or hashtagged on Twitter. GDPR will affect almost every member of your office – in some way, shape or form a GDPR related task will pop-up in your inbox, if one hasn’t already.

If you’re a client of Consensus, I know these conversations started months ago and will continue for the foreseeable future. But, what we’ve seen with our clients – whether they have international digital properties or not – is a chance to gain a better understanding of the landscape in order to improve their customer experiences.

For this blog, I want to step back, focus on the American Marketer and how getting ahead of the game (even if it means making life a little tougher today) will ultimately result in higher KPI’s tomorrow. Let’s do this by reviewing three important GDPR concepts:

1. Data Permission
This is just a fancy way of saying that your digital visitors must give absolute consent for you to engage them in future communications. Moving forward, you cannot assume anyone wants to hear from you – they must EXPLICITLY tell you that they want to hear from you.
GDPR Compliant Form

What does this mean? Gone are the days of scraping or buying email lists, gone are the days of cold emails, and certainly gone are the days of unloading all of your content onto a prospect after he or she signs up for a single infographic.

Now, prospects need to provide consent in a “freely given, specific, informed, and unambiguous way. The graphic pictured right is a great example of how a opt-in form should look moving forward.

How do we prepare to shine? I believe the data permission regulations put forth by GDPR are right inline with the demands of today’s consumers when they interact with businesses – most specifically authenticity. Consumers want to know where the product came from, how it was made, who provided the labor, and so much more. Marketing needs to follow this trend and provide the user full control over the relationship they maintain with your business.

This is the time to understand what drives your user to opt-in; are they there for only promotions and sales? Or are they opting-in to follow your thought leadership? By providing the user with choices to the content we can further segment and understand our user base while building a community that is focused on quality, rather than quantity.

Ultimately, data permissions will be a great indicator of the perceived value of your content – As marketers we will have to work harder, understand more, and say thank-you to our community through actionable, insightful, and unique content. Those who can authentically connect will see the pay-off.

2. Data Access
The right to be forgotten, first introduced in 2014, was a massive ruling by the EU court and they showed consistency with their language in the GDPR document. The 50,000-foot explanation is that it returns ownership of a user’s data to the user. This means that any user you have in your system has the right to access, view, change, and delete their personal data if they so choose. This is great because it is their data even if you collected it.

What does it mean? This is relatively simple for those on a marketing team. In practice, this could be an unsubscribe link that then allows the user to navigate to their personal profile. From that location, the user can choose to alter, delete, or simply view the data your organization has collected on them. If you aren’t using a CRM currently, I highly suggest getting one up – a misstep here and you’ll be hearing from your legal team.

How do we prepare to shine? Really the chance to shine here is more of a chance to organize and remove any information silos that currently exist in your organization. Unifying your databases will also be essential in discovering trends related to your campaigns and content offerings. Once your systems are synced, you’ll be able to better optimize content offerings – thus continuing your push towards a community built on Authenticity and mutual value.

3. Applicable Data
Honestly, this is great simply because it will force marketers to really think about the design of their opt-in forms. A personal pet-peeve of mine is going to download a white paper, on any random topic, and being greeted by a form with no less than 16 mandatory fields. Applicable data will help solve this exact problem.

Under GDPR any personal data that is collected must be legally justifiable as it applies to the topic of the agreement in which the user is entering. This means that any information that you require a user to enter to access content must have a direct and unambiguous link to the what you are providing. Although the rule in itself is somewhat ambiguous, it is easily avoidable. When reviewing your entry fields, simply ask yourself how the information received applies to your overall mission – if it falls in the “nice to have” category, then I’d suggest removing it completely.

What does this mean? Simply ask yourself, do I need to know if the user is showing signs of male pattern baldness to gain access to my newsletter? If you are finding that you don’t really understand the point of some of the data you are processing then it’s best to remove it. If you find it to be a stretch but think you have a good explanation, go to your legal team. Just remember GDPR was done to protect the consumer and the corporate players will usually be on the wrong end of the argument.

How do we prepare to shine? Folks, we are circling back to authenticity. If you cannot align the data you are collecting with the purpose of your campaign or the landing page, then it’s time to leave it behind. GDPR is a great way to trim the fat. As marketers, we need to realign our focus on being authentic and respecting the privacy of users. If you cannot organically encourage user interactions with your brand, then GDPR is the perfect time to step back and reattack.