There’s an awful lot of tearing of hair and gnashing of teeth around GDPR, the new General Data Protection Regulations that come into force next May. It also looks like a lot of businesses are selling GDPR compliance services on a fear basis: get compliant or you’ll be fined/locked up in a dungeon/beheaded/banished to Mars. But is GDPR really a bad thing for marketing?
Why are so many marketers scared of GDPR?
Bad marketers have always been knocked sideways by opt-ins. It happened when the first Data Protection Act became law in 1984, again in 1987, and again in 1998. It happens every time data protection law is strengthened. But they’re not thinking things through properly. What’s not to like about a database of fully-qualified, warm, opted-in leads or customers? Nothing, that’s what.
Why is GDPR necessary?
GDPR is necessary because unskilled and inexperienced marketers have been lazy. Because too many marketers have done everything possible to play the system in the past, using people’s data willy nilly without permission. Because of spammers. Because of Google and Facebooks’ data antics. Because the public are fed up with their data being taken and used without so much as a by your leave, harnessed without permission for profiling, segmenting and targeting. And – contrarily – because too few marketers have bothered with proper profiling, segmenting and targeting, simply blatting out campaigns to everyone and his dog instead.
Cheer up – GDPR is great for consumers and marketers
GDPR is fantastic news for consumers. And we’re all consumers, whether or not we also happen to work in marketing. It means, as individuals, that we have a whole lot more control over who collects our data, how they keep it, why, and what they do with it. And it’s about time, since the brave new digital world we live in wasn’t taken into account by the old Data Protection Act, which dates back to pre-internet times.
GDPR is also brilliant news for marketers. Imagine this. You’ve collected a vast database of prospects but because they aren’t qualified, the results of your marketing efforts are proving less than brilliant. People frequently get abusive when you contact them. You get so many unsubscribe requests you’re starting to worry. Now and again you even wonder whether inbound marketing works, full stop.
That’s how you might have been operating so far. Now imagine this. Under the GDPR you have to get a positive, active ‘yes’ from people before you’re allowed to capture, store and use their personal data. Because your database is properly qualified, thanks to everyone’s opt-in, you have permission to communicate with them. Because they’ve opted in, more of them are likely to appreciate your communications. Some might even read them, and your marketing response rates are already improving.
The biggest differences of all between DPA and GDPR?
This time around, the definition of an ‘individual’ has been broadened. If you operate B2B your business customers and prospects now count as people, as individuals. You can’t just grab their personal data and use it, and you certainly can’t email B2B without first getting your target’s active agreement – their opt-in – any more.
The regulations also span the entire world for the first time. If you want to collect, keep and use data about any EU citizen, B2C or B2B, wherever in the world your business is based, you have to comply. And Brexit doesn’t matter. The regulations still apply.
Get GDPR ready, start doing grown-up marketing
If you’ve been worried about GDPR, stop fretting and embrace it. It will ultimately make your marketing life easier, you’ll irritate the people you communicate with less, and you’ll get better results.
PS. Tech giants like Google and Facebook are notorious for grabbing, storing and using personal data – anonymised or not – for their own purposes. It’s great to know that GDPR also applies to them. Google has already been severely reprimanded by the Information Commissioner’s Office over 1.6 million identifiable patient records that were illegally shared by the Royal Free Foundation NHS Trust with Google’s DeepMind Artificial Intelligence.