hiding face behind a sheet
PHOTO: Alexandra Gorn

There will always be marketing. It is possible to have client privacy coexist with powerful digital marketing systems. But the GDPR will significantly change the way many marketers do business, especially when it comes to using consumer data to deliver marketing content.

Data has transformed the world of marketing, enabling organizations to target their customers with an extraordinary level of of granularity and accuracy. From purchased databases to tracking a particular consumer’s website behavior, data has been plentiful and easy to obtain.

The GDPR, however, will significantly restrict marketers’ access to the data they’ve relied on for the last several years. For one thing, marketers will be able to collect only as much data as is necessary and relevant for the activity in question. They won’t be able to request information on household income, for example, from a user who just wants to sign up for a newsletter.

In addition, it’s been a common practice among marketers to collect email addresses for purposes like downloading a white paper and to then continue using those addresses to send marketing emails. Under the GDPR, that will no longer be allowed. Any data that’s collected can be used for that purpose only unless the consumer gives explicit consent for it to be used for additional purposes.

The end result is that marketers will have to earn the right to communicate with consumers. Marketers are used to having to compete for attention; now they’ll have to compete just for the right to have their content show up in a consumer’s inbox. In the long run, that should raise the bar for quality content globally.

Editor's Note: This is the fourth and final installment in a four-part series on the GDPR. Read more of Auvray and Podnar's thoughts on the GDPR in this free whitepaper.

Evolving to Privacy By Design

While GDPR is currently on everyone’s radar due to the impending deadline, it’s really only one component of a larger strategy around customer engagement and client intimacy every company should focus on with the help of digital tools. It is possible to develop and sustain a customer relationship in alignment with GDPR, as long as your organization adopts a “customer privacy first” mentality.

To that end, being compliant is necessary, but not sufficient, for achieving a more effective business strategy. GDPR compliance is a way to accelerate the transformation a company has to make if they want to be customer-centric organization, which is a mandatory move at a digital age.

That’s the opportunity behind the digital transformation and related personalization of the client relationship.

It’s not about the feature (e.g., a consent manager within your marketing automation software) but about what you can achieve with it: better customer relationships with trust and transparency.

This transparency would lead to increase the quality level of the data you collect from your customers because:

  • They will understand why you need it and hopefully see the value.
  • You’re giving them a way to control their data through anonymization, export or deletion, reassuring them that, at any point in time, they can modify their consent.

And a better data quality means better personalization, leading to a better service and/or product offering and, eventually, greater revenue.

So as you can see, it’s not just about being GDPR compliant.

Within your company, if you push for GDPR compliance without perspective, you will fail because of the lack of alignment in your organization. But if you push a message such as: “We are about to build a better digital customer relationship by strengthening the trust they have with us thanks to the way we collect data and use it for personalization, thus achieving a better service and eventually increasing our sales," then it’s a different story. It frames GDPR compliance as a consequence but not as the main goal.

It’s one of the reasons why such a project cannot be solely led by the head of Legal or IT but, as with any other major company transformation, should involve all leadership.

A Fundamental Shift for Marketing

May 25, 2018 is approaching quickly. While it appears that many organizations won’t meet the deadline, it’s important to make as much progress as you can by that date so that you can demonstrate your good-faith efforts to regulatory bodies.

In the long term, however, the GDPR is much more than a date on the calendar. It’s not something you do once, file away in a drawer, and never think about again. Instead, it introduces a fundamental shift in the way businesses use personal data, one that will forever change common marketing activities.

It’s safe to say that many thought leaders are already busy adapting marketing best practices to this new reality. So, in addition to achieving compliance, it’s important to look beyond the deadline and to start figuring out how your organization can accomplish its marketing goals in this new reality and most importantly, get major benefits from it as another way to strengthen a client centric approach of your business.