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Happy 2nd birthday, GDPR. The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation's saw its two-year enforcement anniversary date pass by Monday, May 25. By now we’ve heard about the major fines over the past two years. Now the question is what has GDPR done for marketing over the past 730 or so days?

Some originally thought marketing would be vastly improved. CMSWire author Sean Connell, a technology evangelist for Verndale, called GDPR in 2018 an “an incentive for brands to take a more strategic approach to how they aggregate and utilize customer data. In the end, this is a good thing for brands and consumers alike for several reasons.” 

Other headlines in 2018 suggested more doom and gloom for marketing, but a closer look, even at that particular story, suggested many were optimistic about marketing in a post-GDPR era. “There will always be marketing,” wrote CMSWire authors Kristina Podnar and Elie Auvray. “It is possible to have client privacy coexist with powerful digital marketing systems.”

It’s certainly been a balancing act over the past two years for marketers, and even long before GDPR. Marketers post-GDPR need to become even more personalized and targeted in order to be seen as relevant and not careless spam, while also making consumers feel as though their data or privacy was not violated, according to Andrew Konya, co-founder and CEO of market research platform Remesh, who shared those thoughts in an email to CMSWire.

Prospect List Is Down, but Sales Are Up

Some marketers say they have seen a big upside post-GDPR. Jase Rodley, founder and CEO of Dialed Labs, said the ROI from his company’s marketing has vastly improved since GDPR came into play. “We are a lot more careful with our data and only use authorized users,” Rodley said. “Our outreach emails are much better received, conversion-wise, as we have leaned out our database, excluding false positives and disengaged users.”

Rodley said the marketing prospect list has more than halved, but his team is getting more sales than previously. “Having such a broad list resulted in us sending out generic marketing to try and appeal to all demographics,” Rodley said. “However, having a narrower target market has enabled us to tailor our marketing to appeal to them. It resonates more and results in more interest and sales for our site.”

Related Article: 5 Ways GDPR Will Change Marketing Forever

Marketing Effort Required Internal, Communications Effort

Michael Habiger, head of marketing at FollowUpFred, said at first when GDPR went into effect partners were skeptical using his team’s email follow-up automation tool. That put the onus on the marketing department to assure that it was following all relevant GDPR guidelines. His company’s product is a free tool that you can download and use from any part of the world, but it mainly partners with American and European market. “Our main stance is that we do not provide/collect any mailing lists, meaning that we are not third-party providers,” Habiger said. “It is also worth mentioning that emails sent with our tool have a simple ‘unsubscribe’ button.”

Prospecting is still relevant for any marketing strategy, Habiger said. The marketing team not only had to update its marketing due to GDPR, but also make sure clients were given appropriate information on the company's security measures. So it became an internal and external effort, the latter focusing on clear communications with clients. “One thing we did is of course adjusting our product to the GDPR update, and we shared that information on our website,” Habiger said. “We also mention that beforehand with any potential client we negotiate with on any B2B sales.”

Email Marketing's Improved

Tamara Marie Johnson is senior content strategist at Smallpdf, which is headquartered in Switzerland. The company has many customers in the European Union. She said the GDPR has had a profound impact on her company, but, contrary to expectations, it's been a positive impact.

This is especially true for the company’s email marketing efforts. “By forcing us to rethink how we collect and use email addresses, the GDPR has actually helped us to adopt a more user-centered approach to email marketing,” Johnson said. “Not only do we have to consider our users' wants and needs to get that initial opt-in, but every single email that follows has to be in line with these wants and needs, too. Otherwise, our users will simply hit 'unsubscribe' after they've downloaded that e-book or cashed in that discount code. In short, the GDPR has focused our attention firmly on good UX in email marketing — a big, unexpected step in the right direction.”

Related Article: How Marketers Can Prepare for the GDPR

Road Ahead for GDPR, US

What’s next? Challenges still remain in terms of GDPR compliance, according to Omer Tene, vice president and chief knowledge officer at the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP). Businesses will continue to need to seek guidance on many ambiguous provisions of GDPR, and harmonization is still partial given varying national interpretations. “But, overall,” Tene added, “the GDPR has been a trailblazing reform elevating the EU to a global leadership position on the tech policy stage.”

The U.S. may follow suit. Many American states have implemented privacy laws. And in March, US Senator Jerry Moran, R-Kan., introduced the Consumer Data Privacy and Security Act, a federal law that would “strengthen the laws that govern consumers’ personal data and create clear standards and regulations for American businesses that collect, process and use consumers’ personally identifiable data.” The bill has had no further action outside of being introduced in March.