Think Outside the Inbox

Chloe Bunce

Post-GDPR Routes to Your Audience

How was GDPR for you? A blip? A bit of a drag? A total, hair-wrenching nightmare?

Now that that the long-awaited (and in some cases, dreaded) deadline of May 25th has passed us by, many will look back on the period of research and preparation as a challenging time. No one enjoys struggling to translate legalese in order to make drastic decisions; particularly when those decisions concern that most precious of business commodities: customer data.

Those companies that took the hard-line approach, clearing down all data for which explicit consent had not been obtained, will find themselves facing a new challenge; how do they communicate with prospective customers?

In this blog I’ve laid out my thoughts on how to keep up the vital stream of communication with customers and prospects in the post-GDPR age.

A Quick Re-cap

GDPR was put in place to protect peoples’ personal data. Quite rightly, individuals should have control over their own personal information, who can use it and who can store it.

Previously companies were allowed to buy data and use it to contact cold leads (i.e. individuals that they had had no previous interaction with). There were some rules around how long businesses could use and store data, but it wasn’t strictly monitored or enforced.

To summarise the worst behaviours of the pre-GDPR era, I’ve invented Coldcall UK Ltd. This unscrupulous organisation relied on an unsecured data system containing bought lists of cold leads. The data lists would be indiscriminately emailed around, saved to desktops, shared with other businesses and, on one (imaginary) occasion, popped onto a memory stick that was then left on a bus.

Opt-outs and return-to-sender envelopes were ignored. Mass, blanket email and direct mail campaigns would be scatter-gunned to tens of thousands of recipients on a regular basis.

With the introduction of targeted advertising online, Coldcall UK Ltd’s Marketing Director went on a two-day workshop and then ran riot, stalking the online behaviour of current and prospective customers. Reams of new personal data were added to the company’s leaky data system – everything from which primary school their contacts had attended to their preferred brand of dental floss. All in all, it was a disgraceful state of affairs.

It actually seems incredible, even less than a month after GDPR was enforced, that our personal data could be used in this way. But sadly, in some cases, it was. You’ll be glad to know that Coldcall UK Ltd have mended their ways and now have a highly secure Customer Relationship Management system (CRM), a fully adhered-to privacy policy and a strictly consent-based, double opt-in data procedure. And a new Marketing Director. And soon a new company name.

For companies who have done the same, it can be as cathartic as clearing years’ worth of junk out of the spare room wardrobe. But you are left with a sadly depleted database (as long as you can prove that they’ve transacted business with you) and maybe a handful of prospects who ticked a box at some point. For your business to succeed you need to communicate. To communicate you need consent.

Here are some ideas about how you can recover. It’s time to build a clean, neat, legally-sound database made up of willing and receptive individuals. In time, the fact that these people actually want to hear from you will cause you to reap rewards – after all, a warm lead is far more promising than a cold one.

Step 1: Set up a CRM system

The way that a Customer Relationship Management system works for post-GDPR data recovery is that it manages opt-ins: the magical proof of consent from your contacts. Other than that, a CRM needs to provide 3 basic services:

  1. Safely and securely store data
  2. Interact with other systems
  3. Be user friendly

A CRM system is essentially a secure database that replaces scrappy Excel lists saved on desktops and helps you manage your sales opportunities. But it also works with email marketing software, billing software, social media management solutions and so on. Because a CRM is interacting live with these other systems, it begins to build a store of incredibly useful data about your customers and prospects.

Most have a scoring system to see how often contacts are interacting with your business. If in one day a prospect visits the website, likes a LinkedIn post and downloads a brochure from an email campaign, it might be an idea for your sales team to get in touch!

But before you reach this stage, you need your contacts to have given their consent so that you can store and use their data. To keep it short, here’s an example of how it could work:

Think Outside the Inbox

* I’m just saying – if done to an A* standard, obtaining consent can end in a sale. I know. I ended up buying a pair of trainers from a company I’d completely forgotten about after they invited me to opt in (#sucker). The same magic can absolutely take place in the B2B world as well.

It’s all about the website

So far, so easy! But this all depends on luring your prospects to your website in the first place. An online form linked to your CRM system is, as the example above shows, the simplest and most efficient method for obtaining consent. There are other ways: Scanned business cards, scanned signatures on lead sheets, etc. But fundamentally you want those contacts on your website, ticking a box.

However, now that GDPR is in place, you can’t contact your prospects via email and this makes things much more challenging.

Thinking Outside the Inbox

This is where us creative marketers come in! We love a challenge, and the mission of drawing cold leads (in this time-starved, suspicious day and age) to your website to volunteer their personal data and welcome your comms into their inbox is, some would suppose, virtually impossible. Luckily, it’s not! Here are some suggestions:

  • Social media channels – sponsored links
    The use of targeted sponsored links is still a viable option for companies who wish to catch the eye of specific demographics. For example, using LinkedIn, you could pay for an enticing sponsored post to appear on (for example) the newsfeeds of industry-relevant CEOs in a prescribed geographical location. Link the post to your website and with the right messaging, you could tempt them to opt in.
  • Advertising – digital and press 
    Advertising in the right place and using the right messaging can still prompt a response. Carefully planned advertising campaigns – particularly digital adverts – can draw people to your site for more information or to take advantage of a deal.
  • Face to face – exhibitions, trade shows, seminars, workshops 
    As previously mentioned, collecting business cards and signed lead sheets at events then scanning and storing them is somewhat clunky, but acceptable proof of consent. However, you can take advantage of having your target audience in one place in a clever way. Everyone has smartphones on them nowadays; why not make opt-in a part of your presentation or workshop?
  • Personal approach – targeting via one-to-one emails, phone calls etc.
    GDPR applies to mass campaigns. It is still acceptable for individuals to reach out to strangers and introduce themselves via one-to-one means. If someone who you believe would benefit from your products or services has made their contact details public (for example, on their website), you can absolutely get in touch via email, phone, LinkedIn etc. and request that they opt in to access further information.
  • Get your sales team (and all other staff) onboard
    Your sales team need to have the new opt-in rules at the front of their minds when dealing with prospects, as does everyone else in the company. They may need to carefully pick their moment, but if the time is right to lead a prospect to opt in, then the opportunity needs to be grabbed. Sales teams can even make the process easier by bringing up the online form on a laptop or tablet when fact to face with a potential customer.

This is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to catching your prospects’ attention and persuading them to opt in, but hopefully it’s given a flavour of the clever ways you can replace mass campaigns and gather high quality, responsive leads.

The implementation of GDPR has had a world-wide impact on businesses’ data use policies, but looking at the big picture it’s most certainly a positive move. Seeing your lovingly collected pool of data so sadly diminished can be disheartening, but there are effective and – importantly – ethical ways of replenishing it which will result in top quality data and brilliant systems in place to make the best use of it.

For assistance with any of the matters covered, please do get in touch – we’d love to help.

Motion Marketing is a B2B marketing agency that focuses on the technology, engineering and manufacturing industries. We are not a consumer marketing agency, we focus on business to business marketing with a growing number of long-term relationships. If you would like to discuss your brand status with an external, skilled marketing agency, please reach out to the Motion team.

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