What Is GDPR and How It Affects B2B Marketers

What Is GDPR and How It Affects B2B Marketers

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, by now you should have heard, read or watched something, somewhere about the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and how it’s going to profoundly affect your future B2B marketing.

If you’re still in the dark, let us cover some of the basics that you need to know. We promise to keep it simple.

GDPR In a Nutshell

The first question that has left many B2B marketers puzzled is: What is GDPR?

B2B Marketing.com said it best:

“The GDPR is European legislation designed to harmonise data protection law across the EU. The intention was not to make marketers’ lives more difficult (although it may seem that way), but to improve the rights of consumers with regard to their personal data and how it’s protected.”

GDPR is nothing new – it was adopted by the European Council in April 2016 – but the day you need to mark in your calendars is May 25, 2018, because that’s when it officially comes into effect. And when this date arrives, your marketing strategies are expected to be compliant. Failing to comply means you’ll receive initial warnings, temporary suspensions of data processing, and financial penalties which could inevitably drive you out of business.

But what does it mean to “be compliant” – and how can you avoid the harsh implications for not complying?

In order to be compliant, you need to first understand what’s required of you. Remember, GDPR is all about data processing and data protection, so there are very strict rules guiding how you can lawfully gather personal data from prospects and customers. The two rules that are most applicable to B2B marketers are as followed:

Firstly, you won’t be allowed to send an email (nor a direct mail) to prospects or customers without their specific, informed, freely given, and unambiguous permission. Let me try to break this down: forget about automatic opt-in’s or pre-ticked boxes! GDPR forces you to re-examine your opt-in process, ensuring there is clear information on what content and messaging the contact will be receiving (e.g. newsletters, promotions, product updates, upcoming events).

Secondly, you won’t be allowed to automatically drop cookies across your leads’ or prospects’ web pages unless they have given you clear and unambiguous permission. As the marketer, you have to make it blatantly clear to your audience which personal data is being processed (e.g. location data, online identifiers, cultural, economic or social identifiers) and what it’s going to be used for. Subjects also have the right to be forgotten – having all of their personal information erased from your database with zero traces of it.

More importantly, it’s not enough that people give you their consent, you also have to prove it. This can only be achieved by keeping a record of the following information:

  • Who consented (full name, title, company name)
  • When they consented (date and time)
  • What information they were given by your company (a copy of the document or data capture form as well as the privacy policy)
  • How they consented (a copy of the complete data capture form, with timestamp)
  • If consent has been withdrawn (and if so, when)

In practice, encouraging audience members to “opt-in” and give their consent involves you presenting very clear information by:

  • Keeping the language simple
  • Avoiding usage of technical terminology
  • Ensuring the statement is concise and not vague

Under these new regulations, B2B buyers will no longer be bombarded with tonnes of irrelevant marketing materials. This not only puts the control back in their hands, it also ensures that every message they receive – or any interaction they have with your company – is genuinely desired.

Major Challenges

Although the future looks bright for consumers, B2B marketers are presented with two major challenges that ultimately hinder their demand generation efforts:

  1. Shrinkage of Existing Database: Under GDPR, not only do you have to gain the official consent of future contacts, you also have to prove the individual consent of existing contacts. If you don’t re-engage with these individuals to prove their consent by May 25, a large portion of your database is going to be diminished.
  2. Slow Growth of New Database: While pre-GDPR era had you catching as many leads as possible, the post-GDPR era will make it extremely difficult to rebuild and grow your marketable database. Engaging and attracting new prospects will require far more creative strategies that don’t necessarily take the form of an email.

Despite these setbacks, how does your B2B marketing remain relevant and effective? Which new engagement methods and strategies are you going to adopt in order to drive lead generation? Stay tuned for our upcoming posts as we unveil practical approaches for B2B marketers.

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