Senior Vice President of Audience Solutions Dun & Bradstreet
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What does GDPR really mean for B2B marketing?

22nd Oct 2018
Senior Vice President of Audience Solutions Dun & Bradstreet
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The ever-increasing amount of digital data available on customers has brought with it a heightened focus on the responsible use of personal data, and the introduction of tighter regulations. Although the rise of mobile devices and social media has given marketers access to more data on online buyer behaviour than ever before, it has to be weighed up against an individual’s right to privacy.

GDPR: the end of life as we know it

In May this year, the much-anticipated implementation of the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) resulted in a slew of emails to contacts and a widespread panic across marketing teams. There were suggestions that this regulation could have a huge impact on the delivery of much-relied on tactics, as key contacts would now need to ‘opt in’ rather than ‘opt out’ of marketing communications. Many feared it was somewhat of a ‘death knell’ and that customer marketing activities would be significantly impacted.

Much of this panic has been due to a lack of knowledge and understanding of what the GDPR would mean in practice. Several different surveys found that marketers believed that data such as email addresses, web browsing history and other contact details would be off limits.

The big question of consent

The regulation has changed approaches to consumer marketing, with many people receiving a large number of emails from companies seeking consent in the weeks leading up to GDPR implementation. But consent is not the only way to process data and B2B marketers can still deliver effectively and utilise account-level data to engage with customers and prospects.

Account-level data also still provides enough information to allow for targeted customer content and campaign activity. Personalisation without consent is still possible if focused on the account rather than an individual. The key to being able to use that account data effectively is making sure each business has a unique identifier to which the individual can be connected. That way any actions taken by the individual are layered up to the account they represent. Then the personalisation of the customer experience can be done for each account rather than at the individual level. 

Despite not being impacted in quite as drastic a way as their B2C counterparts, B2B marketers will have to rethink the way they collect third party data. As an example, rather than collecting location data on an individual, that data will need to be tracked at an aggregated level about people who spend time in certain places. This is still invaluable data that can be used to effectively target without loss of personal privacy.

The benefits of GDPR

Many are viewing GDPR as an opportunity to clean up their data, something that was probably well overdue. GDPR will force companies to get their data in order and help ensure that the right data is being used to build accurate customer identities. With a better data set, companies will be able to better customise and personalise the user experience, increase conversion rates and improve campaign performance.

What’s more, GDPR could help improve the performance of marketing campaigns. For instance, companies who engage in digital advertising will be able to better understand who is actually viewing their digital ads (because the data is ‘cleaner’), which helps inform campaign performance and manage return on ad spend, thus saving money too. 

Finally, by tying those individual identities back to an account, companies can gain a better holistic account view and create custom experiences for each account, which is key for ABM programs.

Evolution not revolution

In reality, the GDPR provides clarity and consistency for those operating across multiple EU countries, and is designed to reflect the evolving digital landscape rather than being a major change to data protection legislation. Whilst the issue of consent has received much attention, it is not a panacea to ensure GDPR compliance and it’s important to have a full understanding of when consent is required, and when it is not.

The GDPR is an ‘evolution’, rather than a major revamp. There was already significant data protection legislation in place across Europe and the GDPR builds upon it and offers greater consistency between countries. It’s hugely important that those who collect, buy and process personal data do so in a responsible and ethical way. But the right data used in the right way can still be extremely valuable for B2B marketing. Data that is responsibly collected and verified is likely to be of higher quality and actually provides an improved ROI, rather than hampering it.

Many organisations are still getting to grips with what GDPR means in practice. We haven’t seen the huge multi-million dollar fines that were predicted, although there has been a definite step change across the industry. So, while GDPR will no doubt change the way data is collected, stored, and used for marketing purposes, it isn’t necessarily the scary change many had feared.

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