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Driving customer engagement with GDPR compliance

27th Apr 2018
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It’s one month until the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and it’s evident that many companies – especially SMEs - are at panic stations as they feel they have a long way to go in their preparations. 

The first point to make is that the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) knows full well that not every company will be 100% compliant by the deadline of 25 May. What is important is that you put your compliance wheels in motion now so that you can prove you’re taking the right steps towards embracing GDPR-standard processes, attitudes and systems. The ICO has also emphasised that it prefers the ‘carrot’ to the ‘stick’ approach, aiming to encourage companies to look beyond box-ticking and see the commercial benefits that tightened data governance procedures will bring.  

This is precisely the right way to approach your compliance obligations. In fact, the regulation presents many useful opportunities to hone the processes that underpin key areas of business. 

Here are three ways in which best-practice GDPR compliance will enhance your customer engagement.  

Declutter your data

When it comes to SMEs, it’s surprising how many companies still rely on Excel. This is a dangerous strategy in the GDPR era; it’s just not possible to manage complex data effectively or to generate a consolidated profile of customers and prospects. 

As I mentioned in my blog last month, even if companies have a CRM solution, there is no guarantee that data management will be in any better shape. If legacy data is migrated into the solution without the necessary effort to bring it into line with the GDPR, then the benefits of your technology investment will be lost. 

What’s clear is that compliance rests on your data accuracy being addressed. Data must be centralised and properly indexed, with inconsistent, inaccurate and out-of-date information amended or erased. Not only will this kickstart your compliance journey, it will bring immediate benefits to many areas of marketing, paving the way for more effective customer satisfaction surveys, email marketing and profiling work, all of which defines your ability to engage with customers. 

Engage through consent 

Under GDPR, you must identify and document one of six lawful bases to justify the processing of personal data.  It is likely that some of your customer communications will be allowed under the terms of your contract with them, and some direct marketing will still meet the criteria for ‘legitimate interests’. But the key difference is that communication should be considered strictly necessary, with consent freely given in clear, unambiguous terms. Of course, this more rigorous approach to opt-in means that previously ‘soft’ consent methods such as pre-ticked boxes will be probitited. 

These rules can all be taken as a positive, though. Where is the benefit of having contacts in your database who you don’t believe will want to hear from you? This type of untargeted marketing has never been a successful (or ethical) way of prospecting or building loyalty. Most companies’ post-GDPR databases will substantially smaller than before, but remaining contacts will be those who genuinely want to do business with you. 

Taking this one step further, the new consent guidelines give impetus to businsseses to shift away from ‘pushing’ marketing communications in haphazard ways to ‘pulling’ prospects to you. This naturally accentuates the importance of your SEO, along with techniques that drive interest and engagement by offering genuinely useful and appealing content.     

Learn more about the customer 

Importantly, the GDPR states that consent needs to ‘be specific and granular so that you get separate consent for separate things’. In other words, you can’t assume that if a customer gives you permission to send them communications on one particular topic, they are happy to receive emails of a different type.  It is therefore necessary to give customers and prospects a range of opt-ins so that they can choose which to receive. 

This granular opt-in data will give you deeper knowledge of your contacts’ preferences and interests, helping you to learn more about them, how to engage with them and target your content, and even showing you where your prospects are on their journey to purchase. 


Based on our own experience of going through the GDPR compliance process and supporting our customers and partners to do the same, these are just some ways that your obligations can be turned into valuable opportunities to improve prospecting, strengthen loyalty and drive customer engagement. 

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