Many SMEs issued emails to the contacts on their lists asking them whether they still wished to receive their marketing post-GDPR.
It has been suggested that many of these businesses were already GDPR compliant and such action may not have been necessary. The estimated the opt-in rate in response to requests has been approximately 10%, drastically cutting business contact lists if those who haven’t opted-in are removed.
However, rather than see this outcome as a disaster or as signalling the death of e-mail and digital marketing, it could be argued that it is a timely reminder that your marketing activity needs to be reviewed. I would argue that it should be regularly monitored, scrutinised and refreshed.
After all, as one small business recently told me, having a lengthy list of customers going back ten years or more is not in itself valuable if a proportion of them have neither communicated nor bought anything for years!
The beefing up of privacy regulations, therefore, can be seen as a prompt to review your marketing goals, tactics and strategies post-GDPR and there are a number of things you should do in response.
Obviously, you should have clear policies on privacy and these should be easily available for your customers to read on websites or as hard copy, as well as being mentioned on website contact forms and pages.
You should also review which of your staff have access to online platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and so on, that the business uses, ensure that they know exactly what they can and can’t say in line with both GDPR and company policy. They should also be aware that they may face disciplinary proceedings if they do anything that could damage the company’s reputation and most importantly they should be given adequate training to do it correctly.
Innovative and targeted marketing post-GDPR
But the change also means you may need to be more detailed and specific about the post-GDPR marketing in several other ways.
Firstly, you should look again at and refine the data you hold for your customers. To effectively target the right potential customers or clients, data is key to the effective and economical use of marketing initiatives, but you should not hold inappropriate or unnecessary personal information.
If you monitor customer behaviour as a means of identifying key characteristics, as many e-commerce businesses do, you should ensure it is done in a way that is compliant with privacy regulations and does not constitute “spying” such as profiling or analysing without permission.
Secondly, as ever, the marketing goals post-GDPR need to be tightly defined and their effectiveness monitored whether they are about raising the business’ profile, encouraging trust or name recognition or for a specific initiative.
This means that any marketing activity, from emails to social media messages needs to be carefully and perhaps more tightly written.
It may also be worth exploring new marketing forms such as nudge marketing and guerrilla marketing.
Nudge marketing, first defined by Richard Thaler, is a technique for encouraging people to make decisions that are in their interests (as well as those of your business). A good example was the UK Government drive to encourage people to save for a pension. It introduced auto enrolment, which was compulsory on employers.
Employees had to actively opt-out and make their own provision if they did not want to be in the employer’s scheme. The result was that the numbers of those saving for pensions increased significantly.
Guerrilla marketing uses low-cost and unconventional tactics, such as a flash mob, using stencil graffiti, stickers, or, as in one successful mobile phone campaign 2002, using actors who appeared to be just part of the general crowd and asked strangers to take a photo of them. During the interaction, the actors would rave about their cool new phone. The point is to create a buzz, to be memorable and to get people talking in a way that spreads organically.
It may be that in the process of refreshing or redefining your marketing plan post-GDPR you will also find that some traditional forms of marketing, such as an actual letter to named customers advising them of a new initiative or offer that is time-limited, will also see a revival.
You should be mindful that marketing strategy and techniques never stand still and are constantly evolving and are only limited by the imagination.
As for how to deal with those who haven’t opted-in, it may be worth going through the list in detail to see if you have a ‘legitimate reason’ for keeping certain contacts. There is a huge difference between those on your database who made enquiries or were customers and those who were ‘scraped’ from a list. For B2B businesses you might consider that business emails are OK while personal ones should be removed. You might also send a more tailored email before simply deleting them.
Lawyers most likely will advise you to remove everyone who hasn’t opted in but this is understandable given that the new regulations haven’t been tested in court and they are right to be cautious. Whatever you do, you should log your decision and the reasoning behind it.