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Lets Stop The GDPR Fright Fest. Why You Will Be Ok.


Looking at something from a new angle, provides new opportunities whilst everyone else runs in a different direction.

When it comes to GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) there is a lot of scare mongering at the moment.

The build up to May 25th 2018 looks a rocky one. The great thing is that people have a stronger voice for how their data is used.

In a nutshell if you want to communicate with other people from next summer, you need their consent first.

In an article from July that looked at email subscription, Mark Gracey from Flavourfy highlighted what you need to know about GDPR. Mark said, “Specifically, consent must be freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous.”

“What this means is that as well as providing information about what data you’re collecting, why you’re collecting it, how it will be used, who it will be shared with and how consent can be withdrawn.”

“You also need to make sure the subject has taken a positive action to consent to the use of the data in that way. In marketing terms this means that it will no longer be possible to use pre-ticked boxes or vague wording.”

I was at Adido’s Digital Marketing Summit last week and Luke English from Laceys Solicitors gave a concise overview of GDPR and what it meant. It wasn’t the subject matter that became the hook, but what happened afterwards.

The questions could have continued for an hour or more. Questions related to, getting people to opt in and what happens if someone unsubscribes, can you add them back in? These were some of the ongoing discussion points.

The majority of people were not aware and I could sense that the main area was that the people on databases from businesses were relative strangers. Ongoing communication was at a minimum and no sense of familiarity, apart from the blind hope of some form of interaction with a company, in order for someone to buy.


How Does It Look Today

What you are probably seeing at the moment, is not presenting a positive message.

As May 2018 approaches, you could say the winners and losers are:


Invest in an audience


Devoid of any sense of relevance with an audience

Combine this with the headlines out there at the moment, fuels a confused fire where there is no control.

Whether you look at these as clickbait (all from credible titles) or the use of fear as a tactic, what none of them really do is provide a solution or more simply clarity. The real point of the exercise is to advise people what they need to be aware of.

Lets make all this a bit more real and easier to grasp.


Examples From Two Brands That Are GDPR Poles Apart

For every Wetherspoons, there is a Lloyds Bank.

Wetherspoons deleted (during the summer) their entire email database of nearly 700,000 people.

The database has been wiped clean. This is a brave move to put everything in a bin and walk away from something. Wetherspoons stated that they will use their social channels to promote deals and their news stories will reside solely on their website.

I think we can safely say that the people who were being targeted were not interested in emails telling them about curry nights and cider festivals, but to use the free wi-fi. By asking for the free wi-fi they were automatically put on a list they weren’t really bothered about.

Lloyds Bank represents the opportunity for GDPR. So, it is not all doom and gloom if you switch things around by thinking you have to conform implicitly and think that no more data collection will happen from next summer.

This is what Lloyds are doing.

The bank is switching from product related information (as Wetherspoons had been happily doing until this summer) to becoming audience driven, by creating and distributing relevant content. In the run up to Christmas, according to The Drum, ‘Lloyds might have previously emailed customers about the latest credit card deals or rewards for opening a new bank account. This year, customers will instead receive information about how to shop safely online or what to do if they realise they’ve been the victim of identity theft.’

What Wetherspoons and Lloyds represent are different sides of the same coin. One is running away from change and responsibility, the other is accepting a rebooted marketing strategy.


The easiest way for businesses to approach GDPR is to see it as a way to fall to bits and think they have to comply by simply saying, ‘we will now stop collecting consumer data.’ This is what Wetherspoons did. What Lloyds are doing is leaning forwards to use GDPR to their advantage by taking the onus to drive the value of the business, by creating relevant content to a targeted audience.

This is the challenge for businesses, they can still be embedded in product benefits (Wetherspoons) or become focused on the customer (Lloyds).

GDPR is not about following compliance and behaving like sheep, but make a concerted effort to move a strategy to one where relevance, information, education and knowledge becomes the centre.

This is the armoury for people to become willing subscribers and not a company tentatively approach thinking they can get away with it, by putting a stranger on a database and getting heavy with the ‘free 30 minute website audit’ email pitch.

Luke English, Senior Solicitor for Laceys Solicitors (whom I mentioned at the beginning), highlights the opportunities business have. I asked him, where he sees the confusion at the moment? Luke replied, “This relates to simple generic questions that people are asking, ‘do I need consent’ and ‘what is consent?’ Also if someone does not provide consent, what does a company do with that data?”


Once there is clarity, there is real opportunity to embrace. Luke recognised this, “Businesses have the scope to start consolidating their databases.”

“I would suggest to review what data you have and what you actually need. This could make a company more efficient. Another plus side, I believe, is consumer confidence. Once GDPR is in place, rather than people being blindly spammed, consumers will only receive marketing that is direct, personal and on what they actually want and find useful from another company.”

So, perhaps there are areas to take advantage of and not necessarily panic. I asked Luke what advice he would give to you. Luke concluded, “As solicitors, we are advising companies to review their current privacy policies and in the New Year, before May, get them updated with the new regulations.” 

“The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) have stated there will not be a “soft launch” in May 2018. You will either be compliant or you will not. In the meantime, where you are unsure if you have actual consent, perhaps it is time to “re-affirm” consent with your clients’ consumers now, ready for May.”


What About You?

It is time to put the uncertainty to one side and throw away the ‘looking down the barrel of a gun, swallow that fine’ and switch a strategy where you become a trusted advisor and not a pushy salesman.

This is very much part of working to a new marketing and sales strategy, while others bury their heads in the sand.

If you switch from product to audience, this is where you have nothing to worry about:

When someone agrees that it is ok for you to communicate with them (on an ongoing basis), you can target people better and have the ability to gain deeper information on your audience to tailor your message

When someone sees something that resonates with them, they consent, you pick up the baton of responsibility and run with it

You switch from thinking that more people on a database is good, to one of a targeted customer base. This is where empathy and understanding can help cut the cost of marketing campaigns ie. a database of under 2,000 names is free on Mailchimp. A lower volume can become more personalised. In the words of Jason Miller from LinkedIn (and speaker at the You Are The Media Conference), “is huge reach amongst people you haven’t actually targeted really something that you want?” It is time to audit, review and organise what is in front of you.

There becomes a move of the dial from chasing clicks and web traffic to deepening a relationship with someone else, rather than the attention of their eyeballs.

Reach has become commoditised. It is cheap to reach people, whenever you want. It is better to have a plan of action, rather than treat all your activity as one snowballing campaign. Why not read why a single source of customer acquisition doesn’t exist.

Accept the level playing field we are on, where people don’t trust businesses anymore as the conversation has become more controlled and one sided. No one ever wanted to broadcast how good they are to then become annoying to someone else

Recognise what it is that you truly believe in can become the catalyst to differentiate. GDPR is about emphasis on messages that are cognate within a marketplace, not on telling others the things you say you are, but will never be

You can take a role where you become valuable to someone else and for them to recognise the importance of the role that you play. This is where the winners and losers will reside.


Lets Round Up

GDPR is currently presented as the B2B equivalent of Skeletor. Why not look at it as a way to nurture worthwhile relationships?

Doesn’t it sound better when you operate within a world where people are more engaged and responsive?

Rather than getting bogged down in compliance and best practice, it all starts from switching from the emphasis on the thing that you produce to the value that you provide.

What GDPR points to is that as we all need to evolve from interruption to being worthwhile to others. We have to leave the 20th century behind and recognise the responsibility that we have, instead of cramming old practices within new spaces. Namely treating spaces such as social media and email distribution as free advertising to the widest reach possible. 

People will opt in when they see something that they can relate to and not being coerced into something they don’t want.

Moving a strategy from product manipulation to relevance within a marketplace (as highlighted by Lloyds Bank), you start to compete in a much stronger place where people recognise what you strive for and are more willing to come on board.

Data collection must not start to be seen as an off limits conversation, it is the thing that helps deepen our connectivity with others.

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