Why GDPR is the only acronym marketers need to be obsessed with in 2017

Changes to data protection laws will reshape how marketers can use and retain data, yet UK organisations are not ready and risk significant financial penalties as well as, missing potential business opportunities.

Marketers love a good acronym. SEO, CRM, PPC and ROI flow smoothly off our tongues several times a day.

But right now one particular acronym should be on the tip of all B2B marketers’ lips: GDPR.

Worryingly, many marketers don’t even know what GDPR is. That could, quite literally, be one of the most expensive mistakes they ever make.

A new relationship with your data

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is an upcoming piece of EU legislation (May 2018) designed to modernise laws around personal data in today’s world of cloud computing, social networks and digital living.

Organisations that don’t comply with the changes run a risk of a fine up to €20 million or 4% of an organisation’s annual turnover. Worryingly, an astonishing 63% of workers have never even heard of the legislation.

Many of the GDPR’s finer details have yet to be settled on, but at its essence it gives individuals more control over who can hold, use or share their personal data. The UK government has confirmed it will apply in the UK, even after Brexit.

This means organisations have to completely rethink how they work with data – from how they collect it, how they store it, how they use it, how they share it and how long they keep it. All of which may impact your ability to monetise data. GDPR also lays out firm rules for what organisations must do in the case of security breaches.

A challenge, not a chore

There’s no shying away. Getting ready for GDPR is going to involve a LOT of work. Whatever size your company is, you need to channel your energies into preparing for it right away.

We see GDPR as an opportunity, not a threat. By making you manage your data better, it will allow you to run more targeted, effective and powerful campaigns. It can help you make more of the data you already have and improve the quality of the data you will gather in the future.

Yes, the rules on data will be tighter, more complex and require more innovative and intelligent collection methods. But it is also the perfect reason to put in place best practice methods that will enable better data collection and improve your marketing team’s understanding of the potential of that data.

Where to start

The first thing your organisation needs to do is carry out a full audit on all aspects of its data processes.

Some companies are hesitating to start this process, waiting for final details of GDPR to become clear over time. But before you can find out what you need to do to meet GDPR standards, you need to know precisely where you are.

Where do you keep the information on your prospects and clients? What format is it in? Who has access to it? How did you collect it? Which third parties do you share it with? How do you communicate privacy information with data subjects? Is data collected and used consistently throughout the organisation?

Once you know how you process data on your prospects and clients, the next crucial piece of the puzzle is understanding on what legal basis you are processing this data. This is where some of the phrases you may have heard, such as ‘legitimate interest’ and ‘consent’, come into play. Depending on your level of expertise, you may need to involve expert legal help here to ensure that you get this right.

When you have this understanding you will find it far easier to adjust to GDPR once all the detail is confirmed, as you will be able to see exactly where you need to make changes to your processes.

An opportunity, not just an obligation

GDPR is also about transparency. By putting in clear processes and being completely open with those you collect data from, you can build trust in your brand. Individuals and customers are getting far savvier about their data and the importance in keeping it secure.

By demonstrating your commitment to protecting their data, you are showing the maturity and forward thinking nature of your organisation. You will also be more likely to maintain their permission to use it.

Good data is key to running a successful company and driving great campaigns. Despite the importance and scale of the changes, this is not a time to panic. Rather, it’s a time to set new foundations for your brand’s journey.