Why GDPR is best thing since slice bread – and email

jamieGDPR is quite likely the best thing to happen to the relationship between brands and customers since the invention of email. In fact, it’s better than email, as email caused some of the problems that led to the need for tighter regulation in the first place.
If that paragraph has you wincing because getting GDPR-ready has been one long nightmare of compliance, with what seems like no upside for anyone other than the consumer, then this is for you. Because while customers are meant to be the beneficiaries, the opportunities for companies to strengthen their relationship with customers are unparalleled. The trick is to not focus solely on compliance but start using GDPR to build trust.
The two tribes of marketing
You can see the differences between these approaches in The Two Tribes of Marketing, a report we’ve just released at Marketo. Essentially marketing has been split into two tribes; the legal-first camp, to whom compliance matters most and have subsequently changed their marketing to be in line with these requirements, and the marketing-first side who recognised the opportunities years ago and have used GDPR as an opportunity to better engage with customers and prospects.
A majority (55%) of the 300 marketers we surveyed have adopted a marketing-first approach, but 45% of them have taken the legal-first route. That suggests nearly half of marketing’s decision makers are not making the most of the opportunities presented by GDPR.
I’ve seen this attitude manifest itself in the slew of GDPR-related emails I’ve been getting from brands and businesses. Many take a severe, legally-inspired tone, dealing in consequences. Some mention GDPR without properly explaining it, and from our research we know that the majority of consumers either haven’t heard of GDPR or are not quite sure of what it is.
This has been a missed opportunity, a chance to explain in straightforward language that the consumer has a choice and they are in control, providing an immediate antidote to the growing cynicism surrounding the motivations of any company that deals in data. And in today’s world, that’s pretty much all of them.
It’s bold to be brief, and to point out that it’s OK to unsubscribe or manage your preferences. But here’s why it might be a good idea. That cynicism I mentioned earlier can often be justified due to the trends over the past couple of years, and it means customers do not trust businesses.
For our GDPR report we also surveyed more than 3,000 consumers across the UK, France and Germany and discovered that 83% of them believe that brands and business will find a way to get around the regulations. And, despite GDPR, 72% of them are still concerned about data privacy and will not share their personal information.
Rebuilding customer trust
As a marketer, that’s concerning but unsurprising, given the number of news stories in recent years about security breaches. Now that customers understand the value of their data and that if you’re not paying for a product you are the product, gaining their trust is crucial.
The good news for marketers and businesses is, that we discovered 60% of customers are quite willing to share information provided they get tailored, relevant communications as a result.
To build this symbiotic relationship, we have to adapt to a recent and rapid change in customer attitudes towards data and privacy. Major security breaches and data leaks have happened for years and with the recent news surrounding Cambridge Analytica, it has once again entered the public consciousness.
A new awareness of how things work, unfortunately inspired by a worst-case scenario, means there’s a lot of bridge-building to be done. GDPR is the foundation stone of that bridge, and the way we communicate our intentions is the mortar holding the stone in place.
Marketers can and should be the leaders in building the restoration of trust with customers and the general public. We’re all customers, too. And, as marketers, let’s ensure we are listening to and engaging with our customers on a personal level and delivering value in all of our engagements.

Jamie Anderson is president EMEA at Marketo

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