• Helen Pritchett

Happy 1st Birthday GDPR!

With GDPR now 1 year old, we thought we’d take the opportunity to reflect on the past 12 months. What’s changed? What hasn’t? What has the actual vs perceived impact been? Where do marketers stand in the new data protection era? Is the B2B data and marcomms world now a very different place or is it a case of ‘plus ça change’?

In conversation with Jon Pritchett (CPB Chairman) and Polina Cook (CPB Business Development Director), we chewed the GDPR fat and uncovered the following:

Q: What has the impact of GDPR been?

JP: B2B marketing practitioners are certainly more aware of legal, and moral, obligations. However, there has been little impact on what we do on a day to day basis, primarily due to the preparation we did as a business pre-GDPR. The data we use was clean, accurate and GDPR ready anyway, but we also took time to ensure we had all our ducks in a row and were as ready and compliant as we could be.

PC: We witnessed a high-level of uncertainty leading up to 25th May 2018, on all levels of B2B marketing; from database acquisition, digital marketing and telemarketing. This primarily was centred around misinformation on GDPR for B2B organisations and lack of awareness around B2B legitimate interest (LI) marketing. CPB UK took preparation for GDPR very seriously and ensured all staff were educated on the changing landscape and able to guide CPB UK’s customers through some of the confusion. What’s pleasing to see is that 1 year on, the confusion has all but disappeared, with outbound marketing now just as prevalent as before, just with much stricter controls and accountability, which I see as a big GDPR win!

Q: How has the data world changed?

JP: GDPR has increased client awareness of the potency of good data. There is better understanding of the importance of choosing a great data partner and this will only be accelerated by the increasing uptake of AI-based marketing.

PC:  Leading up to GDPR, it was frustrating to see just how many B2B companies were deleting masses of ‘good data’ from their database, due to the aforementioned misinformation on ‘consent’ vs ‘legitimate interest’ outbound marketing. With no surprise, this resulted in a decreased uptake of database acquisition in the midst of GDPR taking shape. However, no matter which proviso businesses have opted to operate under, there has been a clear shift over the last 4-5 months towards bolstering databases once again with clean and intelligent data. The mindset of ‘pay less and buy more’ doesn’t seem to be the most popular approach any longer, with an accentuated focus on partnering with specialist data intelligence suppliers, such as ProspectaBase, where there are clearly defined GDPR policies and procedures.

Q: How have list owners had to adapt?

JP: Of course, for all B2B data owners there was a considerable amount of preparation to be done to ensure readiness. In terms of adaptation, yes, we had to adapt policies and procedures to ensure compliance, but as a proactive data storage and processing organisation we were already ensuring compliance with all data protection legislation, so this wasn’t as onerous a task for CPB or ProspectaBase as it was for some.

PC: Ensuring company-wide education of GDPR policies and procedures was key, with ongoing staff workshops and thorough GDPR inductions for new starters, pre and post 25th May 2018. As a process driven business and with compliance at the heart of what CPB UK does, education of the new GDPR landscape was a natural step to take, with all employees dedicated to taking in the new information and in turn assisting customers when needed with honest and transparent advice.

Q: What’s the client perspective?

JP: In the majority of cases, and notwithstanding the clear and unarguable requirements for stronger data protection in the B2C arena, their opinion seems to be “What a waste of time that was!”. This is understandable, as the thrust of GDPR was always going to be in B2C rather than our arena of B2B. Our peers, clients, colleagues and associates all battled with years of purgatory pre-GDPR, especially with reference to the ICO’s very late clarification of the legal basis of legitimate interest, and, at this stage, feel it is a little of an anti-climax.

PC: I can only concur with Jon; clients are relieved we have all come through GDPR unscathed and can now look to a prosperous data-driven future.

Q: How has the industry been affected?

JP: Initially, I would say there was a lot of confusion, although most are coming through it now. The industry has had to tidy itself up in respect of requests for removal and I am sure some data brokers have received many such requests. Interestingly, with a database of over 300,000 contacts we have received only a handful of requests, which goes to show how accurate our records and engaged our contacts are. Of course, GDPR has created an industry in itself and some infrastructure suppliers have had a field day in promoting “GDPR ready” solutions, which the less prepared felt compelled to buy into

PC: Despite the confusion, anguish and fear of a post-May 25th era, the B2B industry appears to have embraced the changes, with very few GDPR related questions now cropping up. After all, marketing did not stop completely and there has been a realisation that more responsible and intelligent marketing reaps fruitful benefits. The approach for storing, replenishing and acquiring new data intelligence has become more controlled, with re-defined mindsets and clearer database system controls. Not only that, but realisation that outbound marketing strategies had to become smarter, to avoid database depreciation through heaps of opt-outs due to irrelevant messaging, has resulted in more personalisation, research and account-based marketing to deliver content that’s relevant to the target audience.

Q: Is data now better protected?

JP: Yes, very much so. Companies have had to adapt systems and procedures and the individual is benefiting from being better protected and having more control over their personal data.

PC: Yes, I’d like to believe so. B2B companies are aware of the implications of data being an afterthought, they now have more understanding and value the true meaning of data intelligence for the success of their business operation.

Q: What does the future hold?

JP: ePrivacy is the next potential monster, lurking around the corner. It should have been with us by now but has been lost in the fog of Brexit at the EU. Will ePrivacy remain in its current opt-in stance? I think this is unlikely within the UK, but if it does happen this will radically affect UK B2B activity.

PC: With AI evolving at a fast pace and clear user cases of how well stored, controlled and protected data intelligence can revolutionise a business operation, I foresee the next 12-18 months seeing a much greater focus on utilising data for business change, growth and profitability.