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GDPR — quality over quantity

Would you rather have one Lamborghini or three Ford Fiestas? It’s all about quality over quantity; a well known concept that can often be overlooked in sales and marketing. Here, Howard Williams from Parker Software explains why it is better to have a database of 100 high-quality leads, rather than thousands of dead ends, and how imminent changes to General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) will help you achieve this clarity.

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For companies operating across every industry, data privacy laws are changing fundamentally as a result of updated GDPR. Compliance with these new regulations will be demanded of all businesses handling EU citizens’ data from May 25, 2018. Companies must follow strict, uniform rules on how personal data is obtained, processed and stored — or face severe penalties.

Consumer consent is a cornerstone of GDPR compliance. This means businesses must have clear proof that any person who is in its customer database has explicitly opted to receive communications, whether by email, phone or post. If consent cannot be proven, breaches can result in fines of up to 20 million Euros, or four per cent of the company’s worldwide turnover — whichever figure is greater.

Time for change

Currently, many businesses can’t see the wood for the trees when it comes to their databases. In fact, it is estimated that 60-80 per cent of the data that organisations are storing is redundant, obsolete and trivial (ROT). GDPR changes should be welcomed as an opportunity to audit, review and organise your company data — creating a clean house for the information you store.

Additionally, according to MailChimp’s statistics from February 2017, only 16.75 per cent of eCommerce emails are opened. This shows that many consumers receive emails that they don’t identify with, or that they consider to be spam. If you asked them to consent to further emails in the future, the reality is that many would say ‘no’.

Consent doesn’t mean someone dropped you their business card two years ago, or bought a product from you once. It can’t be implied, assumed, bundled or otherwise connected to a transaction.

Consent has to be freely given, informed and completely unambiguous. If contacts haven’t given such consent, you will need to remove them, and their associated data, from your database. This isn’t a bad thing: it means you are keeping the people who are genuinely interested in your brand and services.

However, time is of the essence to obtain clear consent from your current invested audience. As Tim Roe, Leader of the GDPR working group explained:  “There is no allowance for data captured before GDPR. Once the GDPR comes into play, if you don’t have sufficient consent, you won’t be able to legally process the data. It’s time to bring all of your customers’ data and business processes up to the correct standard.”

The aftermath

As the storm that is GDPR clears, you will start to see the benefits that this ‘wash-out’ will bring to marketing and sales teams. With a refined list of contacts comes the opportunity to target the right people consistently, developing an audience that genuinely wants to hear from you. You’ll start to see the Lamborghinis among the Fords. From this angle, GDPR is a golden ticket for engagement.

Now is the time to prepare for these changes, but as you do, see the positives as you plan your new opt-in campaign for EU customers. Using the next year to build a quality, opt-in, organic database will pay dividends in the long term. So be sure your website is structured to encourage visitors to subscribe to your emails without making them look too hard.

The quality of your communications has also never been so important. Again, it’s quality over quantity. Use this time to assess the value of your email marketing and ask yourself: would you want to subscribe to this? Send out only the Lamborghini of email content to ensure audience retention.

By May 2018, your final list of genuinely interested people will mean less unopened emails, fewer unsubscribe rates and less dead addresses. We’ve all typed in frgdfsf@emailproviderofyourchoice.com at one point or another when we’re trying to get to the next phase of a process. Do you think companies are still sending out emails to that non-existent address? Probably. Is it worth sending an email to this address? No.

Similarly, sales teams based in call centres will be reaching out to people who are much less likely to hang up or ask, ‘where did you find my information?’ They gave their information freely and they’ll remember your content. Why have 50 agents calling up a large, unclean database with minimal conversion rates, when you could have 20 people calling up a much smaller set of contacts with much higher chance of getting a sale?

The deep cleanse

Comprehensive revision of data handling procedures and restructuring accordingly may be an onerous task, but GDPR forces you to address your data problems. In doing so, you become more informed and more efficient with your communications.

GDPR is not meant to restrict good businesses. It intends to help and guide those with legitimate business interests, but also to more easily identify and more severely penalise those who deliberately or consistently avoid compliance. I’m sure you’re a good person; you deserve a Lamborghini.

More on GDPR here.

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