Preparing for GDPR – how will data quality affect your strategy in 2018?

Marketers will face a huge challenge when GDPR comes into force on 25th May 2018. Meredith Amdur, CEO at Rhetorik answers some important questions about how GDPR will affect marketers.

Are marketers prepared enough for how they will handle GDPR as part of their overall strategies?

I think there is a wide spread of different levels of awareness and attitudes across marketers. The switched-on ones are looking at this as an opportunity to re-evaluate their approach to working with customers, what they can do differently, and where they can be more creative. The ones with awareness of GDPR are looking at how they can make their current strategies comply with the new rules that are coming in.

There are a lot of marketers that are either unaware of GDPR, or that think GDPR doesn’t apply to them. This situation might be because they see this as being an “IT problem” or only relevant to companies based in Europe. That’s not the case.

There’s a lot of marketing and awareness material now being published ahead of the May 2018 deadline. We’ve shared our own paper based on the research and advice we took ourselves, for example. The ICO in the UK is providing a lot of material as well, that is both easy to digest and hopefully simple to apply.

What issues are marketers aware of around their use of data, and what problems still have to be dealt with?

I think the biggest issue is how much data is getting used across multiple business cases. Whereas previously, you might get a customer contact once and then use their data as you saw fit, under GDPR there will have to be more explicit consent for each of those potential uses. This means there will be no opportunity for companies to use data gathered from customers for analytics without their agreement beforehand.

That said, there’s a lot of hype around GDPR. There are some issues around taking more care of customer data and respecting their wishes, but these should not be seen as scary or overly difficult. Instead, it’s worth looking at GDPR as an opportunity to rethink your relationship with customers – with their data – and with your approach to doing business.

What unexpected consequences has GDPR brought about for the B2B sector? Is the balance right between individual data privacy and business needs?

Getting consent around all the ways that you might use data will become more important over time. This should lead marketers to think more strategically about how they acquire and categorise prospect customers in advance.

I think the definition of legitimate interest in GDPR is a good one, as it respects the rights to privacy that individuals expect as well as the interests that businesses have around spotting and approaching potential prospect targets. There are still some grey areas that exist around GDPR and ePrivacy, so these should be ironed out. There will also be the local data protection bills that have to be brought into law across Europe. GDPR will be the minimum standard.

What steps should marketers take to future proof their data strategies?

I think the best decision here is to concentrate on quality – the quality of the data you acquire, how you use it, how you follow up with prospects, and how you interact with them over time. Without that emphasis, it will be very difficult for marketers to maintain their current returns in terms of leads generated and qualified.

Under GDPR, there will be much more focus on getting interaction and qualification in place as part of the initial acquisition process. Rather than unsubscribing, any prospect could ask for copies of all their data or for a complete deletion. This should mean that each interaction should be weighed up for the value that it provides.

It would also mean looking at your methods for how that data will be used during the whole funnel. For example, you may look more at analytics around who is most likely to convert, and focus more of your efforts on specific markets rather than going broad across multiple industries at the same time. Get this right, and it should make your whole approach to customer acquisition more successful over time.

How should marketers work with sales on data strategies? Are sales teams aware of the challenges around data that marketers will have, and should they care?

I think sales teams are aware of some of these issues, but I don’t think they see how it will affect their own pipelines right now. Sales people are already used to building their own contacts based on in-person events and existing relationships, whether they are with contacts directly or through partners. I think marketers will have to work on getting fewer leads, but providing more quality ones.

For marketers, the value of investing in analytics was based on helping sales to target the right sets of customer prospects at the right time and with the right offers. Getting this level of insight will potentially be more challenging, unless companies put the right quality data in from the beginning. It’s an old computing phrase: “garbage in, garbage out”.

How are companies handling their international data needs? Will GDPR make it easier or harder over time?

I think companies selling into Europe will face some challenges on managing their data initially. However, they should look at the market for IT and technology sales as being one that is growing rapidly, is happy to adopt a mix of new and proven solutions, and maintains the opportunities for expansion that it always has done.

Focusing on the quality of data should help companies build their operations in multiple countries and ensure that it is easier to handle data gathered from different regions . Having one set of rules to follow around data privacy should make things easier for companies that are looking at growth.

GDPR Summit Series is a global series of GDPR events which will help businesses to prepare to meet the requirements of the GDPR ahead of May 2018 and beyond.

Further information and conference details are available at