Opt-in-based marketing is more than just a GDPR problem

Opt-in-based marketing is more than just a GDPR problem As Vice President of Marketing, Bryta Schulz leads customer identity company Janrain’s global marketing initiatives. Schulz brings 20+ years of experience marketing innovative enterprise, software as a service (SaaS), security and payments solutions. She has held positions at a number of top global technology companies including Xerox, RSA, Symantec and Thales.

We’re less than a year away from the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) taking effect, and by most accounts, many brands aren’t ready for it. Marketers, in particular, need to be out in front of the changes required for compliance because it is their job that will arguably be upended most by the legislation.

GDPR will redefine, and in some cases prohibit, the use of many of the most basic email and social-media marketing and customer communication tactics. No more tracking online behavior anonymously or conspicuously without consent. No more collecting and using demographic data without consent. No more using location without consent.

Like it or not, regulators have made it clear: consent will be the only key to unlock the door to the customer, and if the customer wants to shut it at anytime during the engagement, the brand must not insert its foot next to the doorjamb.

Marketers are grudgingly scrambling to formulate sophisticated “opt-in”–based marketing strategies and approaches to ensure compliance, but these changes are likely accompanied by groans behind the closed doors of their offices—let’s face it: it’s much easier operationally to retarget and mass-spray a large prospect base via an email blast than to tailor proposals to individual customers for their correspondence buy-in.

Yes, there is more legwork getting consumers to explicitly okay communication, but all of that effort will result in an enormous payoff.

If only brands saw it that way.

How can you get companies to see GDPR as more than just a technology and compliance issue? Here are some ways to make the business case to company leadership for the transformative potential of consent-based marketing and/or convince marketing teams to embrace (rather than rue) GDPR’s mandated direction.

It’s much easier when customers want to hear from you

Do the heavy lifting of obtaining opt-ins and brands gain something even more valuable: the consumer’s permission. In other words, forward-looking companies see earning customers’ consent for communication as a golden opportunity to create deeper, longer-lasting relationships.

a progressive relationship might start with a simple request to get an email address to send a message

For example, marketers are now forced to rethink something as basic as the registration form and the initial customer contact. GDPR not only requires consent to collect basic demographic data but it also mandates that brands demonstrate a relevant purpose for any data gathered.

For example, if you ask for permission to use location, it must specify that it’s to specifically offer contextual discounts based on the customer’s given whereabouts.

Brands will be forced to get to know each individual a little bit more deeply to not only entice people to sign up initially but also to retain consumers’ trust on an ongoing basis. A progressive relationship might start with a simple request to get an email address to send a message about a discount or a new product trending across that consumer’s demographic.

Then, with permission, you might earn the right to get to know the customer via their likes, preferences and online activity, perhaps by utilizing social login or similar mechanisms, in order to further tailor communication to the end user’s tastes.

This creates a virtuous cycle in which the consumer’s trust level and the effectiveness of the company’s customer service simultaneously rise, thereby resulting in an even greater degree of engagement.

End users share more when they trust brands

Trust, rather than uninvited communication, is more effective in the long run.

According to a survey conducted by Janrain earlier this year, 78% of consumers are likely to share personal info when they retain control over how a brand communicates with them (e.g., text, email, etc.), 71% are comfortable sharing info when the brand promises not to share the data with third parties and 62% feel more comfortable sharing data when the brand promises not to contact friends in their network.

Conversely, unimpeded advertising and marketing efforts carry with it a much higher risk than marketers acknowledge.

customers are increasingly willing to end relationships over “invasive” communication

Not only is it easy to cross that line separating aggressive from intrusive, it’s costly, too; customers are increasingly willing to end relationships over “invasive” communication.

As of two years ago, one third of customers had canceled transactions due to privacy concerns, according to Forrester. Last year, we saw a 30% increase in global ad blocking.

True, highly customized communication also runs the risk of being too creepy if you take personalization too far, but at least brands are making significantly more educated decisions when their correspondence is based on insights gleaned from direct interaction with end users.

The Customer’s Carrots

Fortunately, we do have clues for gaining consumers’ consent.

According to the aforementioned survey, 62 % of U.S. consumers would register for a website in exchange for a discount, and for a free product many customers will:

  • visit a brand’s site (76%)
  • watch a brand’s video (67%)
  • like a brand’s page (47%)
  • share or mention a brand’s post/page (24%)
  • check into a location via a social media website (23%)
  • refer friends (22%)

U.K. customers were similarly pliable—63 % will register with a site for a discount. Provide a free product and:

  • 77% will visit a brand’s site
  • 59% will watch a brand’s video
  • 45% will like a brand’s page
  • 27% will refer friends
  • 26% will check into a location via a social media website
  • 22% will share or mention a brand’s post/page

Although some marketers may be in a lather over the initial headaches that could come in constructing fine-grain consent management processes and corresponding policy enforcement/management mechanisms, they will reap major benefits from this hard work in the long run.

Companies that can creatively foster symbiotic relationships with customers will emerge with deeper, and more profitable, engagements.

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