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GDPR For Marketing: Everything You Need To Know


by Emily Cocker, Senior Digital Strategist at London SEO Agency

The General Protection Regulation introduced new measures to secure online data across the EU in May 2018. As you can imagine, this came as a huge shake-up for many professionals, but in the world of online marketing, ignorance is not an option.

Read on for guidance on how to market your business following the new legislation.

What is GDPR?

The EU’s Data Protection Regulation – GDPR – has been set up to better control the way personal data is stored and distributed online. The world has become increasingly data-driven in recent years, with no regulation around it, so GDPR is bringing back control to people surrounding their data. As a nation, we are blinded to what constitutes as intrusive and what to expect when it comes to digital marketing.

GDPR is in place now, so it’s essential to get your business up to speed with the changes in legislation to avoid costly fines. You could be hit with a penalty of up to 4% of your annual turnover, which as a result will have major implications for the future success of your business.

How will GDPR transform marketing?

We live in a world where people are hugely connected. With just a click of a button, you can distribute messages to thousands of people across the globe. Well, you could. With new and substantial restraints on what was previously a hugely unregulated data-collection strategy, marketers will have to find alternative ways to ramp up the revenue.

GDPR will focus their attention on building genuine relationships with customers (as opposed to relying on forced communications to generate leads.) Most critically, it will cause them to evaluate the placement and targeting of paid advertisements.

Arguably, the likes of Facebook, Snapchat and Google require the user to consent to the sharing of data with a global network. Marketers most certainly use this knowledge to their advantage, targeting groups based on interests, search history and online communications. But, did users make a conscious decision here? Are they aware their online history is being collected in a database and segmented to create a behavioural profile for marketing purposes? Absolutely, categorically not!

GDPR is changing the dynamic. The power of successful advertising, following new guidelines, is contextual content. This offers marketers the ability to target audiences based on their acknowledgement of specific preferences. For example, if a Facebook user has liked a page about “Nike Shoes”, a retailer may want to offer them a discount based on that interest.

In contrast, a marketer sending dozens of sales emails to business owners asking them to sign up to a product or service is going to be flagged as spam. They have not opted into a particular mailing list or requested information on a product or service. Under GDPR, consent must be freely given, so customers must actively choose to engage.

A consistent stream of interested visitors pays for higher ROI than forever reaching out to those who are irresponsive. Know in detail what information you are pushing out, who is interested and why they are interacting with your brand.

Also, respect company boundaries. PR outreach is an especially interesting example. Mass email blasts will be ignored. Push too often, or without purpose, and you are a nuisance. The best way to build lasting relationships with journalists and online influencers is to connect with them online. Comment on their social media posts, share their content with your readers and spark up a conversation. Once you have established a connection, people are more likely to work with you, as you have shown an interest in their work.

Why marketers should welcome GDPR.

There are many reasons why GDPR should be embraced, not ignored. We think it is a positive shift that will cause marketers to think strategically about how they progress their campaigns moving forwards.

Here are just some of the many positive reasons to get on board with GDPR:

A closer connection with customers. It will bring companies closer to customers who are looking for a relationship with brands. Marketers will have to work harder (like, really hard) to gain their trust and clinch a sale. But that’s the way it should be. Over the years, marketers have become complacent. We have come to rely on the many platforms at our disposal offering instant fixes to common marketing problems. Remove these from the equation, and we are forced to be creative in our efforts to connect with potential buyers.

Greater transparency. GDPR offers greater transparency over data collection. Many people don’t understand why data collection is necessary, but they share data anyway simply because they want a particular product or service. Transparency is key. Forcing companies to be more transparent about the reasons why they are collecting data will provide more value to customers. We expect that once people understand why they are sharing data, they will start to trust companies more and, therefore, return to engage with them further.

The bar has been set for digital marketers. Let’s not fool ourselves; GDPR has put a stop to simple marketing strategies. Marketers are going to need fresh-thinking and innovative strategies in order to succeed. We’re going to see a shift towards well-thought-out marketing that puts the customer at the heart of campaigns. We’re going to see a move towards better, more creative concepts.

Final thoughts.

GDPR is a watershed moment. The floodgates are open. We need practices in place to control the demand. It’s rightly caused organisations to think long and hard about how they market to people. But it’s also a huge opportunity for them to articulate the importance of data sharing, which in turn will lead to better relationships, personalisation and improved products and services.


Emily Cocker is a Senior Digital Strategist with a career spanning various industry sectors, including online marketing, lead generation and business development. She has a self-taught knowledge of search engine optimisation and is personally responsible for many competitive position one rankings. She heads up the internal marketing team at London SEO Agency, helping plan strategies that drive business growth and sales online.