GDPR is a “Creative Opportunity” – But Only for B2B Marketers Who Can Position Themselves to Capitalize

Garrett Mann

Senior Director, Corporate Communications

GDPR ROIGDPR is almost upon us. At first glance, it’s hard to envision GDPR as having a wildly positive effect on marketing departments, right? Many pundits are touting doom and gloom for B2B marketing. Exhibit 1 – check out this extreme statistic from a different industry:  GDPR could render useless almost three quarters of all stored customer data for some EU and US industries. Before you get ready to detonate your entire marketing strategy, take a look at this piece of optimism that may give you hope after all: a recent survey shows that 71% of marketers actually consider the looming GDPR deadline to be a “creative opportunity” – a perspective echoed by our own John Steinert, who views the impending changes as a door opener for delivering a greater marketing ROI.

GDPR ROIHowever, before you take your hand completely off the dynamite plunger, understand that this opportunity will not be realized by all marketing departments. In order to capitalize, marketers need to carefully consider and address three key elements of their operations:

  1. The technical skills required of in-house marketers
  2. Strategic partnerships and data integrity
  3. Alignment between marketing and sales

Let’s take a closer look at each.

Overcoming Technical Skills Gaps

The GDPR introduces a host of new technical challenges, yet (from the same survey linked above) we find that 53% of marketers don’t believe they have the right mixture of technical skills in-house to succeed in a data-driven environment. On the face of it, this is bad news for marketers. There is an absolute flood of data available, and very limited regulations on how to collect it. It’s never been easier for low-skill marketers to perform data analytics. GDPR is going to change this.

In other words, many unregulated data sources are going to dry up, and marketers may be constrained in the ways they can collect data.

In short, the GDPR will drive industries to target their data sources more efficiently. Best-in-class marketers already know that going after low-quality, extraneous sources of data is a good way to waste money. The GDPR will force everyone else to use a similar playbook. The question becomes whether a marketing department has the requisite skills to adapt to this new environment.

Leveraging Strategic Data Partners

By its very nature, the GDPR will force marketers to use only the most relevant sources of information, and to wring the most accurate analysis from a smaller amount of data. Marketers can no longer be lazy about where their data is coming from; they need to be hyper-aware of the sources and methods. This is true for themselves, and equally important, it’s true for their partners. The consequence for not knowing this could be costly.

While the GDPR will narrow the data sources and strategic partners available to marketers, the potential upside will be a winnowing effect. The data sources that marketers can use under the GDPR are higher-quality partners, by their very nature. When marketers know more about how their data is procured, they can use it to better effect. It’s also more immediately useful, making this kind of data a path to faster ROI. These changes will immediately change the perceived value that a partner brings to the table. The sooner a marketing department can identify and leverage such partners, the more successful they’ll be in the post-GDPR environment.

GDPR ROIWhen choosing a high quality purchase intent data provider, you need to be especially aware of the methods and approaches that different 3rd party purchase intent providers offer. With so much buzz around “intent” right now, you many assume that everyone is providing similar offerings. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

  • High-quality behavioral data is directly observed. Just as you know what actions within your marketing automation truly qualify a lead, you should expect to be able to understand exactly what actions are qualifying a 3rd party “lead” that’s truly right for you.
  • High-quality behavioral data is relevant, recent and frequent. A lead from a single download can be valuable (especially if it is reinforced by other indicators) and things like crowdsourced ratings, job changes, acquisitions and the like can be directionally useful. But real purchase intent is best read from multiple behaviors. These behaviors must be associated with purchase-decision support content, and this should be consumed by several or many opted-in, identifiable individuals at a specific account.
  • High-quality behavioral data starts with the account and then identifies the directly associated active buying team members. Although there are a variety of methods being used to identify behaviors at the account level, few providers are able to give you the contact information of the actual opted-in individuals displaying purchase intent behavior. Note that if you don’t have this information, you will have to use whatever you can to try to locate the team, often making you rely on yet another 3rd party source to identify individuals not already known to you and who have no context for your outreach. Depending on the provider you choose, you may also run into opt-in/consent issues.

Align and Enable Sales Teams to Drive Conversion Despite New Market Pressures

Many customers who are made explicitly aware that their information will be used to market to them may be less than willing to give it up. Therefore, any marketers that are looking to mitigate the effects of GDPR should focus on tactics to boost conversion rates – and that’s where marketing and sales alignment, and more importantly, sales enablement comes into play.

Good sales enablement is a huge part of a high-converting marketing strategy. Almost 70% of top-performing companies report that sales performance is directly related to marketing success. These companies ensure successful sales enablement by practicing techniques such as these:

  • Technical Enablement: Marketing and sales teams wherever possible should share closely-linked tools and technology, drawing from the same, high-quality data sets
  • Training Enablement: Marketing and sales learn from one another for enhanced product and customer knowledge
  • 3rd party Data Enablement: In order to access as much active demand in the market, you cannot retreat into a shell and rely solely on inbound or your own first party data. There are varying interpretations of how GDPR affects B2B marketing and sales efforts, but one thing is for sure – business cannot stand still – companies are trying to navigate their way to positions that properly mitigate legal risk but do not unduly curtail their ability to drive results. You must still look for demand in environments outside of your own to get the results you need and 3rd party data acquisition is essential for covering the breadth of your active total addressable market.

Marketing must work closely with sales on how to best utilize 3rd party data within their workflows to maximize productivity and ultimately convert more prospects

Companies that practice these disciplines will achieve higher growth in revenue compared to their competitors – meaning that this is one of the best ways for companies to prepare for the future, regardless of the GDPR.

GDPR Will Force Marketers to Adopt Best-in-Class Techniques

In effect, the largest impact of the GDPR is that it will force marketers to adopt best-in-class techniques. The GDPR will force marketers to draw keener insights from smaller amounts of data, and limit their third-party relationships to trusted vendors who can demonstrate transparency, provide high-quality data and above all, drive results. Better data sources provide you with a clearer path to ROI, whether you are concerned about GDPR or not.

Ask your third-party intent providers the hard questions about sources and methodology to as you get your data practices in line. If they can’t answer these questions and cannot inspire a level of trust that they will not put you at risk, then you need to move on to a provider who can.

In the long run, the shape of marketing may change dramatically due to the adoption of regulations such as the GDPR – but in the short run, the only thing that’s certain is that those marketers who fail to adopt better practices will quickly be filtered out of the industry.

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