GDPR = General Demise of PRomotion (as we know it)


May 25th.

It’s coming.

No, not Godzilla or the Huns or an alien zombie invasion (those… a marketer could capitalize on).

It’s the apocalypse for marketers.

It’s GDPR.


As this blog is a bit longer than usual, I have added quick navigation to the topics covered:


Let’s dive in ????????????


What’s so bad about GDPR?

Okay, “apocalypse” might sound a bit extreme. But one thing’s for certain: if you have any interest in marketing to EU (and until Brexit takes full effect, UK) residents, the General Data Protection Regulation is going to significantly impact your marketing ability and results.

You’ve probably heard about GDPR already (in case you haven’t, it’s the EU’s new regulation about how it is permissible to collect, process and use the personal data of EU residents).


Even if you’re only targeting Americans, Australians or Papua New Guineans, don’t breathe easy yet. American IP does not equal American. You may be unintentionally gathering data on EU residents who are accessing your site through VPN or while on a business trip in the United States. Furthermore, this clamping down on data protection trend will likely continue through to the USA and the rest of the world, so it’s in your best interest to prepare now.

Hopefully, you are already addressing the technical and operational changes required to meet the new regulations (in case you’re not, I included a list of clear, actionable resources for marketers at the bottom of this post).

But have you thought about the almost inevitable (negative) way GDPR will impact your KPIs?
Have you considered the huge implications GDPR will have on your marketing strategy?



Making it harder for marketers

The GDPR includes 11 chapters with 99 articles (to-date), so it would be unprofessional to summarize it in one sentence, but it’s worth noting that if you want to use any personal data of EU residents, in many cases, you’ll need to recruit and document their explicit consent to collect and use it, while clearly stating what you will be using it for. That’s the case even if the data is not perceived as personally identifiable data, like an IP address!

The inbound marketing playbook thus far has been heavily based on the principle of “just let me get my hands on their data.” Almost any marketing technology you use which places a script on your site (Hubspot, Marketo, Intercom, HotJar etc.) track your website visitors and saves their personal data. The goal is to convert your anonymous traffic to known, qualified leads as soon as you can, using subscription pop-ups, landing pages and gated content to capture their email and other data. Once you have that precious data, you can score, nurture, advertise, cold call – you name it. This is your opportunity to get closer and closer to turning the lead into a customer.

Well, that opportunity is about to be swallowed up by the void of GDPR compliance.

In a post-GDPR world, whenever a visitor submits a form, you can’t just assume that he’s giving you permission to market to him. To be valid under GDPR, his consent must be “freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous.”

× Pre-checked consent boxes? Out.
× Sending webinar registrants promotional emails for your products? Nope. Need their consent.
× Using your blog subscriber list to create a Facebook ads custom or lookalike audience? No can do. Need their consent.

Plus, if anyone in the EU ever wants to know what data you have on them, you must provide it. If they request that you delete any or all of their data from your records, you have to do it.


Playing by the old rules = FAIL

You could just try to tack GDPR compliance onto your current inbound marketing strategies. Keep using your gated content and content upgrades, but make sure you specify all intended uses.

Kind of like this:


Um, are you clicking that checkbox? Because I’m not. (Even if it didn’t have that parenthetical statement at the end.)

Or, if I’m desperate for that white paper, I’ll just consent and then immediately afterward ask them to delete all my records from their database. GDPR says you need to make it easy for someone to request that.


Hubspot found that the majority of people in EU would opt out of receiving phone calls and emails from companies. Nearly 60% would take advantage of the ‘right to be forgotten’, and request that company completely delete their details and history from their databases. Over 50% would also opt out of having their personal data stored and would request to see all the information a company holds about them.


If you were planning on applying the GDPR regulations without changing your marketing strategy, you will most likely see a growing number of prospects and customers opting-out of your database, refusing your cookies, removing retargeting pixels and anything that could enable you to track and engage with them. They will become unreachable for your marketing efforts on all channels!

Can you picture the trend lines for your lead generation KPIs? Because I can. They’re going down, way down…


A light in the darkness

To give us some hope, let’s take a blast from the past: the beginning of email marketing. Email marketing was quite literally a “blast,” with trigger-happy email marketers sending out campaigns left, right and center to any email address they could get their hands on.

Consumers, however, weren’t having a blast. They complained, and governments started clamping down on email marketers’ fun with anti-spam regulation. The CAN-SPAM act, double opt-in, required unsubscribing links… all of these regulations were born around that time.

While spammers and email marketers alike may have griped, in the end, it was spammers who lost out and adaptive email marketers who won. We segmented our databases and personalized our email communications, strengthening our connection with the people who truly wanted to hear from us. And they were able to hear because their inbox was no longer flooded with junk. We were also able to adapt our attitudes to becoming grateful that finally, we had relevant email lists: the people who were hearing from us actually wanted to hear from us. Win-win.

When we’re forced to up the value we deliver to our customers and prospects, life only gets better for everyone. But in order to achieve that, we need to recognize and rise to the opportunity.


Connect through content, not data

In the old, pre-GDPR playbook, our content was often used as a way to get the data. “Just let me get my hands on that email address” – and then started the real work of lead nurturing.

No more.

If you try to continue along those lines and still become GDPR-compliant, you’ll be faced with

  • in-the-basement opt-in rates (because no one wants to grant you the marketing permissions you seek)
  • sky-high opt-out rates (because your blog subscriber doesn’t want to hear about your new product, and they just ask you to delete them from that list, or worse, from your records entirely)
  • a 20 million fine


None of those sound appealing.

If you want to succeed in the post-GDPR world, you need the new playbook. Content needs to become the lead nurturing mechanism itself; not just a means to capture a lead. Content itself needs to lead the prospect through the sales cycle, ideally until they are ready to reach out to you on their own.

Alternatively, your content needs to be so mind-blowingly spectacular that your prospect will check off any boxes you care to place on your opt-in form, including one that makes him your indentured servant for the next seven years.

Either way, it’s all about the quality of your content. The ability of your content to speak directly to your prospects, tell them exactly what they wanted to know and do it in a way that wows them – that is what will drive your inbound marketing success.


Start using the new playbook

GDPR is taking effect in several short weeks. Now is the time for a reevaluation of your marketing plan and implementing change. Wait, and you’re going to come late to the game.

Here are some plays you should be putting into practice:


Crazy high-quality content

At least 80% of the content that’s being churned out every minute is garbage. The 20% that remains… well, much of it is curated, recycled and repurposed. That kind of garbage won’t help you impress your visitors to the extent that they reach out to you. The balance between quantity and quality needs to change dramatically. You’re aiming for “WOW,” and that takes time. So cut 9 out of the 10 pieces of content you have planned and pour all that time and effort into one piece of riveting, impactful content that provides real takeaways for your audience.


Content primed to convert

Remember: in a post-GDPR world, your ability to reach out to your customers may be much more limited. Even if they downloaded your ebook, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can send them a lead nurturing campaign. In that case, your ebook needs to be your lead nurturing campaign, hooking and driving them to want to learn more from you.

That doesn’t mean hard sell, with “We do this!” and “Call us now!” sprinkled throughout your content. It does mean demonstrating your expertise and concrete results in a discreet but powerful way. Using your own customers’ case studies as examples accomplishes this task very nicely, especially if you are able to share real, researched, valid numbers and insights.

And don’t forget the call-to-action, so if they’re all ready to reach out to you, they can.


20% production, 80% promotion

Once you have your WOW piece, don’t just email it to your subscribers, post it on your social networks and call it a day. As marketer Derek Halpern puts it, “If you spend time writing a piece of content, and that content only gets 1,000 readers, chances are there are one million other people in the world who can benefit from what you wrote. Why, then, would you spend more time creating content when you already have something that your ideal customers can benefit from? It’s smarter to find another 10,000 people to consume what you’ve already created as opposed to creating more.”

Maximize what you can get out of one piece of content. Spend way more time promoting your amazing content than you even spent producing it. Give your content as many chances as possible to work its magic.


Measure with relevant KPIs

If you aren’t already working by the numbers, now is the time to start. Setup KPIs and a baseline for each type of asset you produce. Make sure these KPIs actually map to your goals. “Visits” alone is often a poor metric. Unless your goal is to be able to brag, “I got a million visitors to my site last month,” you don’t really care about visits – you care about visits that take steps toward conversion!

Depending on your niche and goals, relevant KPIs might be contacts, subscribes or anything that puts your visitor into a closer relationship with you. Relevant KPIs might also be return visits within a certain time frame, lowered bounce rates or anything that indicates increasing interest and engagement with your content.

Split your KPIs by channels. Analyze your data to understand which channels work best for each content type and each of your goals. Apply your conclusions for more targeted and effective content creation and promotion.


Open the gate

If your content speaks for itself and is primed to convert, you shouldn’t need to gate it. In fact, gating it would be counterproductive because the friction of the gate would inherently reduce the number of people it reaches. That’s true even now, and how much more so in a post-GDPR world, where the friction of that gate is going to be getting much, much stronger.

If you are going to gate content, consider reducing the number of gated assets to a minimum and only gating assets with the highest conversion rates. Whenever you release a new asset which you think could be gated, start without gating and measure the ratio between visitors and downloads. Set a baseline for this KPI by your top performing downloadable content. If this new asset reaches the baseline, then it’s relevant to consider gating it for future visitors.


The time is now

Stay stagnant, and you’ll be like the spamming email blasters that have faded from the landscape. Or Betamax.

Adapt, and you’ll ride the wave of new opportunity to bring your business to higher levels than ever.

It takes effort, of course. Change is never easy. But the rewards are worth it.

In my next posts, I’ll dive deeper into strategies and tactics to help you effectively convert visitors in a changing marketing world. If you want to be alerted when they go live, please subscribe to the blog or follow me on LinkedIn.

I’d also love to hear from you. How are you preparing for the implications of GDPR on the world of marketing?




GDPR and Marketing Resource Links

Cookies and GDPR: What you need to know
Marketo users: The GDPR and the Marketer – A Practical guide for the Marketo user
Hubspot users: Get Ready for GDPR: Features You Can Start Using On Your Path to Compliance
Pardot users: GDPR Compliance in Pardot: The Freaky Fast & Un-Boring Guide
Eloqua users: Understanding How Oracle CX Cloud Suite Can Help You Prepare for GDPR
Act-On users: Using Act-On to manage consent for the GDPR
GDPR for Marketing: The Definitive Guide for 2018
GDPR in a Nutshell for: Email Marketers


Yonatan is the CEO and Co-Founder of CliClap, a smart, autonomous, inbound lead generation and qualification solution for your content marketing channels.

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