Peddling myths to harry the innocent

Like wasps to a pot of jam, the buzz of experts rushing onto the GDPR bandwagon is incessant. Leading cyber security entrepreneur Jane Frankland posted just two days ago ‘Can we really trust GDPR Products, Services and “Experts”?‘ and I found myself agreeing with much of what she said.

Given that a good deal of my time at the moment is spent trying to understand the GDPR and how it applies to clients mainly in the B2B events and publishing industries, I have trawled my way through lots of different articles from “experts”. My current role involves a constant picking apart of the legislation to understand how it applies to the nuances of individual organisations and their business operations. There is lots of great advice from the ICO and the DMA but the scope of what these bodies are covering is vast and much of it is generic so it is important to supplement their information with more specific details from elsewhere.

This research process does occasionally throw some complete curve balls, and today served up an absolute belter. While looking for insight into double opt in I came across the following comment in a blog by a Marketing Automation company:


Take a really good look at the last sentence in the first paragraph… Yes – you are reading it correctly – apparently people who attend B2B exhibitions are so naive that when they give a business card to a company on a stand they don’t think this is for marketing (i.e. contact about products and services) purposes and it’s the last thing they want. Really?! If you are having a chat with a sales rep at the bar and you give them your business card, are you just expecting them to add you to their Christmas card list or would you be more than a little surprised if they called you up to ask you if it’s OK to email you about the product you were discussing with one another? Surely personally handing over a business card is the most unambiguous form of consent there can possibly be…

I’m not entirely sure where the writer of this article has been hiding, but patently they have zero understanding of the way networking happens and business relationships are built. If you aren’t interested in a product, or you don’t want to be contacted by someone, you don’t give them your business card in the first place. They also haven’t grasped that in many instances business cards aren’t exchanged at B2B exhibitions; there’s this really cutting edge technology called a scanner where visitors voluntarily allow their personal data to be collected by the company whose stand they are on with a data protection notice already printed on the badge telling them not to do it if they don’t want to. Nor, I suspect, do any of the authors of the GDPR legislation intend it to hamstring business interaction in such a draconian way.

Double opt-in or confirmed opt-in is another favourite of this same marketing automation ‘expert’:


Now, there is some merit in a double opt-in process, as described by Mailchimp:


The above describes clearly how double opt-in is a mechanism for keeping your data clean and relevant, saving you time and money. As opposed to the previous one which is peddling it as a legal necessity. Think about this – some commentators say you need double opt-in because someone might be signing you up for multiple porn sites as an act of revenge – but chances are that if they are vindictive that person also knows how to access your email account or the stream of ‘please confirm your subscription to …’ emails will cause more than enough distress. In the B2B context, is this likely?

If you are following the pathway to GDPR compliance, you should have a very clear ‘opt in’ statement on your data collection forms at the point at which the data is collected as specified in Article 7 of the Regulation. In my humble opinion this is sufficient proof that someone actually intended to sign up for an event/requested to receive a newsletter/asked to download a piece of content. Given that at every contact point from there on in, the recipient is able to opt out again, suggesting that double opt-in is mandatory is a mendacious attempt to extract fees for unnecessary services from credulous companies who have not had the time to study the legislation in detail.

GDPR will affect your organisation in one way or another, and undoubtedly you will need help along the way. But please, let common sense prevail, and make sure that you filter the advice you are being given according to the agenda of the person giving it.

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Keep Calm & carry on emailing

As a data focussed company, getting to grips with GDPR is an imperative for Circdata. Having begun the lengthy process of conducting their own Data Impact Assessment under the terms of the Regulations, it has becoming increasingly clear what the implications for their clients are.

Another thing that has becoming increasingly clear is the number of misconceptions, and how, with such an enormous and broad piece of legislations, things can quickly get lost in translation.

It would be correct to say that the regulatory authorities and industry bodies are clearly focussed on the major players (or miscreants). A data breach by an internet provider, a financial institution or healthcare provider, or data misuse by a leading charity create unattractive headlines that only serve to bolster public mistrust of the direct marketing industry. Consequently these are the key industries which are currently being subjected to the most exacting of scrutiny.

Anyone involved in the B2B marketplace would be forgiven for self-interpreting the messages they are receiving as ‘business as usual’. But this is very far from the case because that advice is undoubtedly based on practices which aren’t currently being followed.

The events and publishing industry operates on a quid pro quo basis i.e. you give me your data and I’ll give you something in return, e.g. a free subscription to a magazine or entry to my exhibition. It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement. For the purposes of DPA, and now GDPR this would be considered to be a relationship operated under Legitimate Interests, i.e. there is a relevant and appropriate relationship between the individual and organisation.

Within the status of this relationship, an individual must reasonably expect that they will be sent further offers after they have signed up for a company’s product/service, even in the case of a paid for subscription. The individual must be told this, and given the option to ‘opt out’ at any point if they no longer wish their data to be processed in this way.

It isn’t all good news however. If you have been processing your data under Consent (i.e. you’ve been using lots of little tick boxes) then you are not permitted to claim processing under Legitimate Interests post implementation, so you still need to get your data in order before 25th May 2018 to continue using it. And, if you continue blasting your databases with masses of inane email messages then your opt-out/unsubscribe rates are going to rise – so it is time to reassess this strategy as well.

Meanwhile, remember that for most organisations, marketing permissions isn’t the thing you should be most worried about where GDPR is concerned. Your data security is. As one speaker at last week’s EventHuddle put it:

Remember that the minute you download an unsecured spreadsheet of Personal Data* onto an unsecured laptop you are in Breach

If you are still permitting data to migrate through your organisation via Excel, with no checks and balances on who can see it, then this statement should send shivers down your spine.

*Personal Data – any information that identifies an individual person.

Measuring ROI in a brave new (social media) world

In his book Socialnomics, Erik Qualman asserts that the only ROI on investment in social media you can count on is that your business will still be around in a year’s time.  It’s a tough concept to grasp for organisations used to measuring their marketing efforts by the 400% rule.

Social media has turned much of traditional marketing thinking on its head, particularly in organisations used to single rather than multi-stage marketing.  It can leave marketing and management teams, particularly those operating in the events sector, scratching their heads on how to measure success vs effort.

The difficulty lies in our ability to measure internet marketing efforts in a consistent and meaningful way.  Although this is now easier than it once was, it still relies on other people’s algorithms and an understanding of the errors that will inevitably be part of a process that is generalistic and mechanised.

One of the most frustrating aspects of this measurement process is that it is often impossible to see the results of efforts as they are happening – other than on a live twitter feed or by constantly running a report or refreshing a browser.  And, despite appearances, social media is constrained by the same mechanism that has been a restrictive factor for traditional media: the fact that someone else owns the environment in which you are publishing. Once again brands and individuals find themselves limited to measuring those actions which the technology providers have decided are important rather than those which are meaningful to a particular organisation.

An essential tactic is to decide which metrics are the ones which are going to give you the best feedback and a springboard to move your brand messaging forwards enabling you to continually tweak and refine your messaging and your products.  The key is in creating a positive feedback loop that delivers information which you can action quickly and visibly. While facts and figures are reassuring, real ROI can only be delivered if there is also a plan in place for drawing visitors, fans and other participants further into your community once you have initially caught their attention.

Finally, remember that since your audience can change direction many times in one campaign, let alone a 12 month-period, your measurement processes must now be measured in days and hours rather than weeks and months.

Getting to grips with hybrid events

Still a bit confused by what this Hybrid Event is that everyone is talking about?  Let us bring you up to speed…

Hybrid events are physical events—tradeshows, conferences, product demonstrations, executive showcases—augmented by virtual technology marketing. They unite the best of both technology and offline environments to create a more powerful and profitable experience. They bring together the most compelling aspects of onscreen, in person and online dynamics.

Participants who can’t get to your event can join in from afar, interacting with exhibitors and attendees, and accessing presentations and content. Visitors who do make it to the physical event can view, download, and forward content from booth kiosks and displays on laptops and mobile devices (at last a proper use for that Internet Cafe you’ve been building for years).

There are three types of hybrid events —Concurrent, Inclusive, and Successive.

A concurrent hybrid event is a physical show launched in tandem with an online virtual counterpart that can be accessed anywhere in the world.

An inclusive hybrid event integrates key virtual elements inside an established physical environment such as an Executive Briefing Centre, sales facility or event specific “command centre” headquarters.

A successive hybrid event is essentially a two-part marketing experience. At the conclusion of a physical event, a virtual version is launched and made available to previous attendees, as well as new customers and prospects.

Want to read more? Read the complete White Paper which is available online now.

Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

Social media has turned marketing on its head.  In every sense.

Marketing managers find themselves beleaguered by the number and complexity of media that they are expected to embrace and conquer even for what has always been the most straightforward sector – B2B.  As quickly as they understand the dynamics of one method of communication up pops another one – until the choice is both bewildering and extravagantly large.

Like children in a sweetshop, managers further up the chain, or stepped sideways from the marketing discipline, want it all.  They aren’t so worried if they are satifying a need, why just take the licorice when you can have the chocolate and the sherbert fountain, and the marshmallows and the sours, and the jelly beans…  But all this approach delivers is a stomach ache and no memory of the taste from each individual component.

Marketing for events has become a little like this.  Wanting email and direct mail and contra-deals and editorial and blogging and groups on LinkedIn…  but unless you stop to work out the strategy before you start all that happens is you have run around like a headless chicken for a few months and guess what?  You still don’t have any delegates for your event.

But this is where the smart organisations are getting their act together.  They have taken a long hard look at what email and random social marketing hasn’t got them, and they are embracing once again the old school of intelligent PR and great direct mail to form the backbone of their campaigns.  They aren’t spending as much money on these elements, but they are creating targetted shots that are really hitting home on their targets.

These same organisations are the ones who are also investing in specialist knowledge to help them build and maintain a social media campaign, managed and directed by a marketing manager who is not expected to be all things to all media.

Sounds like the way things were done 20 years ago – only better…

Email marketing loses its edge

Envelope flying into mailbox on computer screenOnce upon a time direct mail ruled.

You bought a carefully selected list; segmented it by geography or job title; crafted appropriate letters; packed them in an envelope together with a generic piece of collateral and posted them out to your target audience, safe in the knowledge that you would, by the law of averages, get a 0.5% response rate.  It was expensive, but if you did it right you knew you would get the results which were measurable and traceable.

Then email came along and life changed beyond all recognition.  Suddenly you could send out as many messages as you liked ‘for free’, hitting your database with more and more frequency.  Open rates were 33%+ and the sales team was happy because they could tell potential clients about the ‘millions of hits’ in your advertising campaign.

But things aren’t looking quite so rosy these days.  While event organisers and marketers maintain their love affair with electronic mail, the recipients are less enamoured.  Faced with a barrage of messages on an hourly basis, potential visitors and delegates are learning to use the tools on their mail programmes to create rules that send messages from certain senders direct to their junk folder, or to flag them as spam so that they never even make it as far as the inbox at all.

Opening rates continue to fall, with an average marketing campaign now looking at figure of approximately 25%.  From these the average click through rate is somewhere in the region of 4%, which means that for a mailing of 1000 people you can expect 10 to go through to your site, a response rate of 1%.

On the face of it, this still looks better than the 0.5% we expect from traditional DM, but this is not so.  In the conference or event market the DM figure refers to actual bookings or registrations whereas the email click-through rate refers to clicks on any link in an email to any document or web-page.  If we then assume that only 1 in 10, which is still very optimistic either books or registers then the actual response rate for an email campaign is only 0.1%.

Coupled with the fact that every time a database is mailed, it encourages individuals to junk or block the sender, a campaign that is poorly targetted and irritatingly frequent can actually create a double negative of failing to deliver response while actively turning potential customers away from the event.

Does this mean that there should be a return to DM?  Not really.  But it is time to reflect on a more holistic approach to marketing.  Using social networking techniques and creating communities that are engaged rather than annoyed.