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.

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Success needs nothing more than great content and good data

Simplistic – maybe?

Whether you are an event company or a publisher, it is these two elements that define you.  You need content specifically aimed at an audience which has been clearly outlined both in terms of demographic profile and in their ability to attract a pool of organisations willing to pay to talk to them in the environment you are providing.

Well-kept and nurtured data is absolutely essential, even in these days of disintermediation when everyone believes they can talk to their clients direct through social networking and marketing channels.  But it seems that we have lost sight of the importance of keeping data clean, updated and useful.  So often now we see clients who consider their database to be something that can be pounded with email messages or inappropriate advertising, taking barely a moment’s notice of the attrition of individuals.

Harping on about the current economic situation no longer seems to be generating a reaction from many in the B2B sectors, it seems they are too busy holding onto whatever business they may have left to take any notice.  But the fact is that events companies who are able to produce great content and understand the power of their data will be able to use the new virtual business solutions to add a series of events to their portfolio; and similarly event companies will be able to use them to create year-round content based on the great efforts they make for a few days a year.

Together these two groups could forge secure new businesses for themselves – embracing content delivery without being reliant on another to supply it for them.  Pity the guys they leave out in the cold.

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.

The great marketing turn-off

The ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) published their annual report earlier this year.  As well as dealing with data protection issues in the UK, it also gives the top 10 reasons for complaints made against marketing activities.

With 27% of complaints being about email, automated calls, live phone calls and SMS, and direct marketing businesses accounting for 14% of all complaints the question we have to ask is why are do so many people get it so wrong.

Part of the problem is that there is still an obsession with size.  A dirty database in the thousands is still perceived to be better than a tightly targetted, recently verified one of modest proportions. 

Next on the list of heinous crimes is thinking that it is OK to bombard the database with message after message.  The logic of this is that although most people will delete or ignore you, a proportion of your list is bound to respond.  Even with the weakest of messages this tactic will work for a while.  The problem comes when the database has been misused so much that the supression list becomes as large as the remaining viable data.

But still it is addictive.  Few are brave enough to resist the numbers game.  Yet by sending out messages that mean nothing to the recipient the chances are that current and potential customers are being turned off before you even start to turn them on.

Hellen @missioncontrol