Just like 1 January 2000, 25 May 2018 came and went without stopping the world from spinning. But what are the longer-term effects of GDPR for channel marketing in EMEA?
Pre-GDPR, millions of tech marketing dollars were spent across the region on email and telesales campaigns that were based on "lists" of contact information. Corporate lawyers for the US-based tech giants are very nervous of the fines relating to GDPR and have been stopping initiatives that they aren't 100 per cent certain are compliant.
Anyone who was involved in GDPR discussions will know that there are six lawful bases for processing someone's personal information. Judging by the deluge of emails in May, most companies seem to have focused on consent as their preferred method of legitimising their data, but legitimate interest and contract (soft opt-in) were also good options for companies with a well-thought-through value proposition or strong existing customer base.
So how do we move forward and where does that leave channel marketing?
Vendors still need to get their messaging out, distributors are still the main conduit for marketing spend and channel partners are the ones who should be developing relationships with potential clients.
Marketing to existing B2B accounts shouldn't be affected by GDPR, so I'll focus on how we attract and engage new business and some of the challenges with this.
Some commentators have suggested that GDPR will force tech marketers to "step up" the quality of their output. They will build valuable insight and content, which will appeal to prospective clients and lure (nurture) them into providing consent for a dialogue and eventually sales opportunities.
This all seems a little too perfect and simplistic to me, and I worry it will fail for one of three reasons.
- Few would agree that their organisation's CRM system, or the hand-off from marketing to sales are working well today. Will adding another system to manage marketing automation and introducing a different kind of lead improve their perception?
- Inbound/content marketing is very hard to execute and quite a mind shift from the approaches used by many tech companies in the past. Is there enough commitment to make such a change and wait for results?
- Corporate marketing structures, processes and objectives within global vendors completely contradict this model. The processes are too rigid, don't encourage creativity from channel marketing execs and they work in quarterly cycles. A quarterly claim and evidence process works if you are running a tactical email or telesales campaign, but a nurturing strategy will take months to produce results, albeit very high quality. As many channel execs are targeted on short-term lead generation, comp systems will struggle to track well-nurtured relationship/account-based selling.
Any tech companies hoping to grow in Europe really need to understand GDPR and be more creative in helping their local colleagues and partners to work around the challenges of the legislation.
It isn't insurmountable, but they will need to overhaul their systems and processes if they are to provide the support that is needed. That is a big shift for US-based tech vendors to make, when their home market is less affected by the legislation.
So with that in mind, what is the alternative?
We are already seeing a rush towards marketing providers who can demonstrate that consent is in place. Most notably, social media platform advertising and magazine publishers who have reader consent for advertising.
However, we all need to be conscious not to kill the golden goose by just shifting sales spam and noise to platforms such as LinkedIn. One of the ways for tech companies to do this is by using AI and data analytics more effectively. Profiling will enable you to identify specific targets for a campaign and create a focused message that resonates with the reader and grabs their attention. Being specific also reduces the click-through costs (which can be quite high on LinkedIn) and improves lead-to-sales conversion rates.
In addition, events marketing and public speaking will become more popular as a way of demonstrating a company's capabilities and obtaining consent. And finally, as discussed recently at CRN's MSP North event, old-fashioned snail mail could also make a comeback as a way of grabbing attention when most people's pigeon holes are going unused.
Antony Young is co-founder of IQBlade, B2B intelligence for the tech sector
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