If you have any dealings in the world of business then you’ll have undoubtedly come across GDPR, which comes into effect in May 2018. It has been on the radar of the marketing world for a long time and we’ve all had plenty of warning to get ourselves ready, which is why it somewhat shocks me that people are still in such a frenzy about it. I believe that GDPR is a great opportunity, both for consumers and for businesses and that it is something we should be embracing¬†with open arms, rather than complaining about, here’s why…

What is GDPR?

GDPR is essentially the replacement for the existing data protection rules in the EU. It is all about protecting people’s data from being misused, sold, or poorly handled by the organisations that they give that data to. You can check out the official GDPR website for the full info.

It is all about clearing up the ambiguity surrounding the existing data protection rules and the responsibility that businesses have when dealing with people’s data, particularly when it comes to non-EU countries. It puts in place a more stringent set of rules for businesses to follow when handling data, something which in my opinion is no bad thing.

For those of you who are running scared at the prospect, I urge you to stop and think about it as an opportunity. It’s a chance to build trust with your customer, clean up any ambiguous tactics and generally create a more open, honest and effective communication across the board.

There have been many articles written about the huge penalties available for those who break the rules, and whilst I’m sure there will be some high-profile cases in the next year, these articles are generally written to scare rather than inform.

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Who Does GDPR Apply To?

Most of the changes that GDPR is bringing in, centre around the way in which organisations collect and process data. Specifically, it refers to the data of EU citizens which means it most importantly applies to both EU and non-EU businesses if they have any dealings within the EU, regardless of their physical location.

GDPR covers data such as names, birth dates, bank details, email addresses, social media, medical information, IP addresses and photos, so it is far more than simply looking after your customer’s email addresses better.

This new set of rules apply to both data processors and data controllers which means that regardless of who actually collected the information, everyone is liable to handle it in compliance with the new laws and fines can still be imposed. This is particularly important for those businesses who have historically bought lists because you are still on the hook for how you use that data. My advice? Get rid and build your own!

Fines for Non-Compliance

Whilst many articles that have been written about the fines involved in GDPR are indeed scaremongering, it is true that there are penalties in place as of May 2018 for businesses who continue to flout the new rules.

Depending on the infraction, a business could be fined up to 4 percent of its annual turnover, or 20 million Euros depending on which one is higher. Furthermore, businesses who do not take the necessary measures to keep their data records in order may be fined up to 2 percent of their annual turnover.

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Why GDPR is a Great Opportunity

Once you get past the initial shock of having to change your data collection and processing practices, it is time to start thinking about why GDPR is a great opportunity for any business.

For me, the benefits lie in the trust that can be built going forward with customers. It is highly likely that once the official GDPR start date comes around there will be a lot of media attention around it and consumers will become aware that businesses should now be handling their data in a different way.

Over the course of many years customers have slowly lost confidence in digital businesses and how their data is used has become one of the main concerns of anyone who uses the web. People are tired of receiving spam from companies that they never signed up to and they’re tired of having their data used for advertising from people with little or no relevance to them.

GDPR is a great opportunity because it standardises the way that businesses have to respect personal data, enabling people to rebuild the trust that has been lost.

It is also a wonderful chance for the companies who do respect their customers and handle data properly to stand out from the crowd, especially if you’ve always done so. Similarly, it acts as a brilliant opportunity to reconnect with your audience. Here’s why…

How To Use GDPR To Reconnect With Your Audience

If you’re like me then you have probably signed up to thousands of email newsletters, forgotten to opt-out of countless services and been added onto the lists of what seems like millions of companies that you’ve never heard of. Most consumers do the same thing and this is one of the reasons that newsletter open rates across almost every industry are somewhat on the low side.

In my opinion, there is no point having a big email list with a tiny open rate. Names on a list mean nothing for your business, so it’s much more beneficial to have a small but engaged list. GDPR, therefore, offers you the opportunity to send an email out to your full list before May and ask them if they want to receive marketing communications from you.

This is an essential step for ANYONE with a newsletter list to follow before GDPR comes into law, so if you haven’t done so already get emailing. The only exception from this for me would be if you have only ever collected list from an OPT-IN newsletter subscription (opt-out no longer applies), if that’s the case then you can be reasonably sure that everyone on that list is in the market for your emails.

By sending this new opt-in email you may cut the size of your list somewhat, but what you’ll end up with is an engaged list of people who genuinely want to get your emails and who knows…you may even wake a few people up who haven’t engaged in ages but don’t want to stop hearing from you!

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If you aren’t sure what processes you need to go through before GDPR comes into effect, HubSpot has a very handy checklist of everything you need. Find the checklist here:¬†https://www.hubspot.com/data-privacy/gdpr-checklist