GDPR is coming whether you like it or not.  Now is the time to stop complaining and start seeing this change for what it is – an opportunity to do and be better.

Like many in the marketing world, we have spent a lot of time with clients going over GDPR, what it means for them and what they can expect the world to look like come 25th May.

If by now, you don’t know what GDPR is, where it has come from and why it matters, then there are thousands of posts that will tell you. I am not going to waste time by setting it out here.

The common themes with our clients surround FUD – Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.  There is a lot of confusion surrounding GDPR.  Confusion that is not helped by muddy communication and snake-oil selling ‘experts’ operating without foundation or experience.  There is worry about the loss of every piece of marketing data that anyone has ever collected, and there is a certain scepticism around a core need to implement changes or be GDPR compliant.

What is missing for all but the enlightened few is any sort of optimism.

The problem

It is difficult to explain the problem without levelling criticism at the people we work with and for.

For the record, I know that you are busy people. that GDPR is just another ‘nuisance that has been added to your to-do list, and I know that it’s not exactly simple.

My criticism is this: as marketers, we have been busy doing things mindlessly and have not taken the time ask and understand why we are doing them.  We have built up massive lists of newsletter subscribers and never once asked how many of these people are actually buying from our newsletter or who is stopping to read the thing.

We have become so focused on our tactical activity and being busy fools, that we have lost the strategic focus which sat behind our data capture and acquisition activity in the first place.  We have ticked boxes by telling others about the size of our lists, numbers of fans and file downloads.  We have swapped marketing for counting.

The challenge

GDPR requires us as marketers to change our culture.  It forces us to focus our energy on the activity that makes a difference, not on the numbers that show we’re trying.  It forces us to be open and clear about our desire for data and what we plan to do with it.  It forces us to earn the data that we’re requesting instead of just expecting it.  It forces us to stop taking people’s personal information for granted and start to appreciate it fully.

Achieving that change is going to be hard.  Emails, DM campaigns, remarketing ads are going to be harder to create.  They’ll take more time to produce and they may cost more to produce.  We are going to have to innovate more and stop relying on the same old messages and methods that have stood us in good stead since the dawning of time.

The challenge is to realise that GDPR isn’t about us, it’s about the people that we want to communicate with and buy from us.

The opportunity

I encounter few marketers whose basic motivation is the production of a graph showing list subscriptions, or a spreadsheet tracking the number of Instagram followers they’ve acquired.  Most of us are communicators.  Our aim is to reach people in ways that are engaging, meaningful and different.  We want to speak to our customers and prospects as we ourselves wish to be spoken to and we put a great deal of ourselves into the work that we do.

So why are we so upset that we’re about to lose all of the people we’ve been trying to communicate with and who weren’t listening anyway?  Why aren’t we celebrating the opportunity to have our databases cleansed and then populated with people who actually want to hear from us?  When did knowing the volume of the canyon we were yelling into become more important than the people there to listen?

When did we become so lazy?

No matter where you are on your own GDPR journey, we all stand on the edge of an opportunity to be and do better.  Better messaging, better creative, better campaigns; better responses, better returns and better numbers.

GDPR gives us an opportunity to cleanse our CRM systems, databases, lists and most importantly – selves of the dead wood that is filling our working lives.  It gives us a fresh start and an opportunity to evolve, change, grow and create.  GDPR is one of the few pieces of legislation that is pro-marketer, but only when the marketer is pro-active.

This is legislation that favours those of us who are willing to work hard for our customers.  Those marketers who are wont to complain and moan are the ones who are afraid of the work that lies ahead.  So, perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate GDPR, stop our collective complaining, and instead, simply crack on anew

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