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New data protection regulations: a guide to getting your marketing data compliant

New data protection regulations: a guide to getting your marketing data compliant
June 13, 2017 Jemma Taylor Smith

In May 2018 the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will be replacing the existing Data Protection Act.  As there is no ‘phasing in’ period, it is important that data is compliant before the deadline to avoid a hefty fine. Simon McNidder from Database First Aid, provides some practical tips to ensure your marketing data is compliant.

There’s no shortage of publicity around the forthcoming changes associated with GDPR. However, the ‘how’ appears to be distinctly lacking. To tackle this, we’ve put together a step-by-step guide to ensure you’ve covered all areas of your marketing data.

Step 1 – Find your data

You need to gather all your mailing lists, targeting lists, lists of contacts etc. Once you start looking and asking your colleagues for their lists, it is highly likely that you’ll have more lists than you thought were possible.  And the more staff you have, the more lists you’ll have!

If your colleagues need prompting, ask them to look in these places: accounting system, marketing databases, email software, Outlook, Excel, Word, mobile phones, business cards, website response forms.

Step 2 – Combine all your data

Once you have all your information, you need to combine it.  Unfortunately, it’s not the most pleasant of tasks.

Firstly, to reduce your admin burden, delete as many unwanted lists as possible. Delete as many unwanted contacts in those lists too.

In order to allow you to combine all the contacts, you’ll need to put all the data sources together. Use Excel for the main list, and then put all the data in the other lists into a standard format.  For example, First Name in column 1, Surname in column 2, Job Title in 3 etc. etc.

Once all your lists are in the same format, start copying the information and putting it into the same Excel spreadsheet.  Once all your lists are combined, you’ll need to sort the data by surname and simply go through your rows. If ‘John Smith’ has an email from one list, a job title from another, and a phone number from another, just copy the information over into one record and delete the duplicate versions.  There aren’t many shortcuts to this I’m afraid (unless you outsource it).

Step 3 – ‘Spring clean’ your database

Once you have all your data in one list, you’ll need to get it checked.

As you need to get each contact’s opt-in, the best route is to ask them directly.  For the contacts with email addresses, you can simply send them all an email, asking them to check the details you hold on them.  All email systems have forms which allow you to add all the fields you have (and want correcting), and your contacts simply update their details.  This will then directly update your database.  Hey presto!  No further admin needed by you thereafter!

Remember to put in a mandatory opt-in field to encourage your contacts to provide the necessary consent for you to send them marketing communications and updates. If you send multiple updates on different topics you will need to get them to opt-in to each one. If you use other platforms for sending communications e.g. SMS, you’ll need to get consent for that too.

For the contacts without email addresses, or where it bounced, you’ll need to send them a letter. In the letter, explain you send most of your updates and advice/event invites by email only and you don’t have their email address.  Leave space for their email to be written in, an opt-in tick box and a reply envelope.  Keep the replies as proof the contact has opted-in!  Then add the email address and opt-in consent into your database.

Step 4 – Enhance your data

It’s all very well checking you’ve spelt your contact’s names correctly or got their job title right, but it’s also important to use this opportunity to enhance your targeting abilities.

When doing your ‘Spring clean’, go the extra step and ask your contacts to also indicate what topics they are interested.  All they’ll need to do is tick the option that they are interested in.  And also ask them what issues they are facing in the next 12 months.  This is pure gold dust. No matter what they say, you’ll be able to offer advice in some way – if they say they are looking at getting bigger offices, either you can help them with that, or know someone that’s gone through it already or someone else who can help them.  This goes much further than simply making your mailings easier – it really improves your client relationships.

Step 5 – Using your data

If you have asked your contacts what services they are interested in, you have the ability to search your CRM database (or email database if that’s what you have) and pick all those contacts who expressed an interest in a particular topic when they updated their details.  Just make sure you also limit the search results by those contacts who opted-in!

Step 6 – New contacts

As well as sorting all the data you currently store, it’s also important to consider the information you’ll be obtaining in the coming months and years and how it is processed.

When one of your colleagues meets a new contact and are given a business card, make sure they ask the person giving the card if it is ok to add their details to your database and let them know that they will receive an email from the database administrator confirming their details.

Once you get that business card into your database ensure you send a welcome email to the contact.  The email should make it clear that their details have been added to the database and explain how their information will be used. It’s also useful to confirm that their details are correct. Finally, ask them to indicate their interest and opt-in the receive updates and communications.

Once you have this consent, you can send the relevant marketing emails to the new contact.

You may want to turn the ‘auto-trigger-emails’ on in your CRM database or email tool.  This simply means that when the contact is added, your database sends a pre-written welcome note email to the contact the moment they are added (so make sure you don’t add duplicates).  If you don’t have marketing automation capabilities, your database administrator will need to send a weekly or monthly email to all newly added contacts.  Don’t leave it too long through – do it as soon as you can.

Step 7 – Keeping up-to-date

It’s important that once you’ve ‘cleaned’ your data that you keep it that way.

Do this by:

  • ensure you continually delete unwanted contacts
  • don’t collect unwanted data (e.g. fax number)
  • always send a welcome email to all new contacts
  • conduct an annual ‘spring clean’
  • send a welcome email to newly added contacts
  • ensure all staff use the database in the same way

Although there is a likely to be a lot of work at the outset to ensure your data is compliant, doing things thoroughly has numerous benefits – opt-in contacts are more likely to respond to emails; you’ll know who wants to interact with you; and if your contacts receive less junk mail, your emails will have less competition.

If you need more help and advice on getting your data ‘GDPR-ready’, contact CRM database consultant, Simon McNidder, from Database First Aid Ltd for further information or advice.

About the author:

Data protectionSimon McNidder has spent over 20 years using, managing and implementing CRM databases in-house, mainly in professional service firms, winning two CRM industry awards during this period. Simon is now a CRM Database Consultant and runs Database First Aid Ltd, fixing CRM databases and marketing data headaches. Typical services range from cleansing data, combining duplicate contacts, merging multiple contact lists into one, or finding CRM solutions for clients. For more CRM tips, visit Simon’s LinkedIn Profile.