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Three Ways of Securing Marketing Interest and Consent in the GDPR World

October 23rd, 2018 Joe Hyland

This article was originally published on martechadvisor.com. 

Even though it’s been months since the GDPR legislation went into effect, there are still no shortage of things about the regulation that are confusing. But perhaps the most perplexing aspect of the European Union’s data regulation bill is the cloud that surrounds the “legitimate interests” and the gaining consent piece of GDPR.

The exact wording goes like this:

“[Data] [p]rocessing will be lawful if it is necessary for the purposes of the legitimate interests pursued by the controller or a third party, except where such interests are overridden by the interests or fundamental rights and freedoms of the data subject which require protection of Personal Data, in particular where the data subject is a child.”

This passage raises more questions than it answers: After all, what does legitimate interest constitute, how can companies acquire or measure this interest, and how should they engage if they have gotten this consent?

It’s quite the minefield for marketers to navigate, and the stakes are higher than ever. A wrong turn in the past meant you irritated customers. A wrong turn in the GDPR world spells potential legal action and fines.

Like any marketing company, we at ON24 were initially concerned that GDPR could potentially cut into market-qualified leads and reduce pipeline. But once we dug deeper, we gained a better perspective: we now think of GDPR as an opportunity to better organize our data and shorten our marketing funnel, by engaging with folks who are genuinely interested in our offerings.

More than anything, we see GDPR as a shift. Previously, the burden was on consumers: Consumers who wanted to protect their data had to go to great lengths to stay off irresponsible sites, create and maintain settings that ensured privacy, and generally stay vigilant about where their data was floating around on the web. Now, the burden has shifted to companies. Businesses are required to be vigilant in correctly interpreting and adhering to GDPR, and properly gaining consent or legitimate interests before processing consumer data.

So how does a marketer do it?

Engaging Through Interactive Content

We think the answer is simpler than most realize: if you act like a human, you can gain and keep consent. If you make your content interactive, thoughtfully engage your prospects and customers throughout the funnel, you’ll not only gain consent — you’ll earn their trust and business.

For example, you might take advantage of a feature such as a chatbot. The advantages of chatbots are that they provide tailored, personalized communication with customers. The goal of many chatbots are to engage customers, learn information about them, and help move them further along the sales funnel. They’re an effective marketing tool when consumers visit a website, as they provide an immediate call to action, can help uncover why a prospect is interested in a certain offering, and help direct them to other web pages that might be useful.

But in the sense of GDPR, chatbots will be extremely useful in gauging interest or acquiring consent from consumers. Chatbots can be easily programmed to direct customers to a privacy policy, ask them if they’d like to opt-in, and empower customers to have their data forgotten or retrieved in a few quick keystrokes.

Webinars are another potential avenue. Online events can bring not only tailored and personalized to specific audiences, like bots, but they bring a more human aspect to the engagement. Individual participants, for example, can ask questions to the presenter in real-time, and responses to surveys and questions can help guide the discussion or presentation, providing a nearly limitless audience with multiple touchpoints to gain consent. They can provide an even more human touch to them – as the presenter can ask attendees for consent at the right juncture, and explain why it would be helpful for the attendees to provide this.

Develop a “Freemium” Marketing Model

There are so many businesses that have set their business model up as “freemium” – which is where a customer gets access to certain features free of charge, with the goal being that the product will be so useful that they will pay for a premium version of the product later on. It’s a model that’s helped drive the success of tech titans like Box, Spotify, Hootsuite, SurveyMonkey, Evernote, and more.

Marketers should use a similar model in their marketing approach, with the goal being not to upsell a prospect, but rather to gain their consent. For example, a marketer could offer a webinar or whitepaper that’s open to everyone. But they could also install a real-time Q&A widget — where a customer would need to provide consent in order to ask a question or to sign up for a newsletter.

The main goal should not be to gain consent right away, but just to gain it at some point. Marketers should trust that if they’re doing their job well, prospects will find their content useful and be happy to provide their consent at some point of the customer journey. But it’s all about finding the right time and natural touchpoint to make this ask.

Create Natural Places for Customer Consent

If you’re in a conversation with a friend or colleague, and you have an important question to ask – you don’t just ask them at the outset of the conversation. No, you wait for a natural place in the conversation, and once the conversation has gotten close to that topic, or there’s a segway into the question, you ask the question. It makes the conversation more comfortable as you’ve have built up to the point where the question feels organic.

GDPR has underscored the fact that a consumer’s data is personal. Think of asking for someone’s email address, data, or consent in marketing as a personal question in marketing. There is a time and place for these asks. If you have a customer who has initially downloaded a piece of gated content or signed up for a newsletter, for example, that follow up email could be a natural place to ask for consent. Or it could be after a customer has used a certain keyword with a chatbot, a keyword that indicates they’re interested in your offerings.

No matter your industry, you should work to ensure that you’re asking for consent in a way that doesn’t feel intrusive or out of left field. If you’re seeing a lot of individuals in your funnel, but not providing their consent – that could indicate you’re doing it at an odd time in the buying process.

As a marketer, you know your buying cycle better than anyone else and what touchpoints would be a natural fit to ask for consent.

Clearly, GDPR has made all of us re-evaluate how we market to customers. But rather than seeing it as a burden, marketers should embrace the opportunity to rethink how they can effectively engage. In many ways, GDPR is a forcing function for making marketers do something we should have been doing on our own a long time ago: effectively marketing and securing legitimate interest.