How the GDPR Will Affect Conversational Marketing
By now, you almost certainly know that one of the main expectations of the modern consumer is for the interactions they have with their favorite brands to be authentic.
Whether engaging with a company’s customer service and support teams, or being marketed (or even sold) to, it’s generally understood that the modern customer wants said engagements to have an organic feel to them. That is, today’s consumers want to know the companies they interact with are truly looking to help them in some way – not just to make a quick buck.
As HubSpot points out, this is one of the main reasons conversational marketing has proven to be so effective in recent times: it allows brands to meet their customers where they currently are, provide them with the exact information they need, and forge an authentic and organic connection with them in a way that transcends the typical “company-customer” relationship.
In doing all this, brands that implement conversational marketing are typically more trusted than those that don’t seek to engage in authentic discourse with their customers. In turn, these companies are usually able to gain a ton of valuable information from their customers – information that can be used to improve their initiatives and processes in the future.
Now, as you’re likely well aware, the newly-implemented GDPR has thrown a bit of a monkey wrench into the overall plans of most companies’ marketing teams. As Graeme Caldwell explained here on AWR’s blog back in April, “The GDPR introduces stringent rules around data collection and processing, and establishes legal grounds that justify the collection of personal data.”
One of the main tenets of the GDPR is that companies must obtain consent from any individual from whom they intend to gather data for marketing purposes – before they gather such data in the first place. Needless to say, this has major implications in terms of how brands implement conversational marketing tactics moving forward.
But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, the enforcement of the GDPR can potentially lead to more efficient and effective conversational marketing initiatives – as long as the changes are approached from the correct angle.
Which is exactly what we’ll be discussing throughout the remainder of this article.
How the GDPR Will Affect Conversational Marketing
As was to be expected, the implementation of the GDPR caused a bit of a shock-wave throughout the marketing world, leaving companies around the globe working tirelessly to ensure they would be following the proper protocol moving forward.
Admittedly, many marketers initially saw these new regulations simply as a bunch of new hoops to jump through, on top of all their other duties and requirements. Also of concern is the fact that the GDPR inherently makes it more difficult for companies to engage with and collect information on their customers and prospects.
(This, of course, is a necessary byproduct of the true intent of the GDPR, which is to protect customer data across the board.)
However, as we alluded to earlier, what may at first seem like a roadblock (or at least a bump in the road) can be beneficial to your company’s conversational marketing initiatives in the long run.
Let’s dig a bit deeper.
True Transparency is Essential
If we’re being completely honest, no matter how transparent a company’s approach to marketing of any kind (conversational marketing included) is, said company will almost certainly end up using the data it collects on its customers in ways said customers probably never anticipated.
(For example, consider the process of remarketing, in which a brand’s ads seem to “follow” customers around the web after they visit the company’s site just once.)
While most modern consumers understand – and even expect – companies to use their information for the purpose of providing personalized marketing material and experiences, it is possible for companies to go a bit too far in such initiatives. When this line is crossed, the marketing attempts that follow typically come off as, well… kind of creepy.
Thinking about all this in terms of conversational marketing, you might make the argument that the more authentic and organic an engagement feels to the consumer, the more taken aback they may be once they realize the company in question had been collecting data on them the entire time. Ironically, in an instance such as this, the company’s attempt to build an authentic relationship with the customer may end up backfiring.
That said, it’s important to call attention to the fact that your customers are not your friends. As we said earlier, no matter how authentic your engagements are with your customer base, the bottom line is your relationship with them revolves around your providing them with a service, and their providing you with revenue.
In understanding this, it becomes clear that following GDPR protocol can potentially bring your relationship with your customers to an entirely new level of authenticity: one in which both parties truly acknowledge what the relationship is really all about.
In turn, this can lead to…
To be sure, conversational marketing is all about engaging with your individual consumers on a one-to-one basis, allowing each of them to have their voices heard.
However, it’s all too easy for marketers to allow their customers to become too conversational during these exchanges – causing them to inadvertently neglect the “marketing” side of the equation. In other words, in an effort to gather as much information as possible from a given customer, marketers can sometimes allow such conversations to go “off the rails,” so to speak.
When this happens, it becomes easier for both the customer and the marketer to stray from the original topic of discussion. In turn, the information provided by the customer becomes less and less valuable to the marketer. Worse yet, as both parties become less focused on a singular goal, the customer may even move away from their buyer’s journey.
Of course, it’s always been best practice for marketers to approach such engagements strategically, so as to avoid instances such as the one described above.
However, the implementation of the GDPR makes such an approach not just “suggested,” but legally necessary, as well: because marketers are now legally required to disclose how and why they gather specific information from their customers, it inherently will become easier for marketers to maintain focus during marketing-related conversations with customers and prospects.
Going along with all this, marketers of all kinds should be focused on collecting the minimum amount of information necessary for a given purpose. For example, if a company is looking to determine the median age of its customer base, its team should only be worried about collecting the birth dates of its audience members – and nothing else.
Again, this legal requirement can make your conversational marketing efforts become more efficient, as you’ll inherently be focusing on gathering only the data that pertains to your current purposes.
Intensive Lead Qualifications
Like the process of collecting consumer data, the process of qualifying leads is another area in which it’s better to be focused than to “cast a wide net.”
In other words, it’s always been best practice to have a rather intensive lead generation and qualification process in place. Simply put, the more focused this process is for an organization, the less time, money, and energy the company will spend chasing after dead-end leads.
But, again, it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of chasing after any ol’ lead, in the hopes that those who don’t typically fall under your definition of a “target customer” (i.e. longshots) end up converting. Needless to say, this rarely happens – and if it does, these less-than-ideal customers typically won’t stay on board for very long.
The legal aspect of the GDPR now adds an extra layer to all of this. Not only are you legally required to gain consent for collecting information from any consumer you engage with, but you’re also required to ensure this data remains safe and secure while in your possession. Additionally, if you end up not needing to use said data, you also need to ensure that you dispose of it according to GDPR protocol.
All this being said, you stand to lose even more time, money, and energy by implementing a less-intensive lead generation and qualification process, now that GDPR protocol is in place.
With this in mind, then, it’s clear that becoming more intensive in your lead-gen processes can lead to a higher level of efficiency for your marketing team across the board.
Going back to the transparency aspect we spoke about earlier, even the initial process of obtaining consent can, in itself, be seen as a part of your lead generation and qualification process.
Think of it this way: if a consumer trusts you enough to give you permission to use their information for marketing purposes, you can be rather confident that they’ll be likely to engage further with your company moving forward. And, on the other hand, those who don’t consent to all this probably aren’t high-quality leads, anyway – and you shouldn’t waste any more time chasing after them.
As we alluded to in the intro, while the advent of the GDPR certainly means marketers will need to make some changes in the way they engage in conversation with leads and prospects, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
On the contrary, it essentially means marketers are now required to follow some of the best practices for lead generation and engaging with consumers that, to be sure, they should have been following anyway.
Perhaps the most important takeaway, moving forward, is that you should strive to be as intentional as possible whenever engaging in conversation with a potential customer. In turn, you’ll not only ensure that you maintain compliance with the GDPR – but you’ll also ensure that your conversational marketing efforts end up paying off in dividends.
Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author, and not necessarily the views of Caphyon, its staff, or its partners.