We here at Outbound Solutions would like to welcome you - whether you’re a current client, a future client or just someone with an interest in B2B marketing - to the first in a weekly series of articles examining the B2B marketing world. We will be taking an in-depth look, each week, at a specific topic, showing you how to solve some of the problems that B2B marketers face, sounding the alarm for any upcoming changes - legislative or otherwise - that might affect how B2B marketers operate and highlighting stories - both good and bad - that any successful B2B marketer or business development manager or director should be aware of.
This isn’t just an excuse, as many businesses blogs are, to trumpet our successes (though we have had, and will continue to have, many) and to fish for new business for ourselves - though we always relish having a conversation with somebody seeking help with winning new business. While we are proud of all we have achieved as a bespoke lead generation business over the last several years, we firmly believe that new developments, new ways of thinking and, yes, new pressures and problems that affect businesses of all sizes - from SMEs through to multinational corporations - need to be discussed, analyzed and, ultimately, addressed, and we hope that this page will be able to provide that discussion, analysis and potential problem solving, though we don’t, of course, claim to have all the answers.
So much focus recently has been on how Brexit will affect British business. Unfortunately, until we know exactly what form Brexit will take, it’s difficult to formulate ideas about how especially smaller, but ultimately all businesses, will operate in the UK in a post-Brexit world. At this point, any predictions about how things will look in March of 2019 would be purely speculative. Businesses should, ideally, be well aware by this point of what is likely to be the status quo following Brexit: the unfortunate reality is that, as of right now, they’re not. But, as we move closer to Brexit and the challenges - and the opportunities - that will come out of Brexit become clearer, we will devote considerable time to examining those challenges and opportunities and will share our conclusions here.
GDPR and You
Putting Brexit to one side for the moment, what we’d like to look at this week is the effect GDPR has had on the ability of businesses to reach potential new customers. In generating new business, unless your business is based entirely around word-of-mouth and you’re operating at full capacity, you need access to data. Data makes the world go around! The Economist, in 2017, referred to personal data as more valuable than oil and it’s no surprise that companies like Facebook, for example, find themselves in the news - sometimes for the wrong reasons - given just how valuable personal data has become.
The level of access to personal data that individuals have been willing to part with in exchange for virtually nothing has meant that businesses are now able to pinpoint and target, in a very granular way, their customers and market to them in incredibly specific ways. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your views on the handling of personal data) that has all changed. With the introduction of GDPR, businesses now need to show, very clearly, that their customers have consented to being contacted - and that they’ve consented for a specific purpose. If you then wanted to contact them regarding something entirely different, you wouldn’t be able to as the customer has not consented to be contacted regarding this new product, service, event, etc. The rules around GDPR are not as complex as they might look upon first glance. Nor should B2B sales teams be overly concerned with the introduction of GDPR.
Because GDPR affects, in the main, business-to-consumer marketing. It is marketing directors at retailers, for example, that need to have taken some very significant steps to ensure they have consent (remember all those GDPR e-mails?) If you’re a business who wants to contact another business for business purposes - B2B - you’re on somewhat more solid ground. That doesn’t mean that B2B marketers don’t have any responsibilities linked to GDPR, but they are much less constrained by GDPR than a B2C marketer. As a B2B sales executive or a business development director, you can make sales calls to any business number that is not registered on the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) or the Corporate TPS (CTPS), but only if they haven’t objected to your calls in the past. It’s important to remember that every business, if they want to be successful, has to have some mechanism to gain new business. The most effective of these mechanisms is picking up the phone and calling a prospect. And as long as your data is GDPR compliant, as discussed above, you’re golden. Unfortunately, it takes time and resources to make sure of that. If you’re a busy business development director, hungry to win new business for your company, you need to be sure - absolutely sure - that any contact you make is GDPR compliant. If you lack time and resources to cleanse your internal contact databases, or rely on someone else to do it for you, you could find yourself in hot water because even making one non-GDPR compliant contact that is then reported to the ICO could be absolutely devastating to a small or medium sized enterprise, and it would be no fun for even larger corporations. The fines associated with non-compliance can be huge.
We Weren’t Worried, Because We Prepared
That’s why we here at OSL took steps early on to make sure that our databases were compared against TPS and CTPS and removed any records that had registered with those services. We have stringent guidelines in place that must be followed where, if a prospect objects to being called by, for example, specifically asking to be removed from our databases, we have processes in place to make sure that is done without delay. The sales calls that we make are based on what is known as a “legitimate interest” basis. If we call the managing director of an SME to discuss his or her company’s finances and offer one our clients services - corporate financial planning, say - that is a legitimate business call and well within the rules of GDPR.
Because we have these databases that we have meticulously cleansed and made GDPR compliant, we have been able to make significant inroads for our clients with new business prospects. In particular, a big focus of ours has been reaching the decision makers at SMEs for our wealth management and financial planning clients. This also allows us to gather e-mail contacts and - crucially - the consent required for the specific purpose of discussing new business. That is why so many reputable, well-known, highly regarded firms have chosen OSL to make those initial contacts for them - because they know that every contact we make is compliant. It’s threading the eye of the needle, so to speak, for SMEs when it comes to GDPR. Our clients can then go out to meet with those SMEs that we’ve contacted, knowing that all communication has been conducted in an above board manner and they can get on with the job of winning that new business.
It’s important to note, as well, that GDPR in many ways reinforces what we, as lead generation experts, have maintained for a long time: that a phone call is a far more effective way to reach prospects than e-mail marketing. There were those, pre-GDPR, who rang the death knell for cold-calling as an effective sales technique in a B2B setting. In fact, it was and continues to be the most effective route to reaching both SME business owners and those working in larger companies.
If you have any questions or concerns about how you’re going to be able to reach out to new business prospects in this post-GDPR world, we’d be happy to chat…