Marketing has changed

In the ever-changing world of online communication, businesses need to stay informed and adapt accordingly. With the introduction of GDPR, understanding how to use the web for marketing became even more complicated. But complicated does not mean impossible. One positive effect of the introduction of GDPR has been an increase in consumer confidence when it comes to sharing their data. According to, almost two-thirds of consumers, 62%, have more confidence about sharing data with companies after hearing about the new GDPR regulations.

However, every silver lining has its cloud: while consumers may have more confidence in sharing data, many of them did not proactively choose to opt back in to email marketing lists during the switch to GDPR compliance. In fact, according to email marketing platform Moosend, in Europe alone, of those who opened their re-optin emails, only 18% were retained as marketable contacts. This impacted larger email lists more, with 23% retained from a list of up to 10,000 contacts and only 3% retained from a list of 500,000 to 1,000,000 contacts. While some smaller businesses would love to have an email list of 30,000 contacts, imagine for a minute having it drop to that point from one million contacts just a few days earlier?

Research aside, I think the primary reason for subscribers not opting back into email lists was predominantly “GDPR Fatique”.  There was an avalanche of GDPR related emails sent out in last May and for many people, it would have taken several hours to sift through emails and decide on which lists to opt back into.

And the reality.  They just ignored the emails.

Unfortunately for many businesses this was the same effect as saying NO and these subscribers had to be removed from their lists in order to be compliant with GDPR.

In other words it really hurt!

On top of that, unfortunately, you don’t get to choose who leaves your email list so the 3% to 23% of contacts that remain may not be your best customers!

As in many areas of business, changes, like GDPR, bring opportunity as long as you respond strategically. Rather than view your post-GDPR mailing list as half-empty (or worse, 97% empty), instead see it as having space available for more of your ideal customers. Marketers already know that the best way to keep your subscribers happy is to send them relevant, personal content. Easy in theory but perhaps difficult to manage in practice. However, Marketing Automation (MA) can help your business to achieve this without requiring staff members to spend hours each day personalising content for your customers.

Develop personas

Before you begin any marketing campaign you should consider developing “personas” of your customers. A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer. Think of them as being like those film plots which are “based on a true story.” They can be developed using market research and real data about your existing customers. Best practice is to choose a name for your persona using real customer names.  Now you have a “John” or a “Mary” that everyone in your organisation can relate to.

Even the largest companies develop personas of their customers and use these to ensure that their offerings meet their customers’ expectations. Personas can help to give you insight into your customers’ preferences, behaviours and spending habits.

Understanding your customers’ pain points is crucial to knowing where your business fits into their lives. You should also develop a persona for your dream customers, the ones you don’t have yet or would like more of. The cliché goes that 80% of your business comes from 20% of your client base. So rather than trying to maximise your number of followers or fans you should engage with your most loyal ones. For example, an online wine merchant might have fans who regularly visit the shiraz section of their website more often than any other page. This visitor could be categorised as a “Shiraz” consumer, or more broadly “Red Wine.”  A specific email plan could be set up ahead of time which is triggered for visitors taking this particular action. The email doesn’t have to be a sales email, it could simply suggest food pairings to go with recommended wines. With automation, should the visitors’ preference change and they start to show an interest in chardonnay they could be re-labelled as a “Chardonnay” consumer or “White Wines.”

Automated personalisation

There are clear benefits to automated personalisation. It stands to reason that customers are more likely to open emails with content that they are interested in. According to Adestra, 82% of marketers reported an increase in open rates through email personalization. Here in WSI we use personalisation in marketing our own business services. We ask visitors to describe themselves on a form, which gives multiple options to choose from. For example, a visitor who selects “business leader” will get a page that is tailored to suit their business needs. If the visitor describes themselves as a “marketer” the pages they see will use more technical language – and a lot more acronyms! Doing this helps to enrich the experience of the user and ensure that the services offered to them are relevant. It can also create empathy as we are speaking to our customers on their level, in  language that they use. As you review your current marketing materials, ask yourself whether you are using the best language to communicate with your clients. Consider the ways in which your marketing message and tone could better address your existing customers and appeal to new ones.

Promising personalised content can even help to capture data. Research from  Salesforce found that as long as they were promised personalised offers or discounts, 63% of Millenials, 58% of Gen Xers, and 46% of Baby Boomers are willing to share personal information with companies.

The introduction of GDPR may have caused some business leaders sleepless nights, with the possible exception of those in the legal profession!

However, it has been an opportunity to really consider the type of people that they want to reach and the content they will use to reach them. This has resulted in a much needed spring cleaning of databases, getting rid of “stale” contacts and updating them with more engaged and grateful subscribers. After all, it’s all very well getting thousands of likes and clicks but unless enough of them convert into new customers or sales it’s a wasted opportunity.

So where do we go from here?

Those of us old enough to remember back to 1999 will remember the much-hyped “millennium bug” and the anticipated doomsday scenarios which never arose. Companies took the opportunity to update their computer software and hardware to get ready for the new century. Similarly, for companies and marketers, GDPR presents challenges but also new opportunities. Rather than simply view it as an obstacle to get around or overcome, businesses should see it as a chance to reset their email marketing approach. Doing this doesn’t have to mean devoting staff members to trawl through databases or spending a fortune on GDPR training and legal advice.

Marketing Automation can be the key to unlocking a new and more effective content marketing strategy through personalised marketing. Instead of viewing GDPR with apprehension or even boredom, view it as a chance for renewed customer engagement and loyalty promotion. Use this time to reflect strategically on your current marketing approach and refine your business’ content. By doing so you will reward your current customers’ loyalty, attract some new ones and in the long-term strengthen your business.

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