General Data Protection Regulation and E-privacy: When you see the rules you might just as well close down your business! Or maybe not.

Closed for Business

Closed for BusinessIn May 2018 the General Data Protection Regulation will come into full force and compliance will be monitored. At some point in 2019, the new E-privacy regulation will also be implemented. This puts a lot of pressure on entrepreneurs as to how they deal with customer data and approach their customers and prospects.

When you read the text of the General Data Protection Regulation and the draft text of the E-privacy regulation, you might just as well close your doors and sit in a corner and weep. Or maybe not.

For providers of (business) products and services, unsolicited contact with customers and prospects falls under Direct Marketing and is considered a kind of advertising.

The following definitions are taken from the General Data Protection Regulation:

(f) “direct marketing messages”: any kind of advertising, whether written or oral, addressed to one or more identified or identifiable end-users of electronic communications services, including the use of automated calling and communication systems with or without human interaction, e-mail, SMS, etc.;

(g) “voice calls for direct marketing”: direct voice calls that do not involve automated calling and communication systems;

(h) “automated calling and communication systems”: systems capable of automatically initiating calls to one or more recipients and forwarding non-direct voice elements in accordance with instructions set up for that system, including calls that are made using automated calling and communication systems that put the called person in contact with a person.

We interpret this as mainly one-way traffic (outbound marketing) initiated by the “sender”. Based on this interpretation, the following are our topmost practical tips from a commercial point of view:

1: Focus mainly on existing relations and seek upsell, cross sell and referral opportunities there.
As regards referral, this is how it works: Alexander (one of Peter’s customers) believes that Peter can also provide his service to John (one of Alexander’s business relations). Alexander sends John an e-mail: “Dear John, Judging by my dealings with Peter regarding ABC, I think it would be beneficial if you two meet. Perhaps he can help you with AD and E. Is it okay with you if I send him your contact details?”

John replies by e-mail that he agrees, thus giving his explicit approval. There are two advantages to this approach:
1: Alexander’s contact with John is beneficial from a networking perspective and for maintaining relations.
2: Peter is indebted to Alexander, which is also handy with respect to networking and Peter in turn referring others to Alexander.

2: Give emphasis to dialogue with both existing customers and new customers:
In other words, do not push a product or service, but entice customers and prospects to engage in a dialogue (see 3) regarding their plans, ambitions, obstacles, etc. This dialogue can result in a quotation for a service or product; that way, the quotation is never the first moment of contact.

3: Shift from Outbound Marketing to Inbound Marketing & Sales:
Entice, inspire, invite customers/prospects to attend an event or download a white paper (via snail mail if a cold sell), good letter/e-mail with triggers, sign up via landing page, tick option in when registering. Sales department follows through and converts.

4: Soft approach to finding new customers: Much effective networking.
Make contact, engage in a brief dialogue about plans, ambitions, etc. Steer towards follow-up meeting or follow-up action (for example, points under 3). When making an appointment, it is justifiably important to (digitally) save contact information taken from a business card.

5: After sales as a means to stay in dialogue:
Provide proper after-sales service after delivery of each service or product:
1: Evaluation: In what sense did the product or service appeal?
2: Who else in your network would need the product or service?
3: Would you introduce me to this person (see tip 1)?
4: Get in touch again after a certain period of time: is the customer satisfied with the service or product today? Engage in a dialogue. Look for upsell/cross sell opportunities.
5: Ask whether the customer wishes to stay informed about relevant developments in his/her market as regards products that relate to the product or service.
6: Request permission to contact the customer again towards the end of the economic value of the product.

Disclaimer:. This text in no way constitutes legal advice. No rights can be derived from the contents of this document. To be assured of sound legal or commercial advice, we advise that you approach a specialised provider. Prospectory is of course happy to assist you with any other sales & marketing (help) questions you may have.