GDPR Aftershocks Show Big Impact On Contact Databases, Leading Marketers To Focus On Content Syndication, Inbound Strategies

Published: December 5, 2018

The initial focus around the May 2018 GDPR deadline for most B2B organizations was what steps they need to take to be compliant. Now almost six months after the deadline many brands are seeing and feeling the effects on their database, with some seeing their usable contact lists dropping by more than 50% after double opt-ins and other compliance steps were added for EU contacts. Given the significant dent to outbound lists, many marketers have responded by ramping up content syndication and other inbound tactics.

Recent research from the CMO Council shows that more than half of companies (56%) said the top anticipated changes to the customer experience are around how and where consent would be obtained.

For companies such as Iron Mountain, the changes involved with assuring GDPR compliance have led to fundamental changes in how their team went to market.

Iron Mountain saw its European database take a massive hit after GDPR went into effect — with only 8% of the company’s database still active after GDPR compliance steps were taken. This resulted in starting their contact acquisition strategies over from scratch to guarantee any data in their systems met all legal expectations.

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“While 8% sounds terrifying, it hasn’t been bad for a few reasons,” said Leslie Alore, Director of Regional Marketing at Iron Mountain, in an interview with Demand Gen Report. “For our existing customers, we retain the right to engage with them. The loss of this 92% were contacts we didn’t have an active engagement with anyway.”

Alore, who leads teams across Western Europe and Canada, added that GDPR positioned her team to reassess specifically how they go to market and legitimately acquire contacts.

“Now, we must be creative and thoughtful when putting our messages in places where they are looking for it,” said Alore. “The control is in the hands of the customer — where it belongs — and gives us more opportunity to focus on the right people that matter for us now, versus being distracted by the tire kickers.”

Experts reiterated that GDPR and other related privacy legislation has had a major impact on B2B businesses and their go-to-market strategies, especially on contact acquisition strategies.

“Companies that have embraced GDPR instead of considering it as a punishment have come to realize that they used it as an external catalyst to strengthen their entire contact acquisition and retention processes,” said Julian Archer, Senior Research Director at SiriusDecisions, in an interview with Demand Gen Report. “Large organizations that lost a significant number of contacts looked to revamp their contact acquisition strategy to include departments such as sales and teleservices, and they have seen vast improvements in their contact acquisition efforts — they are gaining more contacts now and are still compliant.”

Iron Mountain Regrows Database 67% By Syndicating Content To Popular ‘Watering Holes’

As part of its new approach, Alore said Iron Mountain strategically identified the “watering holes” where their target audience educates themselves. “We had to be more disciplined on who are target audience is, conduct research to understand where they go looking for a value exchange and identify what they engage with and find valuable,” said Alore. “Then, we had to reach those watering holes. So, we had to find partners that have a means for reaching that audience in those watering holes.”

Alore stated that these partnerships aim to place Iron Mountain materials and content into these watering holes for the team to capture information themselves. For example, the company partners with Integrate for content syndication. She explained that they help receive and process data from a network of direct media partners around the world. When Iron Mountain defines an audience and channels, they can put a bid out and let media partners bid for the campaign.

“Integrate takes the responsibility of ensuring media partners meet our requirements,” said Alore. “This is important because across Western Europe, we have different laws and many media partners across our portfolio. The only thing that goes into Eloqua meets our specific requirements — if it does not, it’s rejected.”

Iron Mountain went through a full persona research project, according to Alore. The team conducted interviews with customers that fell into these personas to understand their pain points and challenges and where they go to educate themselves. This included channels and specific media partners.

“From there, it was a matter of honing our approach to our content syndication,” said Alore. “We used to be broad in how we attracted our audience, but with cost-per-lead models, that can get very expensive. So, we exercise more discipline, saying these are the accounts we’re going after, these are the personas, these are the firmographic indicators of a good buyer and we incorporate it into the Integrate platform.”

Alore noted that since the database reduction, the company has grown its database by 67%.

“We’ve been successful at keeping them engaged,” said Alore. “Conversion rates for content syndication leads to sales-ready has been maintained for a year at 22%. [Of] our top-of-funnel leads flowing into our automation nurture, we’re seeing 22% are converting to MQL that have consented to sales meetings.”

SiriusDecisions’ Archer also noted that, if done correctly, there are valid third-party acquisition opportunities.

“For a company like TechTarget, if I were to sign up for a webinar from a sponsor using TechTarget, I give consent to them and their customers — with a whole list of their customers hyperlinked. That’s a valid approach to gaining consent in a good way,” said Archer.

Experts reiterated that it is vital to continuously monitor third-party partnerships and assure that any data received or shared is compliant. Chris Arrendale, CEO of Inbox Pros, said that it’s important to continue reviewing third-party and partner contracts for how data is shared and may be used.

“Many organizations don’t understand the full scope of how their data is shared, used, where it lives and how it could be used for other purposes — other than those that were assumed,” said Arrendale in an interview with Demand Gen Report. “Make sure to include legal and compliance [teams] to review these contracts and make necessary changes.”

Addressing Current Go-To-Market Strategies To Fuel Compliant Contact Acquisition

For some organizations, completely revamping the way they go to market takes considerable time and resources. Therefore, experts suggest that traditional strategies, such as webinars and other content offerings, are still valuable as long as contact acquisition processes have been addressed to comply.

“Companies are looking at their data acquisition strategy and identifying all ports of entry,” said Archer. “They need to understand what data is being collected, how it benefits the business and why it’s valuable to collect. Then, they need to have a process in place to ensure compliance.”

For example, Archer shared a story regarding an enterprise-level manufacturing company that was looking to prove that being a good corporate entity is better for business. They took GDPR and coordinated efforts around contact acquisition and retention to turn it more into a process across all marketing and sales efforts.

“They identified all ports of entry for data into their marketing and sales systems — such as web forms, webinars, social media, tradeshows and channel partners,” said Archer. “Some ports of entry, such as contact list purchasing, were removed.”

For their webinars in particular, the company used channels such as Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to drive inbound traffic to their webinar landing page, which included standard opt-in text for the content. Since the webinar platform used has no direct integration with Eloqua, the company must manually upload all the contacts into the system. From there, they reach out with one to two other emails looking for double opt-in. Those contacts who opt-in are brought into the company’s welcome campaign nurture stream, while communication is ended with those that don’t.

“This company ultimately saw a 145% increase in compliant contact acquisition from the channels it already leveraged,” said Archer. “They also moved from 11 contracts and seven email servers to one, which isn’t necessary under GDPR but just good business sense.”

Social Media Campaign Support Helps Drive Organic Engagement

Experts agreed that since email has now been reassessed as a channel for continued engagement versus garnering consent, companies are turning to social media to drive initial engagement that can lead to opt-ins. For example, Iron Mountain recently launched an online virtual forum with the goal to attract 1,100 people across western Europe to participate.

“[The virtual event] is designed to be educational and brings a lot of valuable information,” said Alore. “However, we had to figure out how to get the event in front of new people.”

Alore and her team decided to leverage social media to get the message out about the virtual event. The plan was to simply live tweet the sessions to their audience.

“It was an uncomfortable shift towards social media,” said Alore. “We have not been highly active on social media, so we had to start from scratch there.”

The event kicked off in early November, and the Iron Mountain team was able to get 45 new registrants on the first day solely from live tweeting the event.

“It was all purely organic,” said Alore. “We’ve made dramatic shift in how we engage people. Which means we had to spend time learning how to be that type of marketer.”

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