Brexit, the GDPR and Marketing

Brexit, the GDPR and Marketing

Brexit, the GDPR and Marketing

And so, we finally leave the European Union!

You may be wondering how that will affect your small business. What does Brexit mean for the GDPR and marketing for example? Will the regulations around the use of personal data still apply in the same way? Well, this is what the Information Commissioners Office has to say:

The GDPR is an EU Regulation and, in principle, it will no longer apply to the UK from the end of the transition period. However, if you operate inside the UK, you will need to comply with UK data protection law.

The government intends to incorporate the GDPR into UK data protection law from the end of the transition period – so in practice there will be little change to the core data protection principles, rights and obligations found in the GDPR. The EU version of the GDPR may also still apply directly to you if you operate in Europe, offer goods or services to individuals in Europe, or monitor the behaviour of individuals in Europe.

The GDPR will still apply to any organisations in Europe who send you data, so you may need to help them decide how to transfer personal data to the UK in line with the GDPR.

The ICO will not be the regulator for any European-specific activities caught by the EU version of the GDPR, although we hope to continue working closely with European supervisory authorities.

You still need to comply with UK data protection law

Whilst I have always emphatically agreed that people should have the right to decide who can and who can’t contact them via their personal inboxes, I used to think that extending the regulations to the business to business environment was a bit.. well., tight!

If you can’t feed the top of your sales funnel via the inexpensive and time efficient tool called email, what are you meant to do? Particularly if you have taken the time and trouble to diligently research your market, profile your customer groups, and are sure that they will be interested in what you have to offer?

We’ve all had time to get used to the GDPR and frankly, it’s a good thing. People have as much right to decide how their personal data is used at work as they do at home. Perhaps even more so, when you’re busy at work and time is a precious resource, you can do without the daily grind of deleting 90% of your inbox.  Moreover, the practice of sending emails to those who have not given their consent is called marketing spam. Spamming is incredibly annoying and totally crass. Oh, and it won’t deliver the results you want. Instead, you are likely to get into trouble with your email marketing automation provider, damage your IP reputation score, and ultimately put your business in danger of sanctions by the Information Commissioners Office.  Don’t be tempted to do it, not even a little bit of it

Make human connections

The GDPR has made all of us (except of course those who insist on cheating), take stock and realise that if we want to be noticed, we must try much harder and this means making human connections that matter. And remember, all your competitors are in the same boat – the playing field is level!

If you have a small business and your products are amazing. You value every single customer and your after sales service is second to none. You want to reach potential customers so that they too can benefit from a relationship with your business. But if you can’t drop a little teaser into those inboxes, what on earth do you do?  Here are some pointers to get you started:

Get to know your customers

Every business has groups of customers who share certain characteristics. These will be demographic, psychographic, geodemographic and behavioural. Get to know these groups and give them personas. Familiarise yourself with these personas, hang out where they hang out and speak to them in a language that will have some resonance with them.  Stand firmly in your customer’s shoes; there’s no point in dismissing Facebook if your customers spend three hours a day there scrolling through their feeds.

Be everywhere (your customers are)

If you’ve taken the time to get to know your customer personas, you will have a shortlist of places where you should have a presence. If your customers use LinkedIn and Slack – get your business onto LinkedIn and Slack. Let the personas guide you and don’t be influenced by your personal views about the merits of one platform over another.  Remember too that different platforms have appropriate standards of acceptable behaviour. For example, avoid being overtly self-promoting on a platform where users seek out thought leadership.

Tune-up your Brand

You’d be amazed at how people remember the individual features of a brand. Often subconsciously. Font, colour pallet, tone of voice and shape all matter. It’s important to make sure that your brand is consistent across your chosen channels and platforms, so that your audience will recognise you instantly, give you their attention and tune out all the noise that your competitors are making.

Polish your Website

I don’t just mean make sure it’s optimised for search engines. Search engines take something like 200 different factors into consideration when ranking websites. SEO is just one of them. Whilst SEO is important, other things are too.

Communicating effectively in the digital space is more important than ever. In an era where people are bombarded with information from every angle, every minute of the day 24/7/365, you need to do what you can to rise above the noise and be noticed. Having a website that is easy to navigate (UX is UI is an exhaustive subject in its own right) and packed full of relevant, useful and high value information is essential. Your objective: to be seen as the expert in your field, whilst avoiding the temptation to sell, sell, sell!


Use all the tools at your disposal to nurture and grow your network. This brings us full circle to the idea of making human connections that I mentioned earlier.

Digital communication has made us lazy, we have lost the ability to talk to people. How many of you communicate with your loved ones via the likes of Messenger? I’m guilty!  A generation ago, people would initiate and develop business relationships by talking to each other – on the telephone or face to face. People would use all their senses to forge connections that matter. Connections based on familiarity and trust. Go figure…

Follow up 

Following up in a timely manner is so important. If you agree to telephone someone on a certain date, do it. Don’t park it for another time because something ‘more important’ came up.  I’ve spent many years working on top-of-the-funnel campaigns and believe me, keeping your promises matters. It fosters trust and appreciation. Top tip: make notes, mental or otherwise, that you can refer back to in subsequent conversations. If a potential customer tells you their Great Aunt is having a hernia operation, commit the snippet of information to memory and ask them how the procedure went when you speak to them again. You’ll be in their good books forever more because you took the time and trouble to ask.

Always Give your very best Service

Research after research shows that it costs five times as much to win a new customer as it does to retain an existing customer. And yet we all spend so much time, effort and money to win a bigger and bigger slice of the available market. Then, we end up being busy fools. I’m not suggesting for a minute that customer acquisition isn’t vital, of course, it is. There’s no denying leaky bucket syndrome. However, hanging on to your existing customers by even a relatively small percentage can have a profound effect on the bottom line. Read what Forbes has to say about customer acquisition vs. customer retention. If you read up on the subject of customer retention, you’ll notice that most of the recommendations revolve around ‘know your customer’ and ‘communication’.  No surprises there then.

In the end, none of this is rocket science. The trick is to have the head-space to think through the process of winning and keeping customers – ‘acquisition marketing and retention marketing’ if you will. When you’re dashing about like a headless chicken, running your business, making decisions, placing orders, paying bills, doing your tax return (oops!), it’s difficult to schedule all of this in.

The best thing I ever did was to get myself some formal marketing training. Even though I’ve been doing this stuff for nigh on twenty years, being able to sort and store all that experience in a logical and meaningful manner, foreshortened the job of putting my skills to good use. Suddenly, I had time to be strategic.

Find out about our Marketing and Leadership & Management Courses

Sarah Bartlett
Marketing and Programme Coordinator at the Centre


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