Where’s My Data? Approaching Marketing Automation in the Era of GDPR

The adoption of Marketing Automation technologies continues to be one of the fastest-growing Marketing trends today. In fact, according to a 2018 Forrester report, global Marketing Automation spend will reach $25.1 billion by 2023 – nearly double the amount spent in 2017.

With this Marketing Automation technology, growth comes an increased need for a steady flow of customer data. Without this data, Marketing organizations struggle to deliver on initiatives related to e-commerce, lead generation/nurturing, accumulating customer intelligence, and account-based marketing. On the other hand, organizations that may be at the forefront of implementing Marketing Automation tools – but are not taking the correct precautions in managing their customers’ data – may find themselves vulnerable, especially in the era of GDPR and other data privacy regulations.

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Since GDPR went live in 2018, more than 95,000 customer complaints have resulted in sizable fines for some of the world’s largest companies. While GDPR is officially a European mandate, if a US-based company sells any sort of good or service to customers in Europe, it must also maintain compliance with GDPR. There is also a movement afoot to employ GDPR-like regulation in the United States: the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) was signed into law in June 2018, and nine other states already have similar legislation in draft form based on either GDPR or CCPA.

Organizations that feed customer data into Marketing Automation tools may be playing a dangerous game if they fail to maintain control and visibility over that information. Maintaining compliance with GDPR goes beyond managing email opt-ins and form-fills – it requires an end-to-end view of where your customer data resides, as well as how it’s transported between your Marketing tools and the various organizations your company interacts with on a regular basis.

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And it doesn’t end with GDPR. Other data privacy and protection mandates are coming down the track, including CCPA. Maintaining compliance is no longer a game of checking the right boxes for specific regulations – rather, it’s an opportunity to get a full handle on the end-to-end data lifecycle so you can adapt as new regulations come online.

Data issues have plagued marketers for years, and even now there is a lack of understanding when it comes to existing data processes. GDPR already raised the bar on data privacy standards, increasing the emphasis on respecting individual rights by giving back control of personal and sensitive information, and enforcing heavy financial penalties for businesses that fail to do so.

Marketing automation tools and strategies are only as good as the data they are based on, but if that data is not compliant with data privacy regulations, the risk of hefty fines and damaged reputation may soon outweigh the benefits of collecting that data in the first place. Of course, there is always a careful balance to be struck between protecting the privacy of individuals and maintaining the pace of business, but knowing where your customer data resides within your organization and its associated ecosystem is beneficial beyond complying with GDPR. When you know where your data lives, you can better integrate data across other parts of your business, thus improving your Marketing Automation implementations and better informing your overall market and sales needs.

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