GDPR was introduced May 2018 and it was good. Well that’s a stretch. The skies didn’t fall in and everybody went about their day. Some more uninterrupted than others. Why? Because it ensured freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous consent was now required from a European citizen before a company could email them.
But let’s recap.
Didn’t the marketing automation giants of the world, the HubSpots, Marketos etc. tell us content is king?
If you create it, and gate it, and promote it, they will come!
Create champion x10 content, optimise it, blog about it and prospects will find it, download it and lo you will have their contact details and you will be able to nurture them using automated email campaigns with alerts designed to let you know when they’re ready to buy (because they’ll be on your website looking at bottom of funnel content e.g. case studies, demo vids etc.).
Not anymore – not in the world of B2C anyway. When they download that x10 champion content, and leave their contact details, they have to tick a little box that says:
I’m happy for you to email me occasional sales and marketing messages.
So… who’s going to willingly opt in to sales and marketing messages?
And thus the traditional content/inbound/email marketing attract-nurture-close sequence is now broken for B2C marketing.
Then there came the sound of faint laughter.
“What’s that noise?” said B2C marketers, their tear stained faces looking around for cruel tormentors.
It was the noise of B2B marketers sniggering.
You see GDPR didn’t cripple B2B email marketing (which has always traditionally been a bit more lenient). You simply now needed to prove you had a lawful basis for cold email communications. Could be consent. But could also be… legitimate interest. As long as you could:
…show the way you use people’s data is proportionate, has a minimal privacy impact, and people would not be surprised or likely to object to what you are doing…
Information Commissioner's Office, The rules around business to business marketing, the GDPR and PECR
And B2B marketers made hay while the sun shined.
Didn’t shine for very long though.
The ePrivacy Regulation (ePR for short) is going to replace the current European ePrivacy Directive (which is interpreted in ever so slightly different ways across the EU member states – in the UK it’s known as the PECR).
The DMA reported in July last year that ePR would require…’explicit opt in consent for all B2B email marketing’.
No more lists. No more downloads in exchange for contact details. Goodbye B2B email marketing. This is huge.
For example, I work in the UK’s IT industry quite a lot. The IT channel is fundamentally built on email shots. Many B2B industries are. For all its faults, it still offers compelling ROI and for a lot of smaller companies, is the only type of marketing they think they can afford (more on that later).
To any of you thinking this legislation sounds unrealistically harsh and B2B email marketing will probably be fine, it’s also worth considering the affect ePR will have on cookies.
In March this year, an independent advisor to the EU’s highest court, Advocate General Szpunar, issued an opinion on cookies and basically said that a pre-ticked cookie consent box did not fulfil the conditions for valid consent as the consent was neither active nor freely-given.
How many websites do you visit with pre-ticked cookie boxers? Most of them right?
We’re realistically looking at a future where you can’t email individuals at companies (unless they consent to it) and you can’t track individuals when they’re on your website (unless they opt in to cookies). The cookies element of this prophecy has now come to pass in the UK: the ICO says consent is required for non-essential cookies and you guessed it, analytics falls right in the non-essential category (go to the ICO website – analytics is turned off by default *gasps of horror*).
What to do?
The ePR was supposed to be released alongside GDPR but was delayed. It takes time to ratify amendments in European Parliament and there is no official release date (a few legal blogs state probably not before 2021) but it’s coming and there is precious little time to prepare.
Whether you call it a funnel or a flywheel, the old inbound methodology looks to be broken.
So we asked our marketing automation partner what to do (the word for word email conversation can be found on our blog), but TL:DR: forget the nurture, go for bottom of funnel, ready to buy leads – highly qualified prospects.
And I couldn’t agree more.
The positive thing is, SEO (done the right way), is still very much alive and kicking. Organic search still picks up the vast majority of clicks versus paid ads (here’s the latest clickstream data on that) and Google wants you to get SEO right and has made it easier than ever with great guides and an updated version of Search Console.
Start considering the potential effect of ePR on your business. How much do you rely on email marketing? How much of your B2B database has opted in? Can you re-permission them in advance? Do you need to realign marketing automation efforts to focus on upselling existing customers rather than nurturing new ones? Are you actively working on your organic search profile? And most importantly, what are you going to do now you need users to consent to being tracked on your site? Get your other channels sorted and ready to pick up the slack, and then whenever ePR is introduced, in whatever form it finally takes, you won’t be left picking up the pieces.