GDPR: opportunity for a fresh start
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In the weeks preceding 25 May, I received dozens of mailings from companies who asked my permission to keep emailing me in the future. I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t help noticing that I clicked most of them away before reading to the end of the message. I answered the implicit question “am I relevant enough for you” with “no” by pressing the delete button.

The new GDPR legislation seems to have caused a surge of panic. For many entrepreneurs it is – as of yet –  unclear what is and what is not allowed in the new situation. Your database, built up with so much care, suddenly seems less valuable or even worthless, because no, you are no longer allowed to send messages to every person whose email address you happen to have. You have to be clear and transparent about why you store personal data, and you are expected to protect them adequately. The consumer is pleased with the new legislation. “This will be the end of all those useless and so-called personalised mailings and offers that I am not looking for and that I often haven’t even asked for.”

Internal data shows how well you did yesterday

Having a well-stocked database seemed an end in itself in the past few years. Client data, transaction details, and email addresses were the gold of an organisation. Don’t get me wrong: they really are valuable data. It tells you exactly how successful you were during the preceding period. It doesn’t, however, tell you anything about the actual needs of your clients, or about the future of your organisation. This makes it even more incomprehensible that we kept emailing our clients, week after week, offering products and services that we were so eager to bring to their attention but that they themselves weren’t looking for at all.

External Big Data tells you which message to compose at what moment

New legislation or not, your audience will only take action if your message, product, or service is relevant to them. Their personal wish, preference, or feeling at a specific moment is what tips the balance. And you can’t read these out or record them in internal data. Where you do find these wishes, interests, and needs is outside the walls of your organisation. External Big Search & Social Data tells you exactly what your audience is looking for. What keeps them awake at night and what goes on in their minds. These anonymised data do not tell you who is lying awake, but it does tell you for what, where, why, how, and when your audience is looking in relation to your brand, product, or market. Once you know that, you will compose the right message, at the right moment, through the right channel. You will be there at the moment that counts. You will know which products must be on your shelves at which moment. And you will surprise the consumer instead of hounding him.

Be more relevant

Perhaps we should stop focussing on those internal data, but see the GDPR as an opportunity for a fresh start. To free the consumer from all unrequested historical burdens, but even more for ourselves, as a way to become even more relevant for our existing and future clients.

This column was published in TwenteVisie on the 2nd of July 2018.

Originally in written in Dutch.