June 10, 2017


by: shelwen elliott


Tags: B2B Marketing


Categories: B2B Marketing

What EU GDPR Means for B2B Marketing

Amidst the turbulence within the EU of late, a critical piece of legislation has arisen that threatens conventional marketing practices as we know them.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is taking shape and business to business (B2B) companies must evolve to meet its requirements.

May 2018 changed the ways in which sales and marketing data could be used for B2B marketing professionals. The new legislation altered how data can be used for marketing communications, requiring swift adaptation by marketing organisations to avoid steep fines.

B2B email, telephone and SMS marketing were the hardest hit; the GDPR has forced organisations reliant on these means to re-align their marketing practices and teams to remain compliant.

Where did this legislation come from? What are the key details? How can you evolve your data and marketing practices to survive in this new landscape?

The origin of the GDPR and why it matters for B2B marketing

We can trace the drive for the changes legislated in the GDPR back to January 2012. The problem of nuisance calls and the data protection rights of individuals led to intense debate as to what changes could be made to rein in the practices of some organisations reliant on mass-email and telephone marketing.

While the Data Protection Act (DPA) included legislation on this subject, the need for further ‘tightening’ of consent and fair use of data was identified.

The GDPR was drafted and proposed. The new legislation promised to both strengthen corporate and individual rights on use of data, and to unify those rights within the EU to simplify the governance of the new legislation.

B2B marketing consent

In short? Gone are the days of mass, untargeted marketing comms. The GDPR will, practically speaking, directly threaten the use of practices such “batch and blast” telesales and email campaigns which rely on bulk purchased data that is used in an untargeted manner.

The legislation tightens the laws provided within the Data Protection Act, drilling down further into the subject of obtaining consent from a data subject, as well as the ability for that subject to easily remove consent. As of May 2018, it’s required for consent to be verifiable, forcing organisations to maintain a clear record of how consent was obtained and when as well as requests to withdraw it.

Determining consent has also changed, with different uses of data requiring either ‘unambiguous’ or ‘explicit’ consent. The former may be a saving grace, with certain post and telephone marketing permitted with the use of an opt-out or unsubscribe system.

Data is, however, required to be targeted to a more accurate degree so that ‘legitimate interest’ from the customer may be argued; this means that B2B organisations must ensure that their content is relevant to the job role of those they contact. This stricter regulation applies to business email addresses as well as personal ones such as Gmail or Yahoo.

Brexit and B2B marketing

Although Brexit technically removes the UK from having to comply with the GDPR outright, compliance to the GDPR is required to allow continued trading with the EU in future. The UK exports around 40% of all its exports to the EU so an ongoing trade agreement that includes the UK’s adherence to EU data protection regulation is most certainly likely for the foreseeable future.

What does this all mean for B2B marketers?

The fines for noncompliance are significant. The EU can impose fines of up to twenty million Euros or 4% of a company’s annual worldwide turnover, whichever is greater.

What is clear is that the GDPR has tightened the already established laws of the Data Protection Act by providing more granularity.

The writing is on the wall, however. B2B marketing communications have to be more considered, with a new level of compliance to a degree not previously mandated by the DPA.

Are you compliant with GDPR?

Fortunately, most organisations have had time to adapt to new GDPR rules.

Channels that previously may have been less desirable have become more appealing to B2B marketers. Successful organisations have benefited through increasing spend in these areas, such as B2B search marketing and B2B content marketing. These channels have become more cost-effective in comparison to telesales and email, meaning that a diverse multi-channel marketing (and sales) strategy is vital for business growth.