What can Canadian opt-in laws tell us about the real life implications of GDPR?

canada-flagThe new marketing opt-in laws commonly known as GDPR are due to come into force in May 2018. They’re plagued with vagaries, risk, and uncertainty and give marketers only a small window of opportunity to get consent from their prospects before the axe falls.

At such a time we often look round for help, someone who can reassure us that though the changes coming our way are terrifying, there will be light at the end of the tunnel. In this regard we turn to Canada.

We’ve been in contact with Adina Zaiontz, founder and director of Napkin Marketing to discuss the experience of gaining consent and opt-ins as well as some of the unforeseen bumps similar laws have brought along the way.

CASL

CASL stands for the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation, which came into effect July 1st, 2014.

In a nutshell, it prohibits most organisations from sending electronic sales and marketing communications to any business or individual unless that person has given consent though some exemptions apply.

What’s more, after July 1, 2017, individuals will be able to sue any entity they believe is sending them unauthorised messages. Organizations that don’t comply risk serious penalties, including criminal and civil charges, personal liability for company officers and directors, and penalties of up to $10 million CDN. As you can imagine, this has had a serious impact on the way B2C and B2B marketing is done there.

Sounds a tad similar to GDPR right?

The implications for marketing are very similar, but the difference is that Canada is already treading the path toward opt-in only campaigns and here in the UK we’ve barely started.

What can we learn?

The insight Canadian companies such as Adina’s can offer will be absolutely invaluable in this unfamiliar territory and will provide a solid foundation from which you’ll be able to build your own opt-in campaigns. We sat down and discussed the four major implications the laws had for Canadian marketing campaigns and what the impact could be here in the UK:

Value is crucial

“CASL has made businesses realise that they have to be much more creative and strategic with the campaigns they send. You have to provide value in these campaigns and give people good reason to sign up or opt-in to your list, and continue delivering value so they don’t unsubscribe” – Adina Zaiontz

Giving a prospect a reason to sign up or continue reading is essential for any successful campaign; the same principle will apply to opt-ins.

For Adina, the most successful opt-in campaigns were the ones that offered prospects value, benefits or useful knowledge in the form of eBooks, advice or special offers.

They gave people a stronger motivation to sign-up or consent to marketing as there was a tangible benefit for them.

Opt-in rates will vary

“Opt in success rates often depend on what kind of company is asking for the permission and how important they are to their client’s lives. People will likely opt-in to an accounting firm’s mailing list so they don’t miss their tax filing reminder. Yet they may not care to opt-in and keep in touch with the company they ordered their office sofa from in 2008 as it is not a vital business relationship. If you’re that sofa company you’ll need to come up with more creative ways (coupons, specials, announcements) to prove your value, ensuring you gain and keep that client’s opt-in and engagement” – Adina Zaiontz

No business’s experience of opt-in campaigns will be exactly the same. For those that offer essential services it’s going to be about ensuring your offering can compete against other providers.

For more niche businesses, opt-in campaigns are an opportunity to promote and emphasise the unique aspects of your product.

We’re not all the same, and as Adina noted it’s about being creative and proactive with your campaigns and ensuring you stand out in what is about to become a very crowded market.

Being proactive will make a difference

“One week before the CASL deadline in 2014 Canadians got thousands of emails from everyone they’d ever met, done business with, or ever heard of all asking for consent. Imagine every professional, consultant, retailer or company you’ve ever done business with or given an email address to emailing you for permission to stay in touch. All in the same week. Any company asking for consent around this time likely got really low opt in rates because they were simply one of many hitting the customers’ inbox” – Adina Zaiontz

Starting early turned out to be huge advantage, particularly for the companies who had to work harder for opt-ins.

It can take a number of ‘touches’ before a prospect engages and the same applies to asking for consent – it takes time. With that in mind maximise on the time left with a series of emails that will:

Build up prospects’ awareness of your company and by extension their trust
Offer a broad range of content that will resonate with the different people within your campaign and ensure there is something everyone wants to opt-in to
Don’t let the opt-in request be the first time your clients get a promotional email from you. That opt-in request should come after they have received a few messages from you that demonstrate your business value and establish a relationship with them. So they have a reason to choose to remain on your mailing list.

Put in the infrastructure

“Companies have to live under the assumption that they may one day get audited by the government and they will need to be able to provide documented proof of consent, or face hefty fines. Smart companies are being proactive on this by maintaining opt in/ communication records or databases and tracking them through a CRM system.” – Adina Zaiontz

It’s all well and good if you manage to get your prospects to consent to further marketing contact, but what if you need to prove it?

Would you, when asked, be able to quickly and easily provide documented proof that a particular individual consented to your marketing along with the time and date that consent was received?

Corporations in violation of CASL are already being hit with significant fines and you can expect the ICO and EU to follow this precedent. As such, putting a CRM or email marketing software in place that will track client communication is highly recommended.

The million dollar question – will it be worth it?

“If you do a good job asking for permission then you can expect about 30-40% of prospects to consent. It does seem like a big hit to lose that much of your “prospect list”, but on the other hand if 60% were people who weren’t interested in hearing from you anyway, do you really want to keep communicating with them?” – Adina Zaiontz

It’s something we all want to know. Will the loss of at least 60% of our carefully cultivated databases be justified in any way? It could be.

A list of warm leads will always have a higher response rate than a list of cold data, always has, always will.

By default your opt-in data is comprised of people who have consented to your marketing and have done so for a reason – they want to hear from you and are genuinely interested in your offerings.

In summary

The most important thing here is to build a structured marketing campaign that offers value and good reasons for prospects to opt-in. Starting early will be a huge advantage and here in the UK we have a window of just under 2 years. As Adina emphasised to us:

“Because the law hasn’t yet come into force in the UK you can really use the opportunity of starting early and asking for mailing consent now to ensure you’re ahead of the curve. When the law does come into effect you’ll find yourself in a strong position with more of your list intact.

Use the time to put in place the infrastructure to gain and document consent, you’ll need an email provider, webforms, CRM, and a range of other processes to really maximise time you’ve got to get consent”

More info

Thanks once again to Adina Zaiontz for her time and expertise in this area. You can visit the Napkin Marketing home page here or take a look at some of the CASL related content available on their blog.

Alternatively you can check out the CASL homepage here…

If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this article then get in touch on 01672 505050 or drop us a line to gdpr@nett-sales.com

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