Data is everywhere. You might not notice the sheer amount of data required to process even the simplest of actions, but you do notice when it goes wrong. Maybe a company has spelt your name incorrectly, or you’ve received one too many offers from a business you’ve forgotten about. It can be annoying to receive these emails, letters, or phone calls, and a pain to get rid of them, but all this is about to change.

GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations) update existing data protection laws, extending the definition of personal data to encompass digital as well as physical data. As consumers, we will have greater power of what happens to the data companies hold on us. As business owners, we will no longer be able to contact customers and prospects for marketing purposes as in past years.

To fully understand the benefits GDPR could bring to your customer relations, put yourself in their shoes. Would you rather get relevant email updates from a mailing list you’ve opted into, or continue to receive impersonal promotions from a company you’re not sure you’ve ever heard of? GDPR evens out the playing field for consumers, which means that the marketing they do opt into is all the more valuable (and could lead to better returns for you too).

GDPR will also raise the stakes for businesses too. As well as hefty fines for noncompliance, businesses will have to declare data breaches within 72 hours of occurrence. The ensuing PR nightmare is enough to scare anyone, but the new strengthened regulations protect both brand and customer by requiring diligence from the former and action from the latter. By acting on GDPR now, you can improve customer trust and the reputation of your business.

Though the idea of customers opting out of your marketing is a scary thought, it represents a valuable opportunity for businesses to overhaul their data handling and processing and end up with better results. GDPR compliant businesses will be transparent with their customers about how they will use their data, and will use a permissions based strategy in order to contact them. Those businesses can look forward to a better reputation and stronger relationships with their customers. Businesses who don’t comply risk losing their customers’ trust as well as the value of their marketing.

GDPR is also a chance to assess what you really want to get out of your marketing and to narrow down your end goals when it comes to marketing to customers and prospects. Why are you contacting them? What would you like them to do with the information you’re sending to them? Now is the time to get on the phone with your customers, gain their consent and start benefitting from better engagement in future communications. Having this conversation now will give you a better idea of what your customers expect from you in terms of marketing communications and will demonstrate to them that you are respecting their data (and their inboxes too).

Don’t let the GDPR overwhelm you. With a solid permissions based plan in place, you’ll soon see the impact of increased customer confidence, positive change, and more effective marketing. If you’d like to know more about what’s expected of businesses under the new regulations, we can recommend the official and comprehensive ICO advice.