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The misconceptions of GDPR and why B2B marketers need to learn from past mistakes

Ahead of GDPR, B2B marketers need to learn from past mistakes (Y2K, we're looking at you). Bowan Arrow's MD and B2B Marketing trainer Andy Grant explores

In 1999, I was working in Sydney as an account manager for a leading Australian marketing agency. My days were consumed with product launches, retail staff training and all manner of topics related to selling more products. Oh, and the occasional conversation about Y2K, aka the Millennium Bug.

As I was just starting out in my career, I was keen to learn from my clients, so I spent as much time as I could with them to learn about their businesses. As you would expect, the days were filled with technology jargon, conversations about the next big thing and the what ifs and what’s next? It’s human nature to wonder about the future. With technology, or a new product that hits the market, the initial reaction is usually, "Oh, that’s great”. But the next question is, invariably, “What will the next version have that this one doesn’t have, and when will it be available?”. As a society that consumes and craves technology, we seem to be looking forward and not necessarily appreciating or taking full stock of the now.

Technology and legislation are overlapping

History helps us to prepare for the future by teaching us lessons from the past. It was not so long ago that technology commentators were citing the end of the world as we know it - Y2K. As marketers, we continue to consume technology; martech becomes more and more a part of our daily routine. Now we need to marry technical with legislative advances to ensure compliance and happy customers.

For those of you too young to remember the frenzy that surrounded Y2K, just let me say, it was endless. There were companies offering everything possible to protect your business when the computers went into meltdown at 12.01am on the 1st January 2000. There were quick-fix solutions, training courses, certifications, extensive consultancy or even a complete overhaul of computing systems that were apparently certified as Y2K compliant. It was not the first time, and it certainly will not be the last time that pure panic set in and scaremongering was surrounding companies that relied on computing technology to manage their entire businesses both locally or globally.

So, what was this Millennium Bug and why did it cause such a panic? The National Geographic describes it well: “When complicated computer programs were being written during the 1960s through the 1980s, computer engineers used a two-digit code for the year. The "19" was left out. Instead of a date reading 1970, it read 70. Engineers shortened the date because data storage in computers was costly and took up a lot of space”.

“As the year 2000 approached, computer programmers realized that computers might not interpret 00 as 2000, but as 1900. Activities that were programmed on a daily or yearly basis would be damaged or flawed.  As  December 31, 1999, turned into January 1, 2000, computers might interpret December 31, 1999, turning into January 1, 1900”.

And the result: “Australia invested millions of dollars in preparing for the Y2K bug. Russia invested nearly none. Australia recalled almost its entire embassy staff from Russia prior to January 1, 2000, over fears of what might happen if communications or transportation networks broke down. Nothing happened.”

So naturally, there were many angles to the story which as we now know was mostly hype, some people even dismissed the Y2K bug as a hoax or an end-of-the-world cult.

The scaremongering parallels between Y2K and GDPR

Let’s zoom forward to 2018 and a date that we as B2B marketers have etched in our minds is 25 May 2018, when we will see the new GDPR framework take effect. The GDPR presents marketers with an opportunity to connect with their customers and prospects to ask them how they would prefer to be communicated with by your business. It does not have to be a disaster.

Hype, scaremongering, panic and the worst of all, misinformed guidance. These are prevalent when it comes to GDPR. As B2B marketers, we all want to understand the legislation and then formulate a plan for our business to develop and maintain a GDPR compliant data strategy. You do not need to understand the 99 Articles and 173 Recitals which make up the legislation. You do not need to spend thousands on multiple training sessions, consultancy, pay-as-you-go or monthly subscription packages. To understand the impact of the GDPR, you do need to understand the facts.

Responsibility is company-wide

Accountability applies to everyone across the company and it's a core principle of the GDPR. The principle of accountability under the GDPR refers to many measures organisations will need to carry out to demonstrate a culture of respecting privacy and data protection. The GDPR asks companies to be accountable for their own decisions on how they collect and use personal data.

If the task of GDPR compliance falls into your role then I would advise that you conduct your research, understand your business requirements, create a plan and then develop a timeline to implement. It's vital to the success of your GDPR rollout that you listen to the facts and don’t overreact to the constant and distracting noise of the masses. The GDPR is a massive positive for all marketers to enable better connections and conversation with your customers.

Getting to grips with the GDPR: A B2B marketer’s guide

This free comprehensive guide explains what the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is, how this incoming data protection law will affect your organisation, and the practical steps to take to prepare for it.

Learn how to comply with GDPR

Getting to grips with the GDPR: A B2B marketer’s guide image