For professional services firms, compliance with regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe and the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) can feel like a thankless burden. Without a doubt, data privacy regulations are forcing most organizations to change the way that data is handled in their CRM systems. But it’s not all bad news. In fact, there are benefits to be had from these process changes other than just the relief of knowing you are compliant with the regulations.
The GDPR requirement of recording of express consent from contacts before sending them a newsletter or an event invitation may seem initially seem harsh, especially for firms in the U.S. that are more familiar with dealing with regulations such as CAN-SPAM, a now almost-15-year-old law that that didn’t have such strict process requirements for compliance. Even CASL allows for implied consent, meaning that if you have Canadian contacts who are current Clients, you’ve got a little leeway (two years from when they became a Client or renew your services) to keep sending them communications. By comparison, GDPR feels like a punishment before the crime. But GDPR compliance can actually have positive effects on your data quality – and potentially your bottom line. Here are a few:
Knowledge of Contacts’ Interests
If your firm has implemented or plans to implement a preference form for recording express consent, then you are also in a great position to find out what your contacts are truly interested in and use that insight to your advantage. If a client checks more than one area of interest on your sign-up form but is only a Client for one of those practices, then you may have identified an opportunity to cross-sell. Extrapolating that out, if you can run periodic reports that cross-reference data from your time and billing system with your CRM by practice or area of interest, you just might be able to spot some marketing opportunities you would not otherwise have recognized.
By only sending contacts materials that they’ve specified they want, your open and click-through rates will improve because that is what targeted marketing does: it targets materials to those contacts who are most likely to find them relevant. While your overall mailing list numbers may decrease because not every contact will grant consent, your mailing metrics will improve, and you will have more reliable information on the relevance of a given topic. Additionally, professionals who previously may have been reluctant to dedicate the time and effort to write an article might become more amenable to the idea if they feel confident that it will be read and could have the potential to bring in new business.
Control of Duplicates
Duplicates are the bane of every CRM system, but now we have a very good reason to keep on top of them: they negatively affect your ability to accurately record consent. If you have more than one record for a contact in your CRM system, chances are good that consent is only being recorded for one of those records. Depending on the processes your firm has put in place, it is not inconceivable that the contact could receive mailings for which they did not supply consent, which means you are not in compliance with the regulations. By eliminating duplicates, you help to ensure that you are not undermining your compliance processes. Firms that have historically let duplicates slide due to resource constraints may want to reevaluate those priorities.
Fewer Incomplete Records
To determine whether contacts fall under the data privacy regulations of Canada or the European Union, you will likely need physical addresses. This means records with only an e-mail address and which cannot be updated with mailing address information may need to be archived. But, while this may mean a decrease in the overall size of your CRM universe, it also means that the contact records you are retaining will be more complete. For firms that send out event invitations based on the geographic location of contacts, the advantages to having fewer records without mailing addresses will be clear immediately.
Better CRM Adoption
Poor adoption rates for CRM systems in professional services firms are nothing new. One of the most common reasons given by non-users is bad data. They tried using the system, but there were duplicates or the data was outdated. Marketing technology personnel have struggled with the resulting Catch-22 situation since the systems were first developed: we can’t get buy-in because the data is bad, and we can’t get the resources to fix the data because we don’t have the buy-in. Well, now we have another reason for improved data quality: if ignored, bad data has the potential to cost a firm much more than the price of bad data, because penalties for non-compliance with these types of regulations can be significant. Depending on the regulation, the cost could be upwards of a million dollars or 4% of an organization’s annual revenue. Suddenly compliance can even seem inexpensive by comparison.