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Earlier this year, Lime Venue Portfolio joined the thousands of people and brands putting their opinion out there on the impact of the General Data Protection Act or GDPR. Our view was that GDPR was a series of regulations that could support better marketing and relationship management across business, but that the risks were still large for an industry that prizes data more than most and works incredibly hard to get it, keep it, clean it and make it work for their events.

Our own Jenner Carter carries two job titles, Head of Marketing, Lime Venue Portfolio and Director of Marketing for the HBAA. At a recent HBAA event she hosted a series of campfire sessions to get an idea on how event professionals felt just a couple of months after the great deadline day (25.5.18) when GDPR came into action.

 

G-D-P-R

In the run up to deadline day, the words GDPR but on a mixture of confusion and frustration. Looking back, the majority of industry professionals recall huge conflicts of opinion both within and outside of the industry. Dozens of organisations looking to make a quick buck by offering advice, seminars, training et al. Intelligence was being collated from ICO website, internal legal teams, business white papers and many more. Many discussed a huge amount of scare mongering in the press, which was not welcomed, all leading to a feeling that things were just not clear, and for clarity, business needed to find a trusted guide.

Many remember open arguments within their organisations on exactly what the law was saying, what they could do, what they couldn’t. We can all empathise with this, in every office there seemed to be one person who claimed that it was all nonsense and we should just carry on regardless, and another who felt that absolutely everything and anything could find you in trouble over the regulation.

These were conversations that were being had from 18 months outside of the deadline day, to some hastily convened groups discussing it in the weeks leading up to 25th May. What was universal was that the cost was great, both in time and financial output from businesses working in events. This has been a costly process but has it led to a calmer more stable opinion on GDPR?

Not really, the main instigators of fear still remain the potential that organisations could have got things wrong and may find out the hard way, with even more penalities from financial penalties to reputational damage. Most people seemed to be waiting for the ICO to fine the first company, who will it be? A major blue chip company or someone smaller? Either way, by seeing where people went wrong, could it mean a little more clarity for everyone else. Quite a few people even equated GDPR as a PPI claim issue waiting to happen; foreseeing a time of call centres driving legal action against companies who may or may not have breached GDPR. Not something anyone in the events industry would relish.

 

B2C or B2B

In terms of the fallout of GDPR coming into play, again one of the theories knocking around the industry was that is was more predominantly aimed towards consumer data and less so business to business. Our own view was that is was consumer marketing that had the greatest potential to improve because of GDPR, not least because it moved marketing from a data / volume based game to a customer by customer conversation.

The majority agreed that this is mostly the case, but responsibly made efforts to ensure best practice on both sides of the marketing game. Equally, with confusion and frustrating carrying on as running themes in the discussions, there was still a huge amount of both about GDPR and B2B data. What we did explore though is the tangible effect on the volume of data carried by businesses post GDPR.

Again, a few scare stories are out there, some heard of instances where B2C lists had been cut by up to 90%, others felt that data had actually been cleaned and that it was richer because of GDPR. Those that have list data didn’t seem so worried by it, everyone seemed to accept that data is about quality rather than quantity.

 

Where are we now?

So, four months on, where do most events business see themselves in terms of GDPR compliance. The majority of the people we spoke to felt like they were well on the way and making progress. There was an awareness that this may mean that they weren’t compliant yet but that they would be very soon and were comfortable that the process was an ongoing one. But was it a worthy task? Would it make their data richer and therefore their businesses and marketing better?

Maybe the GDPR wounds were still a little sore, most of the groups we spoke to though did say that the whole process has been painful and costly (again, that’s time and money), and that this spend was and will continue to carry on. Still, many predicted a longer term benefit to the process they went through as a result of GDPR; that this was a pain worth bearing in order to look at new ways of using data to benefit their businesses.

So, in a post GDPR events world, which businesses have created a framework for GDPR compliance? Again, this was discussed at length, in terms of the continual removal of old date, regular ‘check-ins’ with customers on their data etc. Statistics do show that consumers value their data, but have no problem with sharing it, as long as they get something in return. The question is now what can events business give to customers to incentivise them. It's something the industry needs to wrestle with, and the answer isn’t obvious. For us, relevant data means the trade off is data in exchange for opportunities and offers that are relevant and ‘of interest’; why shouldn’t this be an event?

 

So …

Lime Venue Portfolio are known in the industry because we add a layer of sales and marketing excellence into our venue clients, and market our products as a group proposition. This makes GDPR incredibly interesting to us and we’re keen to galvanise the industry’s opinion, and to understand how it is coping.

From our perspective, the scars are there from GDPR, the industry had to look deep into itself and change the way it acts around date. For some this was simple and easy, for others it presented a clear and present risk to their businesses and a great deal of money to protect themselves.

The lessons are still being learnt both about GDPR and how it was presented to businesses in a confusing and inconsistent way. We’ll check in again in a few months’ time and see how people feel and if the value is coming back into their businesses.

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