Marketing companies face a lot of pressure these days in delivering potential customers to their clients. With new laws restricting where data is stored and how it can be used, coupled with incomplete or inaccurate data being input into forms, the challenges are daunting.

Recent laws such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) instituted in Europe, and the California Consumer Privacy Act in the United States have put limits on collecting and sharing data without the person’s consent. And while enforcement at first was lax, more companies have been hit with fines for not following the regulation.

“The idea of GDPR is good, because the idea is to protect everybody’s personalized data, because you and me, you want to know where your data is used and why it’s used, where it’s coming from and what is recorded about you,” explained Cagdas Gandar, the managing director at the Germany office of data company Melissa. “Before, people had the liberty to just take that data and do whatever they want with your information.”

That, he added, is why there is GDPR. “It became the normal way of life for marketing companies, and for some companies, it meant also that they are not in business anymore – especially companies who collected data without any permission, or consent, and were selling this data,” Gandar said.

He did acknowledge that these regulations have been burdensome on a lot of companies, “and it has hurt them.” But the need for rules about how to collect and work with data overrode the need for marketers.

There seems to be a cat-and-mouse game between marketers and the public, in that marketers want to capture names, while most people just want to get the content without providing any information about themselves. One way to game the system is to input an incorrect name, such as “Mickey Mouse.” Another is to sign up for a disposable email address, which is only valid for 10 minutes or so – giving the person time to get the information they want without any way for the company to follow up with them. 

Part of this is due to the huge volumes of emails people get each day. With these restrictions on data collection and use, one would expect a decrease in the amount of emails people receive from marketers. And Gandar said he is seeing that in Europe.”Maybe you just want to read news or a whitepaper because you’re interested in a topic, but you want to decide by yourself when you want to get in touch with that company to get more information, so that the ball is in your court and you don’t get triggered from everywhere…Everybody calls, but it’s certainly a lot less.”

One way around this is through the use of a data minimization strategy. The idea is to collect just enough personal information to satisfy a request, and to keep the data only as long as it takes to fulfill that request. Beyond that, using personalization marketers can ensure that the people in their database are only receiving emails that align with the person’s expressed areas of interest. 

Unfortunately for many marketers, this will reduce the number of names they can put in their funnels – but the upside is that these are real people with real interests in the subject. Gandar said, “At the end of the day, if you ask for my perfect personal preference, I’d prefer 30 good leads to 270 that are not good. We have to just change our mindset a little bit, that it’s not about quantity anymore. It’s just about quality. It’s also more economical just working on 30, than working on 270 requests, prospects, or leads.”

The key to successful data utilization for marketing? Visibility and transparency, according to Gandar, who related this story. “There was this media house, where they also have different products, different magazines, where you can subscribe. And I thought, it’s really interesting, so I signed up for all of them. And I received a lot of emails, and then at one point, I couldn’t handle it anymore. And this is the problem of all the people, I think you’re getting just too many emails, you don’t have time to read it, and your mailbox gets too big. Then I went through to their website, logged in and clicked the opt-in option. And I could see all my subscriptions, which was really nice. And then I could decide what I want to still receive, and which ones I can unsubscribe from. So more visibility and more transparency was a really nice solution presented there.”