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Data Privacy Compliance as Competitive Advantage

It wasn’t all that long ago that compliance issues that were even remotely digital in nature were the domain of the same teams that worried about server configurations and RAM requirements. These were technology issues, not business issues. Even in industries like financial services, pharmaceuticals, and the law, where regulation has long required additional attention, the regulations tended to be far less broad than they are today. More importantly, consumers are far more aware of many of these issues and how the regulations impact their rights. This creates an opportunity for savvy digital marketers, even as increased regulation has created headaches and costs. Let’s look at those costs and headaches first.

Marketers Need Legal Support in Privacy Compliance

Details that seem minor to a marketer can be major issues in legal terms. Make sure you’re not trusting unverified sources on the Internet to determine what constitutes compliance. A lawyer well versed in digital and data compliance issues can tell you whether a new regulation applies to your company at all, and if it does, whether it applies company-wide or only to teams or offices operating in certain jurisdictions. (And they can tell you when a regulation might apply to you even if it wouldn’t appear to, as can be the case with regulations that apply based on where a person is when he or she accesses your website, as is the case with GDPR.)

Trade Groups Know the Compliance Landscape

Beyond legal support, make sure your marketing team is educated so they can spot areas of potential trouble. A great place to start with this is with trade groups in your industry. They will typically be on top of requirements and upcoming changes to those requirements. In some cases, they may even be responsible for drafting the rules in your industry. If they don’t have the resources that can help, they should know who does.

The Competitive Opportunity

With the backdrop above it’s easy to think that this ramping up of regulatory requirements is just another cost of doing business that is growing in size and complexity. That’s true, but it neglects the reality that as consumers grow more knowledgeable and sophisticated about protecting their own data, transparency and pro-audience policies will become a competitive advantage for marketers.

It will be interesting to see if consumers begin to expect the companies they do business with to protect their personal data better by gathering and storing less of it. Marketers that can still identify and connect with their target audiences without holding on to more data than necessary should find themselves able to win the trust of those consumers who place a premium on the value of their privacy and who wish to minimize the chances of identity theft and other fraud. The trick will be making it clear that decoupling “standard” personal identifiers like social security numbers from consumer profiles doesn’t compromise your ability to protect your audience’s privacy.

We have an interesting few years ahead of us on the privacy frontier, and it’s entirely possible that younger generations define privacy differently than we have in the past. But if the drumbeat for data protection continues to grow, marketers will have to address privacy concerns to earn their business.

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Andrew Schulkind

Since 1996, Andrew Schulkind has asked clients one simple question: what does digital marketing success look like, and how can marketing progress be measured? A veteran content marketer, web developer, and digital strategist, Andrew founded Andigo New Media to help firms find a more strategic and productive mix of tools that genuinely support online brand goals over time. With a passion for true collaboration and meaningful consensus, his work touches social media, search-engine optimization, and email marketing, among other components. He views is primary goal as encouraging engagement. Getting an audience involved in your story requires solid information architecture, a great user experience, and compelling content. A dash of common sense doesn’t hurt, either. Andrew has presented at Social Media Week NY and WordCampNYC, among other events, on content marketing and web-development topics. His technology writing appears on the Andigo blog, in a monthly column on Biznology.com, and for print and online publications like The New York Enterprise Report, Social Media Today, and GSG Worldwide’s publications LinkedIn & Business, Facebook & Business, and Tweeting & Business. Andrew graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy from Bucknell University. He engages in a range of community volunteer work and is an avid fly fisherman and cyclist. He also loves collecting meaningless trivia. (Did you know the Lone Ranger made his mask from the cloth of his brother's vest after his brother was killed by "the bad guys?")

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