The clock is ticking and marketers have now less than a year to prepare for GDPR. With the regulations coming into force sooner than most businesses feel they can ready themselves for, we caught up with Databowl’s Simon Delaney to find out how GDPR will affect lead generation, how businesses can prepare for it and why the new rules might be good for the industry’s future.

The countdown for GDPR is on. Do you think the industry is ready for the new regulations?

Simon Delaney: Probably not – but with just a few months of preparation left before the instigation, I certainly think it’s going to be interesting to find out.

With the last large European data mandate taking place over two decades ago, I’m not certain that everybody understands what GDPR is – or even what the data protection rules are in general. And those who are ignorant of the upcoming changes are also unaware of what processes and technology they need to have in place to handle it all.

Currently, there’s a lot of money to be made from businesses who use non-compliant GDPR data, and it will be fascinating to see what changes they can make to the way data is collected to monetise to the same effect.

The affiliate division will also be subject to huge changes, as publishers tend to build landing pages around a particular product or service, and then use a sector opt-in to send the data to relevant companies. It will be lawfully required to show where any CPL and CPA data has originated, but with millions of email addresses and SMS numbers coming in from blind networks, massive transformation is going to have to take place before that happens.

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what materialises.

Databowl is a lead management platform and data is at the heart of what you do. How do you think GDPR might affect lead generation?

SD: Volumes will definitely be affected, because the consumer has more control over who, what, why and when they are contacted. So, although the amount of data will decrease, the quality will increase – as will the cost – restoring the equilibrium on a slightly different basis. However, businesses such as call centres, which rely on lead generation, will either need to spend more on data to get the same quantity, or downsize their entity.

Ultimately, everything is just going to be infinitely stricter. For a company to continue to use their own customer database, their strategy will need to encompass how the customer’s information was captured, how their information is stored, and more importantly, how they have given consent to be contacted.

With everybody feeling the power of GDPR, I think the biggest impact for lead generation will be on data brokers, who could be largely rendered obsolete – unless they can add value to businesses through the operation of a transparent network.

What will those changes mean for the industry?

SD: With the laws becoming so tight and the rules so stringent, people can’t afford to mess things up. This means that most companies operating over a certain scale will need technology to either act as or complement, their data protection officer.

Again, with the consumer taking more control, we’re going to see a lot of the ‘wheat being separated from the chaff’, so to speak. For anyone who makes their money selling leads without a recognisable trail to source, they will find themselves on the receiving end of hefty fines and a rapid loss of reputation. However, I think this means that the industry will become less shrouded in uncertainty, and will be more acceptable to consumers.

What do businesses need to do to prepare for GDPR

SD: Everyone must familiarise themselves with the GDPR rules – I really cannot stress this enough. Read, understand and implement, and if this is something you’re struggling with, seek advice from a reputable consultant.

Depending on the size of your company, you should also allocate a data protection officer, or capitalise on a software that manages your data in some way, as it’s no longer possible for data to be passed around on spreadsheets from unknown – or known – sources. Unless an exact record is immediately available, with full transparency, your data cannot be used.

With current legislation being subject to change between now and next May, Databowl is well ahead of the curve. Continually staying abreast of the new regulations, our compliance is in sync with the ICO. Pulling through relevant and compliant data with just the click of a button, our upcoming ‘GDPR check me’ feature will allow users to measure every aspect of their marketing and data acquisition against GDPR compliance.

Will GDPR mean a brighter future for the industry? 

SD: Absolutely. GDPR is all about contacting the consumer on their own terms – and nobody wants to provoke a consumer, do they? The new regulations will provide security and customer centricity.

There will be casualties of GDPR because essentially it all boils down to who really wants to create mutually beneficial, above-board relationships, and who just wants to benefit themselves.

As for the Databowl team, we can’t wait!