That slew of emails and splash pages popping up in the last month, hurriedly trying to clarify privacy policies, give you options you didn’t know you had, and offer you cookies like a creepy van man, can only mean one thing: the GDPR  is making waves.
For those uninitiated or asleep, the General Data Protection Regulation is a new piece of EU legislation forcing companies to restructure their privacy policies and data use practices under threat of heavy fines. While many small and medium sized businesses have ignored the new regulations, virtually any business that collects data needs to get on board, or they’ll risk hefty fines. Even though the protections were put in place to protect EU citizens, US businesses  must comply as well.
But while the legislation has been daunting for business owners, it’s not all bad. Looked at another way, the GDPR empowers consumers to make clear choices about how their data is handled and what level of privacy they require.
How you choose to look at the GDPR will determine the future of your company. Those who see it as a bane have been scrambling for solutions. The LA Times and the Chicago Tribune, despite having two years to prepare for compliance, ultimately blocked all European traffic . An Ensighten survey found 45%  of UK marketers are just setting aside money for fines, which could total up to € 20 million or 4% of annual revenues .
But there are those who see the new regulations as an opportunity. Digital Trends , a digital media company that attracts 30 million unique monthly visitors, got ahead of the game and welcomed the GDPR, saying it gave them multiple opportunities for growth, and small and medium sized businesses can follow suit.
“The media world is facing major shifts in consumer expectations,” says Andrew Beehler, Senior Manager of Programmatic and Yield Management at Digital Trends. “Doubling down on a customer-centric approach is the strongest way forward with customers and advertisers, alike.”
GDPR for Small Business
Here’s how you can take a cue from the forward-thinking and use the new rules to your advantage.
Take a Firm Customer-Centric Stance
The onset of consumer data gathering changed the way we approached marketing. But in the wake of increasing public concerns due to high profile breaches like Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, it’s likely  world powers beyond the EU will follow suit with tighter, GDPR-style data regulation. In fact, California already passed  a data privacy law, setting the stage for other states to follow. Resisting transparency with data use is futile. Showing your customers you care about their privacy and respect their data, on the other hand, will win you their esteem.
“Data use should benefit the customer, not exploit them. When customers are comfortable with how you’re using their data, they’ll opt in,” says Beehler. “And on the marketing side, GDPR-compliant data is more valuable than anything coerced. That makes it a double win.”
Putting customers in charge of their data, whether the GDPR asks you to or not, shows accountability and establishes trust. It also involves customers in the conversation about how data is captured and used in order to improve their experience.
Claim Your Marketing Edge
Initial chaos caused European programmatic ad demand to nose dive as much as 40%  within hours of the GDPR activation, and a month later marketers are still slow to catch up. Meanwhile, advertisers don’t want to pay for space on sites that don’t comply and therefore can’t reach their audiences.
According to Erin Lyons at Marketing Week , 27% of marketers didn’t get any training on GDPR compliance before the regulations went live. “Another 68% agree training will be integral to their organisation if they’re to comply beyond the deadline,” writes Lyons. “However, in the last six months there has been an increase in the number of marketers who feel they’ve received appropriate training for GDPR, up 21% from November 2017 to 54%.”
For all the progress, that’s still a pretty low number of confident, compliant marketers. This puts a premium on compliant ad space, and gives an edge to anyone whose policies already match GDPR requirements.
So while other marketers are fumbling around in the dark, you can offer advertisers what they’re looking for: seamlessly compliant ad space. “Positioning yourself as an early adopter to new regulations puts you first in line for ad revenues,” Beehler explains. “Because you can offer the most attractive packages, demand for your ad space increases.”
That means by openly embracing GDPR regulations, you make yourself more desirable to customers and advertisers alike.
Taking things to the next level, Beehler notes, because your advertisers know compliance engenders trust with your customers, the premium on your ad space gets an additional boost.
Answer the Call of Creativity
With compliant ad space like yours so scarce, your programmatic advertising has to be on-point to live up to higher standards. Additionally, because you may not be able to rely fully on programmatic in this new marketing landscape, you’ll want to broaden your methods of reaching people with supplemental strategies like influencer marketing and PR campaigns.
Digital Trends developed an in house agency to double down on their creative work. Beehler suggests you “focus on creative ads and activations that you can leverage through programmatic to reach your audience.”
When your message reaches your audience, you’ve succeeded where others have balked. It all comes back to how you treat these new GDPR marketing waters. They can swallow you, or you can swim in them happily. Small and medium sized businesses establishing a customer-centric approach while seeking or establishing compliant ad channels are those who, one month in, are succeeding where others are fumbling in the dark.
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