At WeAnswer Contact Centre, we take data protection very seriously; so, with a number of new EU data directives imminent or just passed, we thought the time was nigh for a good chat with Andrew Buffrey, DMA West Regional Manager, for his take on the directives and also to steal a few good tips for businesses of all shapes and sizes to stay ahead of the game.
What does the DMA see as the main challenges for business in the year ahead?
The continuing economic downturn in the UK, instability in Europe and the resulting uncertainty for business, volatile stock markets and a lack of confidence among consumers are by far the biggest challenges. While there a pockets of growth, for many organisations trading conditions remain extremely challenging. When sustained recovery does finally emerge, we are likely to be faced with a severe skills shortage – this is already evident in the direct marketing industry and is certainly on the DMA’s agenda.
After a truly innovative few years social media seems to have plateaued a bit, what or who do you for-see as the key players and trends for 2012 – B2B and B2C?
In terms of direct marketing, B2B and B2C are two very different disciplines and social media is no exception. While we have seen various social media come and go in recent years, my view is that Facebook, LinkedIn and Youtube are here to stay. Facebook will become even more sophisticated in serving the needs of the B2C market while LinkedIn will firmly establish itself as the preferred B2B medium. Youtube will continue to appeal to both markets but while there are many benefits associated with social media, we must also be mindful of its darker side.
In terms of the commercial opportunities associated with social media, I was once given some excellent advice which I often share with DMA members: Basically, you should approach social media in the same way as you would to moving into a village. On the first evening you venture into the local pub, look around you, listen and get a feel for who’s in there with you. The next time you might engage in polite conversation with a few willing participants to find out what makes them tick and make yourself known. Only then can you mention that you’re thinking of selling your car and wondering if anyone might be interested in buying it… simple, but sound advice.
The DMA has been active in raising industry concerns about the EU reforms on data protection. Can you tell us a bit more about this? How will it affect the average business, what can businesses do to ensure they are compliant and what as consumers should we do to ensure we control our own data visibility?
There are two issues concerning data privacy protection that affect businesses; one is already here the other is on the horizon. On 26 May, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) started to enforce the new ePrivacy Directive, or Cookie law as it’s come to be known. There has been considerable concern in the business community because of the effect it would have on their digital marketing and the potential cost attached to updating their digital platforms to comply with the law. The main element of the legislation is that companies now have to get permission from people to serve up cookies on their internet connected devices. However, the law is ambiguous on many points around what does and doesn’t constitute consent, so many companies are confused about what they need to do to comply. The DMA has been supporting its members by providing how-to guides for complying with the law for website owners, and email and mobile marketers.
The second reform of data protection comes in the form of the draft EU Data Privacy Regulation. This has yet to go through the process of becoming law, so we could see its proposed reforms being changed when it’s debated in parliament. However, if it were to come into force tomorrow unchanged, then it would have grave consequences. The Regulation would severely limit the way in which companies can market their goods and services, stifle innovation and cost the UK economy heavily. The DMA has been lobbying the lawmakers to help them understand the negative impact this would have. Of course, we need to respect people’s right to data privacy, but this should not come at a cost to business. Read more about preventing data breaches.
Direct mail vs. email marketing? What are your views?
Can we remove vs. from that question please? It’s no longer about one competing with the other – integration of media and insight into how consumers want to communicate with you is essential to good direct marketing. There are so many communication channels available now and it can be that however many times you e-mail some individuals they will never respond electronically. But a carefully targeted and well executed direct mail pack could prove to be their preferred response device – and vice versa. Having worked in the direct marketing industry for more than twenty years, I’ve witnessed many trends led by advances in technology. My own personal view is that direct mail will always play its part – whatever ‘new media’ comes and goes.
How does the DMA maximise its use of social media?
We adopt the same principles as I outlined in my answer to question five. The DMA communicates via social media with those individuals who like to use it. We recognise that some members prefer other channels of communication and insight enables us to select accordingly. There is little doubt that social media is becoming an increasingly important and powerful direct marketing tool. However, business in general is still on a rather steep learning curve which is why the DMA runs a Social Media helpline for its members via the DMA website (www.dma.org.uk).
How far do you reckon the ‘Olympic effect’ will extend across the UK in terms of business?
In February, DMA West and Wales hosted a wine tasting dinner at Avery’s Wine Cellars in Bristol. Our guest speaker was former Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies MBE and I asked her the same question. We both agreed that 2012 is a huge year for the UK with both the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympic Games having a positive effect on the country’s morale and economy. Some argue that it’s all rather London-centric, but history shows that in Britain the whole nation comes together at times of tragedy and celebration. This year is all about celebration and the resulting feel good factor coupled with a surge in tourism can only be beneficial to UK plc.