The EU Privacy Directive On Cookies – 9 best practice tips for the pragmatic marketer

The Information Commissioners’ Office (ICO) has stated it will give organisations 12 months to get their house in order. The reality is that most of the well-known internet browsers have this cookie safe mode already built into their platforms and will give individuals the ability to opt-in or opt-out of having a cookie placed on the users machine.

So without doing too much, most marketers will be fine. Furthermore, most, if not all, leading marketing application providers that use cookies as part of their capability, Eloqua being an example, are building a ‘safe mode’ free of the cookie option into their platforms; and as with all competitive marketplaces, this unique feature will soon become a standard feature amongst all providers as others in this space also implement this ‘safe mode’ feature, thereby further safeguarding the worried marketer.

That said, the new EU Privacy Directive does have an implication on the way Marketers’ work.

We’ve drafted 9 best practice tips for B2B marketers to consider:

1. Manage your own and your company’s reputation- the companies that really manage their reputation will be more respected and trusted. Whereas a company’s brand used to be the visual identity to convey trust, reputational management is the new intangible trust mark. As a marketer, the thought of selling on customer information even to a ‘trusted third parties’ is scandalous’ and a poor business model, unless you are Jigsaw or D&B don’t do it, ever. More and more companies are using market research to assess their own net promoter score or listening via social media tool such as Radian6, Meltwater Buzz or Klout for their reputation or degree of influence.

2. Content is King- The old adage that ‘content is king’ really is true, end users will always devour great content, and so as a Marketer, really consider employing great content writers; those that really know their stuff and are passionate about the product or service they provide. The contrary of this is also true, if you don’t know your stuff, are not considered an expert or worse are frankly dis-interested, it is time to get out, irrespective of the salary you receive, you’ll probably live longer too.

3. Don’t fear change, remember CAN-SPAM 2003, as stated above whilst legislation can appear punitive and restrictive, often it can drive increased quality and standards and be better for everyone.

4. Adopt a buyer centric view, psychometric marketing- Too often organisations like to ask dumb sales-centric questions too early e.g. How big is your company? and When are you looking to buy? It is so much smarter to understand the attitudes and aptitudes of prospects, this same philosophy is used in psychometric testing as a basis of predicting future behaviours or outcomes; we think the same applies to marketing, ask intelligent questions that are buyer -centric and you might just get a better responses too.

5. The rule of reciprocity- this really follows the above two points and is the basis on which both Peppers and Rogers’ One to One Marketing and well as more recently Seth Godin’s Permission Based Marketing was built.  That if you do give great content you have earned the right to ask question in exchange, just don’t ask too many questions or worse the same questions again and again. Which brings us onto the next and most important point.

6. B2B is different from B2C- this might be considered as playing with semantics but the ICO focus is really about protecting the rights and the individual level, it does not really go into bat to the same degree over companies or aggregated company data.

7. How punitive is punitive- the UK has a long history of quangos without teeth owing largely to the small punitive costs they have traditionally had the power to fine. The UK has finally learnt from the US (consider the powers of the SEC versus the FSA) that there is a distinct correlation between the size of the fines and the ability to effect change. The ICO is certainly threatening to inflict considerable costs on those that abuse their position.

8. Sometimes B2B Marketing is about small numbers. B2B marketers have a tendency to talk to too many people at the superficial level, so much better to build depth and true engagement to campaigns.

9. Data Governance- this is the big one and for Marketers needs to be broken out into multiple components:

- Opt-in, or even double opt in will become more prevalent, it is important that Marketers consider moving from an opt-out culture to an opt-in; as extreme as it sounds some companies or organisations that really value their reputation are opting for a double opt-in approach.

– Preference centres- consider building a preference centre, this is where you ask prospects and customers to self-select what they want to hear about, in what formats and with what frequency. For example if you are a software company and there is a security risk, then an SMS alert might be more relevant to a subscriber, whereas the same person might request product updates monthly via email.

– Data governance, the format that data is captured should be consistent across the company, from events, shows, telephone. Ultimately organisations need to be moving to single data warehouse to enable a 360 degree view of the individual and use technologies with a preference-centre capability built in. Importantly companies now need to provide demonstrable measures outlining that the prospect or customer data they have is held securely and will not be lost or used in error.

To find out how we advise our customers on the EU Privacy Directive, email or call us on 01962 677 000.

September 19th, 2011 by Adam Sharp

Tags: , , ,

Category: Marketing, Marketing automation

Comments (1)


  1. Tim Barlow says:


    I would love your assessment to be true once all the uncertainty of the directive has been finalised but sadly I feel that it won’t be.

    Major companies reliant on cookies are doing their best to come up with solutions to the directive but are being rejected time and again. It seems that the ICO is trying its best to be business friendly but Brussels continues to push them to do more.

    Almost all business websites will be using cookies. Using Google Analytics? You are using cookies. Got a Facebook Like button on your site? You are using cookies. If you are using cookies then the directive applies to you.

    Requiring prior consent to use cookies (or similar technologies) is not straight forward. How far we have to go is not yet clear from all the reading I’ve done on the subject.

    As a minimum I feel businesses need to audit their cookies, provide information on their site about them and offer the ability to opt-out. Though many would argue this is not far enough, this was a requirement before the new directive so it makes sense to at least get your house in order on that front.

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