Marketers are frustrated and I don’t blame them.
The process of buying new technology to keep pace with change and make improvements, is becoming harder and harder. This is especially true for companies either based in the EU or with a big European customer base, where GDPR has massively impacted marketing teams’ ability to buy effectively.
Marketers are consistently asked to do more with less and yet internal policies and processes, as a result of new legislation, have created significant obstacles for them to overcome.
Processing ANY personal or end-user data has added months and months to the buying cycles for a huge amount of businesses, especially larger companies where eliminating risk and protecting the brand are of huge importance.
This change in policy (and mindset!) is also a problem to overcome for suppliers too.
At Return Path, thankfully, we have always invested heavily to ensure we follow best-practice from a data standpoint and are key contributors to associations such as M3AAWG and the ANA. Our thought leadership around GDPR has also been a consistent source of value to our customers.
However, even if you have a multitude of policies, procedures and legal documentation at the ready for your sales team, the effect of GDPR cannot be understated.
The increase in requests for and scrutiny of InfoSec documentation and Data Processing Agreements (DPAs), in addition to the standard contractual elements, has considerably slowed the overall process of buying (and in our case selling) technology.
Therefore, for any marketers contemplating new technology investments, there are now a few more elements you need to consider!
To that end, here are three snippets of advice I’d like to give to you based on my experience over the last 12 months:
Plan well ahead
Gaining budget approval is just the first step. Even after you’ve fully understood the solution, considered the ROI, built an internal business case, and gained budget approval, you have (unfortunately) only just started. Legal and InfoSec reviews are taking much, much longer so you need to plan three, six or even 12 months in advance depending on the solution. Be forceful with your sales reps throughout the sales process, asking them to be as transparent and granular as possible on implementation timelines, which is another key element to consider. Will it be four weeks, three months or six months or more until you’ll be fully operational with their product? It may well take up to 12 months just to see value from the solutions you’re purchasing now. Make sure you plan well ahead and if you have any easy wins available to you, take them! Another crucial element is to ensure your legal/InfoSec/privacy teams are fully briefed on precisely what data your new supplier will have access to and where it will be stored before they start reviewing any paperwork. Miscommunication of ‘who has what’ is probably the biggest single factor slowing down the buying process, so get everyone on the same page before you kick-off!
It’s really important to have multiple investments lined up in advance in case one falls through. Due to the extra data and security measures in place, it’s entirely possible that a purchase could fall down at the last hurdle due to these new policies or because a supplier isn’t able or willing to make the investment in time and resources to make it happen. There may also be other hiccups so, if you want to be agile, you need to have options. This isn’t to say that you should speak to every Tom, Dick, and Harry, simply have two or three vendors on your radar that you can execute quickly if needed.
Contrary to popular belief, many salespeople just want to help you and your company do things better, whatever those ‘things’ might be. Capable sales people can help you avoid serious mistakes, educate you on blind spots or areas for development, and generally be a good tool in terms of networking and staying up-to-date in your chosen field. Leverage their expertise, be transparent, and you may even build long-lasting relationships with a few of them!