Most agencies are already aware of CASL and GDPR regulations, especially the European agency owners who are part of the Agencies 2 Inbound Cohort programs. While the markets outside of the US are behind from an inbound marketing perspective, (12 to 18 months), they are way ahead in terms of privacy, and protection from unwanted electronic marketing.
If you’re a US based digital marketing agency or inbound marketing agency, get ready because the regulations are coming, and they are going to be challenging. How do I know? Why I am I writing about this today? Spend 5 minutes watching Mark Zuckerberg, CEO at Facebook, testify in front of the Senate committee investigating the Russian situation and you’ll see what I see.
The government has lost all trust that Facebook or any other social media company has any capability to protect the privacy of the American people and they are likely to take matters into their own hands.
Here’s what you need to do about it.
Understand CASL and GDPR
I’m not an expert when it comes to either of these laws. What I can tell you is that, as an agency, there are potential risks associated with ignoring them all together. In the case of CASL, you can be financially liable for marketing what your client does, even if you have nothing to do with it. We’ve asked all our clients to absolve us of any financial responsibility should they fail to take our advice related to CASL regulations.
I’m also not a lawyer and I can’t provide any legal advice, but if you’re thinking the chances of a Canadian company reporting you to the CASL authorities and then a Canadian regulatory agency suing an American agency to collect penalties is highly unlikely—I would tend to agree. But I also know this is a risk I’m not interested in entertaining nor will I have to worry about this if I simply understand the regulations and take actions accordingly.
Get Your Agency Compliant With Both
One of the best places to start getting a handle on this is with your own agency. Forget your clients, your prospects or any convoluted relationship between you and your clients to protect your agency. Just start with your shop and your marketing. If you are going to make your agency CASL and GDPR compliant then everything is in your control and you’ll be forced to get a practical understanding of both laws.
This is also going to give you a base of information and experience that you can leverage for your clients should this come up. If you are like us, you have Canadian and European prospects, so having your own marketing be compliant shows them you’re a professional agency who is current with the most recent changes in law and best practices.
This is going to start being a requirement to get hired. Prospects are going to eliminate you from contention if they go to your site and don’t see a compliant site. If you’re emailing them out of compliance of the laws in their countries, they are not going to be able to work with you. Get your agency compliant and that is a very big first step.
Start Paying Attention To What’s Going On In This Country
You’re saying to yourself, “We don’t market in Canada and Europe” or “ We don’t have any prospects or clients in those countries” or “We have other issues that need our attention” or “This doesn’t have anything to do with me.”
You might be right, but there is a bigger chance that you are going to be very wrong. This week I spent some time watching the Senate testimony from Mark Zuckerberg and these Senators are serious, they are angry, they are concerned, and they are very clear. They don’t believe that these social media marketing companies are capable of policing themselves to protect the American Consumer.
Many of them are already working on laws to limit what social media companies can do with their data which is going to limit what you can do to use social media to market for your clients. But who knows how far this will go? It could impact Google and AdWords. It could limit how HubSpot and other marketing automation and CRM systems tag and story prospect data.
It could serious add hoops and gates that drive down conversion rates dramatically. It could put limitations on how companies and marketing agencies create targeting, outreach, nurture, website experiences and more. It has the potential to change the game and you should be aware of it now.
Help Your Client’s Understand It
If we’re uncertain, clients are going to be even more confused and anxious about this. The more press and the more people start talking about it, the more clients are going to turn to you and want answers. This is another reason why you have to be an expert on this. And here is the hidden opportunity for agencies.
Almost every company in the US is going to need to understand and make changes to the way they market. If you can help your clients and prospects to feel like you know more than anyone else AND you have solutions to eliminate the risk associated with these new rules—you have an opportunity to drive revenue, new clients and profits for your agency.
This can take the form of training on new regulations, it can be services you provide, but more significantly it provides you the opportunity to help your prospects and clients feel safe. If you can show them you know everything there is, that you’re going to help them be protected, to comply and to limit their risk—then you’ve taken a big step towards beating out a ton of agencies who might not be as prepared to deal with this.
Make Sure You’re Ahead And Not Behind What’s Coming
CASL is already here and we’re just a few weeks from the GDPR deadline. It’s probably too late for a lot of you to get ahead of both sets of regulations. Do your best to catch up and be as compliant as necessary for your agency.
But what I really want to emphasis is getting ready for what’s coming here. This isn’t something that might happen. This is happening. This is going to affect you. You are going to have to learn how to market your agency and run your client programs with a new set of rules. The sooner you get a handle on this, the sooner you’ll be in a position to help clients with it.
CASL and GDPR are models that our country is likely to look at as starting points. Understanding those and getting educated around those sets of regulations is going to put you in a very positive position to deal with anything coming down the pike in this country. Get your agency compliant and start looking smart with your prospects and clients by talking about this, making them aware and helping them plan for what’s coming.
Maryland, Minnesota and Montana are all considering state based privacy rules that could impact how you help clients in those states. If the federal government does not do something, it’s likely that some or all of the states will work to try and protect their citizens.
But, what’s more than likely is that the Congress will enact some wide ranging and sweeping online and social media privacy laws that will make collecting information, storing information and using personal information for marketing purposes much more difficult. For smaller shops, this could be require a significant investment in both how you market your own agencies but definitely in what tactics and tools you use to marketing your clients’ businesses.
Now is the time to start thinking about this, getting educated and keeping a close eye on what’s going on in Congress.
Start Today Tip – This is a big educational effort. These regulations are not easy to understand nor are they easy to know how much risk is at stake if you don’t comply. I’ve spoken to a few Canadian agencies that are barely paying attention to CASL and not concerned about that. It seems like the European agencies are more concerned about the teeth in the GDPR regulations and making more of an effort to comply. In both cases, agencies can be financially responsible if they don’t advise their clients properly. If you’re like us and you get Canadian and European prospects you should consider getting your marketing as compliant as possible but when and how deep you go will be an individual agency decision.
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