REaD’s Customer Engagement Director, Scott Logie, discusses supporter engagement for the new season! 

It feels like it is only days after the Euros finished and the new football season is back.  Never mind that in between we had Wimbledon and the Olympics: what a feast of sport for those of us who love it.  To be honest, I always feel that the football season starts too early.  I could do with another couple of weeks to get mentally prepared before being launched back into it, but I am probably alone in this.

As a Scottish man of a certain age, it was always fashionable to have two teams.  For me, my hometown team was Airdrieonians and my “English” team (because you had to have one) was Liverpool FC as my hero, King Kenny Dalglish, played there.  Fast forward 40-odd years and Airdrieonians have sadly disappeared, and I have acquired two new teams, based on house moves, in Bristol City and Crewe Alexandra.  It’s a lot to keep across but what else would I do otherwise?

Why now is the time to engage supporters

For the clubs themselves there is always a lot to keep across.  And coming into this season there is probably more than ever before.  Last season was one like no other.  For most of it there were no fans in the stadiums, no merchandise sales from the shops and very little chance to engage with supporters face-to-face.  This would have meant that income levels would have been down, and, at the same time, staff would have been furloughed and a lot of the essential work that would normally go on behind the scenes would have suffered.

I mentioned three teams that I support earlier.  For each of these clubs I have bought tickets – in fact, season tickets for two of them – and yet I have only had emails from one of them (Liverpool) about games coming up.

Realistically, teams like Liverpool don’t need to spend time filling the stadium: that will happen for every game regardless.  But they do need to share information on new strips, their TV channel and all the other ways I can follow my team.  For Bristol City and Crewe Alex it is more basic: get bums on seats.  And yet neither of them have sent me an email, or a bit of mail even, to remind me I can come back and support them with all my mighty singing.  I think clubs are missing a trick, to be frank – think how many shops opened and we got emails and mailings to tell us about it.  How much better response would there be for something that we like doing?!

Why data is key

Another area that I am obviously interested in is around the data that the clubs hold on their supporters and what has happened to that over the last 18 months.  We know that data quality degrades; people move house, change email address, pass away and most of this isn’t shared with their football club.  A really great way to start engaging with your fans is to make sure you hold the right data on them.  And that is easy to do!

So, the fans are back but are the clubs making the most of their excitement?  Are they getting in touch and telling us how we can do more for our club?  Are they inviting us back to the ground and into the club shop?  And are they sorting the data they hold on us so that they can do that?  For me, as a multi-club man it doesn’t feel like it. As well as getting ready for kick-off on the pitch, they should give some thought to kicking off supporter engagement off it: it will serve them well.

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Data quality is more important than it has ever been. Ensuring that the customer and prospect data that you hold is accurate, up to date and compliant is a benchmark of responsible data management and marketing.
Consumers expect it, the law requires it and it delivers massive cost savings, better ROI and reduces the risk of brand damage.

A key part of maintaining the quality of the consumer data you hold is the identification and suppression of individuals who have moved from the address you have in your database – using a credible suppression file such as REaD Group’s definitive Gone Away Suppression file (GAS).

Why compromise the success of your campaigns and risk the reputation of your business by continuing to send communications to individuals using their old address?

Reduce campaign costs and improve ROI

Mailing goneaways will hit you where it hurts – in the pocket! Continuing to send mail to individuals at their old address is a waste of your marketing budget.

The following case study is based on real campaign metrics:
  • Client A has a database of 1 million records selected for an acquisition mailing campaign
  • Suppression flagging using the GAS file identified 10% of the individuals in the database had changed address
  • That’s 100k individuals flagged and suppressed as goneaways
  • Based on their pack price of £0.50 removing those goneaways saved £50,000
  • Even if the response rate from those you suppress is a quarter of the rest of the file (and that is high), you are spending £50k unnecessarily and which could be deployed in better performing channels
Risk of brand damage of sending mail addressed to previous occupants

“I have received a letter to my address in someone else’s name. Please help – I am concerned someone is using my address fraudulently.”

Sending mail to old addresses risks the reputation of your organisation. At best, the receipt of mail addressed to someone not currently at the address will be the cause of irritation – and risks your mailing becoming a regular feature in the recycle bin. And worse, it is the cause of anxiety around address mis-use and identity theft.

There is always the argument that “the person who has moved in will look like one of my good prospects anyway so they will probably respond”. Actually, the chances of gaining a new customer or supporter is unlikely.

Avoiding being the cause of irritation, distress and damage to your brand’s reputation by continuing to contact individuals at their old address is easy and cost effective so why risk it?

Legal requirement under Data Protection Act 2018

Fundamentally, it is the law to keep your customer and prospect data clean and accurate. GDPR Article 5.1 (d) – entrenched in UK law as the Data Protection Act 2018 – specifies explicitly that data must be kept “accurate and, where necessary, kept up to date.”

This applies to customers and prospects data and includes ensuring address information is accurate before it is processed. By choosing not to suppress movers, you are actively breaking the law.

Losing touch with customers and supporters

We all know the relative costs of acquiring new customers or supporters versus retaining them. Flagging goneaways alerts you to the fact that a customer has moved so you have the opportunity to apply a relocation database – such as REaD’s GAS Reactive – and reduce the loss of valuable customers and supporters at their new address. Lots of your competitors are marketing to new movers, and yet they are your customer!

So, what next?

We can’t express strongly enough that the cost and risks of using old addresses will always vastly outweigh the investment in using a credible Gone Away Suppression service despite the small possibility of acquiring a new customer at that address.

Time to talk to REaD Group about applying the GAS File to your database!

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Consent vs Legitimate Interest:

Understanding which legal basis best suits your needs is essential!  We know that both legitimate interest and consent have their benefits and downfalls when looking to communicate with consumers.  However, depending on the brand, industry sector or channel of communication one or the other can play a major role in the success of the marketing strategy.

What is Consent?

Consent is when the individual has given consent in the form of an ‘opt-in’ for a company to process their personal data for a specific purpose.

Consent requires an organisation to be named at the point of data capture and the consumer must ‘opt-in’ to be contacted by the brand, with the consent statement allowing for unbundled data collection with the boxes never pre-ticked i.e consent requires a positive /affirmative action to be recorded​.

It is often seen as the ‘safe’ option when it comes to collecting consumer data for marketing purposes.  Whether it is using a tick box or a subscription form, consent offers the consumer a clear choice, ultimately helping to build a brand’s reputation as trustworthy, transparent, and responsible, subject to the below guidelines also being followed:

  • The opt – in is a positive action – Reliant on the consumer ticking to receive communication (remember, no pre ticked boxes)
  • The statement of consent is clear and unambiguous
  • All third-party data controllers are named
  • Information on how to withdraw consent is clear and easy to find
  • The communication methods and content addressed to the consumer must then fulfil the purposes stated when consent with given

Consent is only one of the lawful bases under which companies can collect consumer data.  It gives consumers a choice whether to be communicated with, and by which channel, and ultimately can build a more trusting relationship when it comes to data transparency.

Remember – when data is collected via consent, and the purpose of collecting that data remains the same, it can then also be used under the legal basis of legitimate interest.

What is Legitimate Interest?

Legitimate interest is when you or a third-party have a genuine reason that makes processing the data necessary, and there are no other interests that outranks your business interest.  ​For example, your organisation may be able to demonstrate a legitimate interest in marketing your goods to existing customers in order to increase sales.

Legitimate Interest does not require an organisation to be named at the point of data capture as long as you can demonstrate that consumers would reasonably expect the data to be used for the purpose intended.  Best practice suggests that an organisation provides a descriptive list of sectors with whom personal data may be shared within their privacy policy.

Legitimate interest is another of the six lawful bases for processing consumer data for marketing purposes, in line with the ‘lawfulness, fairness and transparency’ regulations.  However, whereas consent is centred around a purpose, legitimate interest is more flexible and can apply to a wider range of consumer communications where needed.

When using consent, the consumer’s relationship with the brand is balanced and based on a transactional agreement.  When using legitimate interest, the purposes are often less transparent to the consumer but offers more flexibility for marketing purposes.  You can rely on using legitimate interest, if you can show how your use of the consumer data is proportionate, has a minimal personal impact and the consumer is unlikely to be surprised or object to what they receive.

To be clear, within the GDPR itself, Direct Marketing is specifically singled out as a legitimate interest.  It is important to note however, that unlike data which has been captured under consent, once data is collected under that basis of legitimate interest it cannot then be used for consent-based marketing.

How to apply a Lawful Bases:

Most lawful bases require that processing is ‘necessary’ for a specific purpose. If you can reasonably achieve the same purpose without the processing, you won’t have a lawful basis.  Remember, you must determine your lawful basis before you begin processing, and you should document it​.  Take care to get it right first time – you cannot swap to a different lawful basis at a later date without good reason.

Your privacy notice should include your lawful basis for processing as well as the purposes of the processing.  If your purpose does change, you may be able to continue processing under the original lawful basis if your new purpose is compatible with your initial purpose (unless your original lawful basis was consent).  If you are processing special category data, you need to identify both a lawful basis for general processing and an additional condition for processing this type of data.

Overall, both consent and legitimate interest serve a purpose. Consent builds a level of trust and brand awareness whilst enabling communication to consumers.  Legitimate interest on the other hand, helps brands target a broader consumer or prospect base.  There is no one size fits all when it comes to collecting data, so when choosing a lawful basis take care and don’t be afraid to ask for advice!

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It’s been over three years since the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was introduced. Since then, there have been plenty of headlines devoted to enterprise-level data breaches but very little on how SMEs have been fairing. Do they understand the GDPR and are they interpreting the legislation in the correct way? More than that, what is the quality of the data they hold and indeed, how do they store it?

This is what we set out to find in this survey. We wanted to gain a greater understanding of the quality of the data that SMEs hold on their customers and prospects, and the extent to which the GDPR is understood and has been adopted.

What is an SME?

According to the UK Government* , the usual definition of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) is any business with fewer than 250 employees. There were 6 million SMEs in the UK in 2020, which was over 99% of all businesses. There were 5.7 million micro-businesses (0-9 employees) in the UK in 2020, accounting for 96% of all businesses.

For the purposes of this survey, we based SMEs on the size of their turnover, classing any business of a turnover of up to £25 million as an SME.

* House of Commons Library Briefing Paper, Business Statistics, 22 January 2021 [accessed 25 June 2021].

The Questions:

In our survey we asked 1,110 business owners and directors a number of questions:

  • Whether they store their customer and prospect data in a CRM and/or other database
  • Whether they run any data cleaning or update processes on the data they hold
  • Whether they use physical mailing for communicating with and/or marketing to their customers
  • Whether they were familiar with GDPR
  • Whether they were aware that GDPR requires data to be kept clean and accurate or be deleted

The Results:

Surprisingly, the survey results revealed that only two-fifths (40%) of SMEs hold their customer and prospect data (i.e. consumer data) in a CRM and/or other database; a number that seemed surprisingly low, given that most businesses need to maintain contact with their customers. This would seem to suggest that the remaining three-fifths (60%) either do not hold any customer data or that they hold it in a format they do not consider to be a database, such as Excel or on paper.

The good news is that awareness of the GDPR was high amongst the majority of SMEs (85%) and that these businesses are also aware that data must be kept clean and accurate or be deleted (89%). It’s good to see that, three years after it was introduced, most understand the importance of the legal requirements for managing data. The larger the company (by turnover), the greater the familiarity.

However, what the survey also revealed was that, while three-quarters (75%) of those with a CRM and/or other database do run data cleaning or update processes on their data, one quarter (25%) do not, despite the fact that 93% were aware of the need to clean and update or delete their data. And with two-fifths (42%) of all respondents using the data they hold for direct mailing/marketing, this raises the question of how accurate, up-to-date and compliant the data they hold for these purposes is?

Of all SMEs surveyed (irrespective of whether they have a CRM/database or not), nearly two-thirds (61%) said they do not run any data cleaning or update processes on the data they hold. This is despite the fact that over four-fifths (85%) were familiar with GDPR and almost four-fifths (79%) were aware of the legal requirement to keep data clean and accurate or delete it.

Survey Methodology:

Small businesses x 1,110

The Companies Act defines an SME for accounting purposes as having a turnover of not more than £6.5m, however for this survey, the turnover range was grouped to £25m. On this basis the weighted response for this group is 1,110, with the emphasis on turnovers up to £4.9m.

Research conducted by Customer Care Research (CCR)

The research was conducted amongst 1,200 business owners and directors in June 2021. The results have been weighted by turnover, region and sector to be representative of all UK businesses with a turnover of £250,000+. Where response percentages are quoted it refers to the weighted sample.

Only 41% of SMEs hold their data in a CRM/database

To set the scene, we wanted to find out how many SMEs hold their customer and prospect data in a CRM and/or similar database.

We found that 40% (439) of the SMEs we surveyed indicated they have a customer and prospect database in a CRM or similar format. Given that businesses need to maintain contact with their customers for sales and marketing, and never more so than over the past 15 months, this appears to be a relatively low percentage. It would appear that the number of SMEs who could benefit from the business advantages of a CRM could be greatly improved. There are many benefits to a CRM, but two key ones are offering a 360-degree real-time view of a prospect or customer, and keeping that individual’s data safe, secure and up-to-date.

Our survey found that only 34% of those with a turnover of up to £4.9m said they had data in a CRM/database, although this rose to 65% in the £5m-£24.9m category.

When looking at all SMEs with a turnover range up to £25m, 40% (439) have their data in a CRM or other database: meaning that a significant 60% (671) did not.

Examining different business sectors in more detail, retail (80%), hospitality (76%), transport (70%) and construction (69%) are the least likely to have a CRM or other database, which seems surprising, especially when considering the retail sector.

Q1. Do you have customer and prospect data (i.e. consumer data) in a CRM and/or other database?

More than half of SMEs do not clean their data

We asked all survey respondents whether they run any data cleaning or update processes on the data they hold. This question was asked of all respondents, rather than just those with a CRM or other database, to capture any respondents who considered they held their data via another means.

Overall, approximately the same proportion, 39% (432) of SMEs said they ran data cleaning or update processes on their data, but 61% (678) said they did not. We can assume this is either because they simply didn’t and/or because they felt they did not hold data in a CRM or other database.

75% (330) of SMEs who said they had a CRM or other database ran a data cleaning or update process, but a significant 25% (109) indicated they did not. In addition, 51% (569) indicated they did not have customer data in a CRM or other database AND they did not run any data cleaning or update processes on any data they held. Considering most businesses have a need for customer data in one form or another, this is a surprisingly large percentage.

Of those SMEs with a turnover of less than £25m who have a customer CRM or other database, 25% did not run any data cleaning processes, reducing to 15% for businesses with a turnover over £25m. On an overall basis, the figure for all respondents was 61% for the lesser turnover group and 38% for the larger.

Whilst the figure of 25% of those SMEs with a CRM or other database not running any cleaning processes is high enough, assuming most companies needed to keep some form of customer data, the overall figure of 59% is surprisingly high. The results also showed that the larger the business, the
better it is at running data cleaning or update processes.

Q2. Do you run any data cleaning or update processes on the data that you hold?

42% of SMEs use Direct Mail

When asked whether they use physical mailing for communicating with and/or marketing to their customers, 42% (506) of all respondents confirmed they did, a very slightly greater number of respondents than those who indicated they kept a database (491). Presumably these additional respondents must also have some form of data, stored offline or via a different method.

From a turnover point of view, only 23% of SMEs with a turnover of less than £1 million communicate in this way. This percentage rises as turnover increases, to a peak of 60% in the £5-9,9 million range, although more than half of SMEs in the £10million+ category also use direct mail.

Considering those SMEs who said they had a CRM or other database, 60%(265) carried out physical mailings. The results also showed that 30% (199) of those who said they didn’t have a CRM or other database do use physical mailings. While this can only be based on speculation, perhaps
these communications are not data targeted?

Q3. Do you use physical mailing (e.g letters, brochures or catalogues etc) for communicating with and/or marketing to your customers?

85% of SMEs are familiar with the GDPR

Overall, awareness of GDPR is high: 67% (744) of all SME respondents said they were familiar with the GDPR, with a further 18% (200) answering that they were ‘a little’ familiar. Fifteen percent were not familiar with it at all. So overall, 85% had some familiarity with GDPR, regardless of whether they had customer data in a CRM or other database.

Taking just those SME respondents who said they had a CRM or database (see Q1), 84% (367) were familiar, with a further 11% a little familiar. Only 6% (25) were not familiar. This is positive news as it means that the majority of those who hold customer or prospect data are familiar with the regulations governing their storage of that data.

Of those who did not have a CRM or other customer database, 21% did not have some familiarity with GDPR.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the larger the company in turnover terms, generally the greater their familiarity with GDPR (<£1m = 56%, £2m-£4.9m = 77%, £15m-24.9m = 82%).

All industry groupings were more than 80% familiar, with services ranking most highly, followed by retail, construction and manufacturing.

Q4. Are you familiar with the GDPR?

80% of SMEs are aware that the GDPR requires data to be kept clean and accurate

80% (960) of all respondents were aware that GDPR requires data to be kept clean and accurate or be deleted, with 79% of SMEs being aware. This means that meaning that one-fifth (21%) of SMEs were not.

Again, the greater the company size (turnover) the greater the awareness, ranging from <£1m = 67%, £2m-£4.9m = 87% and £15m-24.9m+ = 92%. The same was true for company size, with 79% of companies up to 249 aware of this GDPR requirement, increasing to 83% in companies of 250+ employees.

From an industry sector point of view, hospitality (36%), transport (33%) and construction (31%) indicated they were the least aware, with financial, property and business services showing the greatest familiarity with this GDPR requirement.

Of those who said they had customer data in a CRM or other database, 93% (455) were aware that GDPR requires data to be kept clean, accurate or deleted.

Of the 312 SMEs who had a CRM or other database and were aware of the GDPR requirement, 75% (312) ran cleaning or updating processes, however 25% did not.

Q5. Are you aware that the GDPR requires data to be kept clean and accurate or be deleted?

What have we learned?

Irrespective of the format it is held in, centralising the data a company holds into some kind of CRM or database is important, because it makes the storage, management and upkeep so much easier and, as a result, any marketing processes so much more efficient and effective too.

It was also interesting to learn that a quarter (25%) of those with a CRM and/or other database do not run data cleaning or update processes on their data. Not only is there a legal requirement for those who have a database to keep it clean and updated, but it also makes good business sense: with two-fifths (42%) of the total SME respondents using the data they hold for direct mailing/marketing, having accurate, up-to-date customer and prospect data is key to avoid wasting time, money and effort sending out direct mail that will not reach its target.

And for the third (30%) who are carrying out direct mailing activities without a CRM or database, how are they managing their data? Another survey suggests that for organisations without a CRM tool, 87% are still relying on spreadsheets as the main tool to manage customer data but if data is the new oil , then we need to be taking much better care of it!

It was positive to see that awareness of the GDPR and the requirement to keep data clean and accurate (or else delete it) was so high amongst the UK’s SMEs, which would indicate that the GDPR has firmly embedded itself. And while the majority of SMEs (92%) with a CRM or other database were aware of the need to clean and update or delete their data, there are a proportion (25%) who remain behind the curve and who are still not running the necessary cleaning or updating processes required by GDPR, demonstrating that there’s still room for improvement.

For those who are keeping their data clean and up-to-date, it’s important to keep in mind that data should still be sourced from a reputable supplier so that compliance with the GDPR is maintained.

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