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How Fujitsu mastered GDPR with Marketo as its 'compliance angel'

Phil Wainewright Profile picture for user pwainewright August 5, 2019
With GDPR looming and a rising need for personalized contact with B2B buyers, Fujitsu consolidated a diverse marketing landscape on Marketo as its global system

Guardian angel with sword in heavenly light © Pemaphoto - shutterstock

When IT giant Fujitsu decided to standardize on a single marketing automation platform across its global organization, its goal went beyond simply improving performance. This was an opportunity to optimize customer data and provide more consistent and personalized experiences across a diverse B2B customer base. With GDPR looming, it also provided essential controls that the marketing team discovered were lacking from its existing CRM system, as Senior Marketing Specialist Tim Creak explains:

Before we had Marketo, our CRM was being viewed as a single source of truth. And we already found from activities, both pre-, during and post-GDPR, around how we're trying to assess where our data sits, that actually, it wasn't the source of truth.

The trouble was that not all of the data that determined whether an individual could be contacted for a specific purpose was held in the CRM systems. So the new Marketo Engage system has become the system of record for GDPR compliance. This means it can act almost like a "guardian angel" that is constantly watching for potential issues, says Creak.

Through the rules and the permissions that we can build in there, we know we are absolutely GDPR compliant. We know without a doubt that, when we're executing a campaign or a nurture journey or anything that's outbound to our customers, from that integrated approach we know that, even if there is a 1% chance that someone's accidentally got into an audience selection in our CRM, we know Marketo is going to cut it off right before it goes out. So it's almost like it is our additional safety angel from that perspective.

A marketing transformation

The story begins more than two years ago, when Fujitsu decided that its disparate marketing landscape needed a radical overhaul to prepare for the future. In the EMEA region, there were more than thirty country operations, each of which operated more or less autonomously in terms of marketing technology, processes and channels. With an increasingly globalized marketplace and GDPR fast approaching, a different approach was needed, says Creak.

It became very clear to us as an organization of our scale, if we wanted to continue to be able to engage with our customers in a transparent and responsible way, we had to change the way we were actually doing it ...

We've got all of these different stakeholders in thirty or more different countries, using different platforms, different processes, different approaches. Some are quite good, some weren't quite as good as others, but it was clear there was a massive need for consolidation and a kind of reimagination or transformation of those processes and those technologies.

There were two main facets to this transformation. First of all there was the data consolidation — migrating over a million customer contact records from over thirty different sources. Secondly there was a need to bring consistency to the customer experience, so that the brand would have the same look and feel in Spain as in Germany, for example, and in every other country.

Setting standards for marketing communications

At the same time as standardizing at a global level, it remained important to cater for cultural and linguistic variations between countries. This is especially pertinent when personalizing communications, since it's very easy to come unstuck with an incorrect greeting, says Creak.

We really got in deep with stakeholders in those countries to understand how their customers expected to be communicated with, what's the standard.

Germany is a great example. We make sure that when our personalization goes out to any of our German customers, we have solutions built in Marketo now, that enable us to populate the correct salutation or gender-based greeting every single time.

We want to really connect, engage here. And we've made sure we do everything possible to reduce the risk that we get this wrong.

All of this began more than a year before GDPR came into effect, so that marketing teams across the region would have time to adjust to the significant changes being introduced. It meant a big change to what they'd been used to, explains Creak.

We're effectively saying to our organization, we're going to undo and take away a majority of the way that you're used to working for the last ten or more years. That's a significant change for people who are trying to get used to the idea of how marketing will look in what was certainly a massive revolution for our business.

Technology as a personalization change agent

The implementation of Marketo — which is now an Adobe company after its recent acquisition — therefore became an important change agent for the business, rather than simply bringing in a new technology tool.

For the first time, really, we've moved to a position where, instead of having gut-feel marketing, using disparate tools and processes and doing things the way they've always been done ... [we're] moving to a real method of purpose-driven marketing, where we're suddenly able to have all this insight and actually start using it.

The new platform has come into effect just in time to meet rising expectations of personalization and transparency in B2B marketing. Research conducted by Marketo among European marketers and buyers has identified a convergence in behavior between the B2B and B2C sectors, with B2B buyers acting much more like consumers in the way they approach purchases. This means that they have similar expectations around data protection, ethics, and engagement. Having the right data is crucial to maintaining engagement, but it's equally important to manage that data in way that respects the individual's data rights.

Customer preference center

Fujitsu has created a preference center in Marketo Engage to support transparency in a two-way relationship with contacts and customers. The aim is to gather insights to understand customers better and tailor marketing and sales outreach to their interests and needs. At the same time, it gives customers control over that data, with the ability to change, update or remove it at will.

Creak believes people respond well to having that choice of either taking permissions away or adding to them. If they get value from their interactions with the company, they may be motivated to provide more information to further personalize the experience.

After the advent of GDPR, being able to build up that kind of data is invaluable. For most businesses — Fujitsu included — the introduction of GDPR meant that some data was no longer usable, says Creak.

What used to be my marketable universe, my data now to target my customers, has suddenly shrunk. I don't think there's any business that would say, 'OK, GDPR has come in, and actually my dataset's grown.'

Marketo has enabled Fujitsu to introduce data capture methods across web and social presences that gather consent in a GDPR compliant way. This is part of the new world in which Fujitsu, like all brands, has to up its game, says Creak.

It's now up to us. We want to personalize these experiences, and almost make them epic. No matter how we're engaging on these channels, we've got to find a way of making sure the data we do have that's usable, is the highest quality.

GDPR's impact still evolving

Meanwhile, the impact of GDPR is still evolving. A lot of the detail is still open to interpretation, with some countries taking a stricter line than others, says Creak.

It almost puts an expectation now, from a consumer or a buyer perspective, the brands you engage with have to be conforming to this in some way or another ...

I definitely think GDPR has been a foundational catalyst for, not only other countries, but companies and brands and governments and lawmakers to think around, 'How do we implement this? And how do we do this in a way that's going to reflect what the expectations are from the market?'

Fujitsu is having to decide how to implement those rules, but Creak believes it's an opportunity to set its own standards that will help it build trust and deliver a standout experience:

The heart of it is, what is your purpose or intent as a business or as a brand? Are you treating a customer's data with respect? Are you making sure that you're taking every opportunity to safeguard that customer's data, to make sure you're building trust?

As a business, you know, we have we have the challenge of how do we interpret GDPR and apply perhaps additional levels of either consent or transparency to our customers, to really put them in control of what they share with us?

For example, the concept of 'legitimate interest' as grounds for initiating contact where no consent exists is an area that remains ill-defined. Fujitsu has defined its own stance conservatively, says Creak.

We've taken quite a strict stance within our business. We made it very clear from the outset, that we are going to set specific rules, either time-bound rules, or demographic-based rules, of whether or not you've engaged with us as a business in a certain period, to either qualify or disqualify you from this legitimate interest.

So already out of the core consent piece around GDPR, you've got this whole evolution of this legitimate interest idea and what it means for a business.

Improving alignment of marketing and sales

One perhaps unexpected and positive side effect of GDPR has been improved alignment between marketing and sales. In the past, most companies have experienced a disconnect between marketing ops, who have looked after governance of their outreach, and sales ops looking after the operational side of CRM. Building a foundation for privacy and GDPR compliance in Marketo has encouraged a closer relationship between marketing and sales, he believes.

If we're selecting audiences or asking our sales colleagues to either include or exclude or qualify or disqualify their accounts and their contacts into our marketing campaigns or engagement nurture campaigns with Marketo, they suddenly have a much easier way of doing it. And we have a much easier way of validating it to understand if this person is marketable or not, or whether we can include this person or not.

So we're starting to get a lot of alignment around how we mirror that privacy approach. I can see it as almost a milestone or touchpoint to thinking around the longer term strategic alignment between marketing and sales ...

We're going to prove for the first time ever, with that data-driven insight, the credibility and value of marketing to the business, whereas previously marketing is seen as a cost centre. Now we're trying to drive it to be a value centre.

My take

Many organizations have looked at GDPR as an opportunity rather than simply a compliance burden, even though the regulation has made some legacy data unusable because there was no reliable record of consent. In Fujitsu's case, this coincided with a need to consolidate multiple national datasets and processes into a globally consistent whole — another trend that we see across many enterprises.

As Marketo's recent survey illustrates, the driving force for making these moves is an increasing sophistication in the B2B buyer community. Customers expect more continuous, pertinent engagement — it's all part of the wider XaaS effect we've described in other articles, as businesses adjust to managing a continuous digital connection with their customers.

In this new world, data has to be connected and processes need to be joined up. Marketing, CRM and many other systems must adjust to delivering this connected experience, and new systems of record emerge. Fujitsu's concept of making Marketo Engage the system of record for data protection compliance seems a sensible choice to meet requirements that older systems are not equipped to accommodate.

(Updated to include Marketo's relationship to Adobe and current product name).

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