Popia: Here's how companies can lead the way to new business – legally

Business-to-business lead generation to identify and attract customers is essential, but if done wrong, it could put companies on the wrong side of Popia.

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First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.

Google might have delayed blocking third-party cookies until at least 2023, throwing online marketers a bone for now, but in South Africa they need to be on their toes when using personal information to avoid falling foul of the Protection of Personal Information Act (Popia) in their “quick win” lead-generation efforts.

Third-party cookies, which gather browsing data from websites such as geographical location, shopping behaviour and other information, present threats to privacy concerns from both a Popia and General Data Protection Regulation (or GDPR, the data protection law in the European Union) perspective.

Ever wondered whether your phone or laptop is listening to you? It is – via cookie tracking. Some are necessary for good user experience and proper web function, while others, which can be disabled, allow for a personalised user experience.

Individually, cookies do not track personal information data about individual users, but when bundled with other related cookies, they are used to create online “personas” that can predict behaviours and seek out trends in browsing.

It’s a powerful weapon in a marketer’s arsenal, as the information gleaned can be used to target advertising to specific users and provide information to lead-generating companies that sell “leads” on to other businesses. Whether or not those convert into sales is key.

Section 11 of Popia says that personal information may only be processed if the data subject gives consent; if it is necessary to carry out actions for the conclusion or performance of a contract to which the data subject is party; if it complies with an obligation imposed by law on the responsible party; if it protects a legitimate interest of the data subject; and if it is necessary for the proper performance of a public law duty by a public body.

For lead generators, this means they must have permission from the client (or “responsible person” consent in a company) to pass on personal information.

But they can still use cookie tracking while staying Popia compliant – provided users give explicit consent, which many do anyway while browsing websites.

Some browsers have already cracked down on cookie usage: Firefox and Opera block third-party cookies by default, Safari prevents intelligent tracking and Chrome al- ready allows for cookie management.

Third-party cookies might be on their way out, but marketers always have other options, which may include more proactively reaching out to consumers to get them interested in products or services, instead of only relying on creating and distributing content that draws people to your websites.

These include outbound email marketing and newsletters, which remain an effective tool for sales teams, LinkedIn marketing, SMS and web campaigns, and even cold calling.

Darren Leishman, the founder of digital marketing agency Spitfire Inbound, believes marketing and sales want the same thing: quality leads that convert. When they have enough time, they can set themselves up for a slow and steady win, with a long-haul strategy, lead nurturing and a cohesive, cross-platform customer-centric approach.

But some customers need fast conversions without waiting for their inbound strategy to mature.

Leishman says if businesses are able to help their customers along a journey to purchase, and they see value in that, “they will buy from you readily and … regularly”.

“That, for me, is the fundamental difference between lead generation, as it is often referred to where you buy a list of names, and inbound marketing, which brings highly relevant and well-qualified prospects to you through content, and through helpful information that you put on your digital platform.”

Leishman, who champions a longer-term strategy of inbound marketing (a method of marketing that relies on pulling new clients in, rather than pushing your products and services at them) over quick-fix strategies such as lead generation, believes a goal-oriented campaign provides a solid base, but warns that generating thousands of leads, very quickly and easily, is meaningless and wasteful if they do not convert into business. It’s a risk for small businesses too, as they might be swayed by promises of leads that do not convert into sales.

Marketing and sales intersect broadly with each other, he notes, and the teams need to be working closely together to understand what a good lead is.

Simply marketing on LinkedIn, Facebook or Google ads doesn’t work if it is done in iso- lation and not as part of a bigger strategy.

“I believe, and always have believed, in integrated marketing. So, nothing that you do in the world is in isolation. You have to meet your customers where they are. If that means that they’re online, they’re on Facebook, then be on Facebook. If they’re on LinkedIn, do your research and know where they are before you determine the medium; don’t base it on assumptions. If it means do- ing it by email or WhatsApp, use whichever the customer prefers engaging with.”

Jarred Mailer-Lyons, the head of digital marketing at The MediaShop, says while they partner with customers to assist with lead generation, they prefer to nurture leads and make sure they work “through the funnel”, which follows awareness of brands to purchasing goods or services. Marketing funnels allow companies to understand customer needs in every stage, optimising their marketing efforts and generating more sales.

“It’s really about creating awareness upfront and then tracking the data, understanding the habits, the browsing behaviours, all of that, and then taking them on a journey with us.

“It’s about how we remarket to them later down the line.” In the long run, it is about how to give their customers the best returns, says Mailer-Lyons.

“It’s about understanding their objectives: is it for a sale, is it a conversion, is it an awareness drive? We ask how we are going to achieve it through a strategy. We develop a full-on strategy that works through the full funnel, so right from the top, and through to conversion.” DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for R25 at Pick n Pay, Exclusive Books and airport bookstores. For your nearest stockist, please click here.

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