All posts by Anita Brearton

European privacy laws are coming – what will they mean for you?
November 6, 2017 Customer, GDPR

In 199 days, the GDPR becomes law, changing the relationship between marketers and the EU consumers they target.  Any company targeting EU consumers must be compliant with these new regulations or face a hefty fine.

But what is compliance?

General Data Protection Regulation

The European Union has passed a new privacy regulation, GDPR, that goes into effect May 25, 2018. Its main objective is to protect the data of EU consumers that has been collected online for business purposes – data that marketers use to serve ads based on location, age, gender, and other psychographic data that in combination paints a rich picture of each consumer and allows very specific targeting of marketing messages and promotions.  For the marketer, personalized targeting leads to better conversions and revenue growth; for us as consumers, the goal is to present meaningful, actionable content that we personally care about.  There’s a great deal to like about being told a pair of women’s running shoes in my favorite color and my size is on sale within a mile of where I’m standing.

The price of that convenience, being told there’s a sale nearby, is however, personal data privacy. Multiple databases across a variety of companies hold, maintain and in many cases, sell detailed profile information about individual consumers. For many, this is becoming increasingly uncomfortable due to concerns about privacy and hacking. The GDPR is being introduced to put EU consumers in control over their data that is collected by companies for business purposes and a mechanism to insist that the information is deleted.

Unless your business never touches an EU consumer (even accidentally), you need to be on top of these regulations and putting processes in place to address the requirements. Some specifics are still being fought-over, but in the 261 pages of the regulation, there are basics you – and your data provider, the vendors of the software you use to collect and store information — have just a few months to address.

As a marketer, you need to offer

  • Very clear opt-in consent to collect data. Silence or ambiguity is not allowed.
  • Communication. If there is a breach of the data you hold, or with the vendor holding data for you, you need to notify customers within 72 hours.
  • You need to be able to hand over all the data you’ve collected on a customer, if requested by that customer.
  • You and your vendors must erase all data on that customer if he or she asks to be forgotten.

The penalty is steep. The largest fines for violations are 4% of annual global turnover or €20 million, whichever is greater, but even the smaller fines are designed to cause pain to ensure enforcement.

Critical to managing this process is having an understanding of the sources of your customer data and where it resides, and having a mechanism to manage customer data efficiently.  It’s important that your entire data supply chain be compliant and if there are pieces of that supply chain that aren’t, that you don’t transfer any EU consumer data to them.  If you leverage 2nd and 3rd party data from multiple sources, you may want to consider working with a data orchestration or management vendor that has built-in tools for managing GDPR compliance.

Add to your list of issues the pieces still in the air:

With what customer are you compliant? If your customer is a French citizen working in Mexico and your servers are in the U.S., do you need to be GDPR compliant? The law says… maybe. Section 14 of the law says it applies to all natural persons regardless of nationality or place of residence, and Section 23 says the law applies to data subjects “in the Union.” It’s still unclear whether a Frenchman in Mexico City or an American in France can demand GDPR compliance.

Who ensures compliance? Under the law, a Data Protection Officer needs to be named by your company if it is big enough, but the three government entities involved with the law are not in agreement what that “big” metric is.

Whose law do you follow? GDPR was written to allow European states to stand as one for consumer privacy, but it has been rewritten enough that it is unclear who is enforcing the law. Add to that fact that the new regulation is clear that if a European state makes a stricter law, marketers must abide by that stricter law for that country’s citizens. So you could have to follow GDPR for all EU countries, and stricter laws for Germans and those living in Germany.

The marketing technology community is just beginning to understand what this will mean.   If you haven’t started thinking about this now is the time!

  • Identify who in your organization will be responsible for GDPR
  • Familiarize yourself with the regulations
  • Establish an action plan for data sourcing, management, retention and delivery.
  • Make sure that you have the appropriate opt-in mechanisms in place for data collection.
  • Ensure that you have the means to deliver a report if requested that shows exactly what data you have compiled on an individual and how it is being used.
  • Establish a process for deleting profile data if requested.
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Marketing and the Motorway Rest Stop in Birmingham, England
September 13, 2017 CabinetM Commentary

I was born in England in the BPC Period (Before PCs) and immigrated to the US with my family as a child. Since then I’ve had one foot in each county and regularly travel back to England to visit with family. I’ve just returned from my most recent trip, but this trip was different; we planned it as a vacation instead of just a family visit. This meant that instead of spending most of my time on my laptop in front of my father-in-law’s TV listening to my favorite BBC show “Homes under the Hammer” and his favorite show, “Judge Judy,” while I continued working remotely, we actually planned day trips to Wales and the Lake District and transformed ourselves into energetic tourists.

When you are a startup founder it’s hard to think about taking a vacation. You spend every day trying to be as productive as possible in order to move the company forward while carefully managing investor capital. Sheryl Schultz and I spent so much time together in the early days of CabinetM that our husbands suggested we think about buying a multi-family home together when we both sold our suburban homes in order to move into Boston where the company was located. That way we could spend more time working and less time commuting. It was a joke – but not really. As anyone who has walked this path will tell you, with a 24/7 work week, you eventually hit a wall and find yourself permanently tired and lacking much of the creativity that propelled you into the startup journey in the first place.

This year we decided it had to be different; Sheryl went on a cruise and a short trip to Paris. I have just returned from ten days in England and France. Though we both remained tethered to email and texts, we left the big projects behind, trusting each other to sail the ship while the other recharged. These vacations are good for the soul and our health but also very good for CabinetM. There’s the obvious benefit of each of us coming back to work re-energized and clear headed. But I also realized an interesting secondary benefit from having the time to breathe and take in new surroundings; I started to see inspiration in all sorts of places which led to periods of pleasant (aka non-stressful) thinking about long term company strategy and the evolution of our industry.

My first moment came early in the trip. Our pattern is to take the day flight from Boston to London, rent a car and then drive three hours north to my father-in-law’s house in Cheshire. We always stop in or around Birmingham for a cup of tea at a motorway rest stop. Since on this trip we were traveling with my sister and brother-in-law, I was already relaxing into vacation mode when we hit the rest stop.


Targeting relies on figuring out exactly where your target customer is likely to be.

After a delicious cup of tea, I made my way to the ladies room ahead of the last leg of the trip. On the back of every stall door in the ladies room was a print advertisement for Diarrhea medicine. It made me laugh and I immediately took  a picture to show my family. Once I stopped chuckling it suddenly hit me how perfect the placement of the ad was; it was a brilliant piece of non-digital micro-targeting. The brand had figured out exactly where their target customer was likely to be. I realized that I always think of micro-targeting as a completely digital exercise driven by in-depth data analysis when sometimes it can be as simple as identifying the prospective customer, understanding where they congregate and then putting the right information in front of them at the right time. Micro-targeting can be effective at both ends of the data continuum as long as you know who your prospect is and where they hang out. Going forward, I’ll keep that in mind for both our marketing efforts and in how I think about digital transformation. If the desired end state for digital transformation is transforming marketing into an anticipatory service that provides you with the information you need before you realize you need it, there are a lot of non-digital ways to assist in that transformation.

Another great moment came while driving through my husband’s hometown. We came across one of a chain of liquor stores, called Bargain Booze. As we drove by the store we looked at each other and said “perfect.” It was a branding triumph. We knew exactly what they sold and what their value proposition was. This resonated deeply with my husband since just before vacation he’d participated in an exercise with a branding agency to name a new building on the college campus where he teaches. The agency came up with a number of clever names but when they employed a focus group of students to assess the various names, many of the students responded with “why don’t you just call it what it is” rather than a clever name that we may not remember. It makes you think about how much time and energy we spend coming up with the perfect (and often bizarre) company names instead of something that is descriptive of the company’s mission.  As the marketing tech landscape continues to expand, it makes me wonder if we should be adopting a different approach to company naming and taglines.

In the end, I found inspiration in lots of different places, and enjoyed having the time to think about our business and industry without deadline pressure.  Now it’s back to reality and to working full throttle until the next vacation.  I’d love to hear about the inspiration and ideas you’ve had while vacationing.

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5 Challenges Marketers Must Face in 2017
December 15, 2016 Uncategorized

Marketing today is a bit like being on a roller coaster — it has its ups and downs, but no one would ever complain that it’s boring.

Marketing is on the front lines of revenue generation and fills a mission critical role in virtually every organization. Living in a chaotic and rapidly evolving environment is both challenging and energizing — and can be extremely stressful.

But in my conversations over the last two years with CMOs, marketing technologists and agency personnel from organizations of all shapes, sizes and industries I can tell you one thing — no one has it all figured out.

Most organizations are convinced they lag behind their peer group when it comes to deploying and managing the performance of marketing technology. The CMO of a Fortune 100 company was embarrassed to admit that her team struggled to manage all of their technology. Believe me — we are all in the same boat.

So as we move into 2017, let’s start by shaking off the anxiety, then roll up our sleeves to tackle the five big marketing challenges we all will face in the coming year:

  1. Managing marketing technology across the organization,
  2. Adapting to a world where reaching prospects is increasingly difficult,
  3. Driving increased customer engagement,
  4. Delivering a unified customer experience and
  5. Measuring marketing performance.

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Marketers: There’s More Than One Way to Skin a Stack
August 4, 2016 Industry

By Anita Brearton,

Marketing leaders are struggling to keep track of all of the tools in use across their organization.

A marketing stack helps CMOs gain an understanding of the marketing technology being used, tested and retired throughout their company. Most marketers start by creating defined layers of key product categories (e.g. email, analytics, social media), which provides the added bonus of generating a tool inventory.   

Analytics, social, CRM, email, marketing automation, lead generation and advertising are the most common stack layers. If you haven’t built your stack yet, start with those categories (I’d also add branding/design, research and perhaps site development/optimization as layers) and start cataloging the tools you use — both free and paid for. 

I predict you will be shocked at how many tools you are actually using. I also predict you will have an “oh s**t” moment when you realize you should have cancelled some tools long ago.    

If all you need is the ability to manage your tools inventory, you can stop here. But chances are, you also need to think about how you can optimize your tool suite and what you need to add to the mix to enhance your marketing program’s productivity. 

Defining the Right Approach: Tactical or Strategic

With a little extra effort, you can leverage your marketing stack as a strategic tool to identify technology gaps, redundancies, drill down into functional problem areas and most importantly, serve as a framework to support a well thought-out marketing technology roadmap.  

Thinking about your stack in the context of your company’s business and marketing objectives, and aligning the structure of your stack with those objectives will quickly reveal if you have an adequate arsenal of tools to achieve your performance goals against each objective.   

Every company is different so sadly there’s no one size fits all solution, but there are, however, three high level ways to approach this, all slight variations of one another:

1. The nuts and bolts approach 

Some companies are laser-focused on core metrics, such as revenue growth, customer retention, demographic expansion and product mix revenue, so they structure and direct all marketing efforts at those. You can go two ways here: 1) Align the stack with each objective representing a layer or 2) Create a stack for each objective and define layers that relate to the activities needed to achieve those objectives.

2. The buyer journey/experience

Companies that focus on the customer journey work to ensure a cohesive experience across all devices and channels. Stacks architected to support this effort might include the following layers: persona/customer intelligence, awareness, consideration, conversion, engagement, advocacy and measurement. They might also include a customer experience layer or several experience layers related to device optimization: online, mobile etc.

3. The sales funnel

The sales funnel shares many of the same characteristics as the buyer journey in that it maps to the steps that transform a prospect into a customer, and ultimately an advocate. The difference comes down to mindset: whether a company orients more towards customer experience or sales process.  

Constructing sales funnel-oriented stacks can take a simple approach: demand generation, conversion, relationship management and propagation, or a much more detailed approach: awareness, knowledge, interest, purchase, activation, preference, loyalty, advocacy. 

Oh and it’s worth pointing out that today’s sales funnel is really the sales and marketing funnel. And when we say funnel, it really looks more like an hourglass now that companies have recognized that engaging and nurturing customers post-sale is essential to maximizing customer lifetime value. 

How Many Stacks Do You Need?

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I know I need a marketing stack but where do I start!?!
March 10, 2016 CabinetM Commentary, Uncategorized

The marketer’s life has changed dramatically over the last few years. Now that we have responsibility for revenue growth, customer lifetime value, cost of acquisition and every customer’s overall experience from the first point of contact to the last, our marketing program and tool mix has become extremely complex.

New technology has given us thousands (yes, literally thousands) of useful and innovative products to use to reach and engage prospective customers.   That’s the good news.  The bad news is that it’s increasingly difficult to figure out what to use, what to integrate and what to jettison.  With marketing teams using as many as one hundred tools at any given time, it has become virtually impossible to track what is in use and what is being tested.  In a large enterprise, this problem is magnified as distributed marketing teams try to stay abreast of each other’s learnings.

Building a marketing stack is a great way to start addressing some of these challenges.   In the same way that engineers visually showcase the tools they use in the form of a “stack” to create a picture of the strength and complexity of their technology architecture, marketers are beginning to showcase their own tools in the form of a marketing stack.  Once the domain of the geekiest marketing technologists, the marketing stack has become mainstream and is quickly becoming an essential component of any marketing strategy presentation.

A marketing stack visually represents how marketing teams use various tools in combination, making it easy to track all the tools being used and tested.  It has other important uses too:

  • Enables functional and regional teams to see what each is doing and to identify opportunities for efficiency and integration
  • Makes it easy to identify gaps in the marketing program
  • Provides a foundation to track spend and performance


Creating a marketing stack doesn’t have to be difficult or time consuming 

Unless you are artistically inclined and feel compelled to create a unique work of art, start with a simple layered topology.

  1. There is no right or wrong way to approach the layers of the marketing stack.  What’s most important is that you align the layers of the stack with the structure of your marketing program, organization and objectives. Some common approaches include:
    • By Function: customer acquisition, engagement, retention, insights etc.
    • By Program Categories: Social, Content, Analytics etc.
    • By Team Structure: function or geography
  2. Once you have your layers in place, you simply start adding names or logos of the tools that you are currently using into the stack.  If you have lost track of what you are currently using, then leverage sites like Builtwith or Ghostery who detect code snippets on your site and can give you a list of technology in place – of course this doesn’t pick up the tools that are not embedded, but it gives you a headstart.
  3. Now annotate with the following information:  Function of each element, spend on each element. Over time you can also add in performance information.
  4. Finally, identify points of integration between key elements of the stack.

Note: CabinetM’s MyStacks makes it easy to create, annotate and share stacks.  Be sure to check out our free, simple-to-use MStack Configurator!


Finding new products for your stack

Today there are thousands of marketing tools that can be leveraged across the entire span of the marketing program; the CabinetM directory now has more than 5000 tools, in hundreds of categories.  With so many tools, tool discovery can be daunting.  Once you have a baseline stack in place, you can use it as a framework to identify where new tools are needed and quickly focus on areas to explore.  There are a lot of excellent resources to tap:

  1. CabinetM lets you search and compare tools across hundreds of categories – of course we always recommend you start with us!
  2. Review sites like Trust Radius give you access to the wisdom of other marketers who have had first hand experience with hundreds of marketing tools.
  3. The Marketing Technology Landscape created by Scott Brinker provides an overarching map of the entire marketing landscape, which can help identify areas that may not have been considered.
  4. MarTech Advisor and The Hub track the latest happenings in Marketing Technology.
  5. Peers are one of the best sources of guidance.  I’m a big proponent of sharing marketing stacks to mutual benefit.
  6. There are thousands of agencies (see Agency Spotter) and industry analysts/consulting services (Forrester, Sirius Decisions) willing and able to help you narrow your selection and qualify new tools if you prefer to leverage outside resources.


Don’t stop at one stack

Once you are comfortable with the process for creating a stack, you can leverage the same taxonomy and create stacks to track tools being tested or do a deep dive on a functional or product category.  You’ll find stacks provide a useful communication vehicle for collaborating around technology strategy and roadmap.


Test and test and test some more

Leading marketing technologists will tell you that the best path to achieve revenue, cost and engagement goals is through continual refinement and evolution of your marketing mix. Testing new tools is a mandate.


Share the love

In my experience, marketers are very generous with their expertise and more often than not are willing to help out another marketer.  A few years ago when I was running an ecommerce company, we routinely picked up the phone and asked our competitors and peers about their experience with a wide variety of tools.  Within the CabinetM MyStacks environment you can share your stacks privately with friends and team members and also with the greater community by sharing to StacksUp.  When you share to the community, you have the option to share anonymously.  I’d like to encourage everyone to share as much information as feels comfortable.  If everyone starts sharing, think how great it will be to be able to see what companies of your size, type and industry are using.  The secret sauce is in the campaigns and strategy you’ve layered on top of your technology – letting someone see your collection of tools won’t give away the keys to the kingdom.  Engineers do this routinely and, in fact, often make code available to fellow engineers.   We’re hoping for some of the same peer assistance in our environment!

Finally, if you have experience and expertise to share around creating an effective marketing stack, please send us an article for StacksInsights.

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