With GDPR being talked about so much, I thought I’d give a quick breakdown as to what this means and how it affects your business.
(Note: even if you’re a marketing agency, you can be held responsible for marketing done using data that is not GDPR compliant)
Let’s begin by answering “what is GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation)?”
It’s a European law taking effect on May 25, 2018 which essentially says that we are all global digital citizens and we should all own our individual data. Meaning, if you or I visit a site, we should have full control of the data they collect from us. Sounds simple and makes sense, right?
There’s three main points to GDPR that I’d like to focus on:
1) We, individually, should KNOW the company has our data and what sorts of data they have on us. This means that when you go to a website, you should know they are collecting your data. Even further, GDPR laws say that you should have to give the consent to do so BEFORE they collect.
WHAT THIS MEANS: The opt-in is crucial and is the main problematic part to all of this. If you have a Pixel on your site, I or any visitor, need to give permission before the pixel fires. If you’re using ecomm platforms like Shopify, that’s impossible. By the time they visit the site, your pixel already fired. Same with almost every other website or platform in the world. There seems to be ONE solution and it’s an ugly one: A landing page with no pixel before they get to your website which has an opt-in. If the user accepts, they go to your site and the pixel tracks them. Can you imagine a landing/opt-in page before every website you ever go to?
Formula 1 main website GDPR opt in.
2) You should be able to ACCESS the data they’re collecting and have the right to CHANGE or DELETE it. For example, if you order a green hat for $19.99, you should have the right to ACCESS that info and have it CHANGED to a blue hat for $4.99 or DELETE that info all-together. Even if you visit a news or media site, you should have the right to change any data they have (age, sex, location, etc) or delete it.
WHAT THIS MEANS: Right now, there’s a major problem – How is that even possible? Does this mean every customer or website visitor has the right to call every business and ask for it? If so, how does a company even comply?
Going even further, from a marketing/marketer standpoint, it’s a lot more complicated. Suppose you run Facebook ads and you make an audience of Website Visitors in the last 30 days. If an individual complains they want you to delete their data, you would also have to remove it from the Facebook audience as well. you’d also have to remove it from any Lookalike Audience made too!
3) You have the right to know WHAT THEY’RE USING YOUR DATA FOR and FOR HOW LONG.
Most people are just assuming that GDPR affects only the European Union but it’s just simply not the case. Let’s use the NFL (National Football League) as an example. They have visitors come to their site from across the world. They have 3 options:
– Comply with GDPR,
– Restrict access from anyone in the EU or
– Not care and say “we are an American entity that does not abide by European law”.
Since we’ve explained earlier that to be fully compliant by the letter of the law is virtually impossible, that eliminates option 1. Restricting access just doesn’t seem in their best interests so that leaves doing nothing. But what if the EU now says “OK, if that’s the case, we will block all business (ex merch sales) and television rights to our countries”. That’s a HUGE loss of revenue.
As you can see, GDPR is a massive law that affects not just EU citizens but all of us worldwide! Any shop that has an EU visitor (even just 1), or any website period for that matter, needs to be compliant. The problem is, as I’ve pointed out, it’s nearly impossible to be 100% compliant. This opens up the gates for massive lawsuits and class actions since the penalties can be as harsh as up to 4% of a company’s annual global turnover!
So, while the aim is to give digital rights back to its citizens and as data collectors we are responsible to do all this, it’s not practical nor even doable.
GDPR is coming (whether you are ready or not) and businesses and marketers need to be compliant by May 25, 2018. Even if you’re a non-EU company, GDPR is likely going to impact your business and, without a doubt, your marketing.
Surprisingly, I’ve been getting this question a lot from business leaders. They all run successful companies that have done ZERO social media. I’m talking about not even one post. These guys sit across the table from me and ask me if they now NEED to.
The answer is simple … No. You don’t NEED to do anything. Plenty of companies have become successful without posting on Instagram and Facebook. However, the flip side is if you’re doing $10M without it, could you be doing $12, $15, $20M with it? Are you leaving money on the table?
If you’re OK with that, then keep going as you are. You do you. That’s the most important thing. But also understanding the change in the way we do business and the change in the world. As long as you’re not staying still and staying comfortable then that’s OK. Those are the ones that get “disrupted” for refusing to adapt. Those are the companies who become dying breeds.
If you’re a small business looking to grow and compete… you better not be asking this question.
Let’s go back 5 years, to when I took the biggest risk of my life.
I set out to build a t-shirt brand. So I quit my job and went full on, headfirst into one of the most competitive industries out there, and launched True Rivalry. Maybe it was my blindness, lack of experience or naivete that didn’t even make me question certain things — you know, such as the market, the industry — and made me just do.
For those of you who are just starting things for the first time: I envy you.
That die-hard optimism and naivete get lost somewhere down the road. The success, the failures, the happiness, the hurting… they all shape your perspective and chip away at that “I am going to conquer it all” mindset.
OK so last thing I want to do is be a downer, so let me flip it back to the start of my company.
When I first started, people always asked me about my end goal. “What store do I want to my tees to get into that would prove to me that I made it?” Without even thinking, I said Urban Outfitters. Less than 1 year into my business, I struck a deal with Urban Outfitters. Since then, the True Rivalry brand has grown to over 250 stores across North America, picked up a ton of press along the way, and had athletes, celebrities, TV shows and movies asking for the brand. I even private labelled for some major professional sports teams. I don’t say this to impress you, but it impresses me. I have grown something from nothing, and I’m proud of the way I did it.
Today, I’m even more proud of how I’m walking away from it.
Yes, you read correctly.
For the last year, I have not been content. While growing the brand, I always thought that it was the stress and problems of growing a business that was making me feel this way. However, in the past few months, I’ve started to reflect and think about things. Seems I wasn’t content because I wasn’t happy about what I was doing. I lost the passion for clothing.
So, you might be asking: “Dude, WTF are you crazy? How can you walk away from a company that has never had a down year and has experienced annual growth, to start from scratch AGAIN?”
And the other obvious question: what now?
Well, the “HOW” is the more complex answer, so I’ll answer that in a bit.
What now? For those of you who know me well, you know that when it comes to business strategy and branding, I can talk and debate for hours. I grew True Rivalry through social media and I have become a true practitioner. Always playing and always learning. I have consulted and worked with a bunch of companies to help grow their branding, and I’m now making my push to build the ultimate digital media agency (ugh, I hate that word… agency). I’m going to help companies grow their branding EXPONENTIALLY because I truly believe I understand and have what it takes.
So how can I walk away from TR? Simple. You only have one life and sadly too many people wait until something goes wrong to make a change.
I’m personally done waiting. Actually, I’ve been done waiting a long time ago, but I let fear get in my way. What will everyone think? What will my loved ones and close friends think? What if I fail?
But I think I’ve come to terms with the fact that fear is normal and fine, but you can’t let it keep you from doing things you love. You also can’t worry about what everyone else thinks. Eventually, you just have to do.
Look, I’m going to fail. I’ll probably fail every single day. But I also know I won’t stop. I’ll get right back up and go at it again.
I’m also going to document the journey. Too many people think the entrepreneurial life is the good life. The easy life. The beauty of starting from scratch is that I can document the journey and hopefully shed some light on other aspiring hustlers.
It’s a lonely road as an entrepreneur and truthfully, the documentation will hold me accountable. It will also mean getting over insecurities. Putting yourself out there means opening yourself up to a lot. However, the things you’re worried that others will say about you, tend to be the worst things you think about yourself. Now some of you will get annoyed with all the posts and think I’m cluttering your feed. Some of you will unfollow. Fuck, some of you will watch just to hope and wait for me to fail. All of that is OK. (Note: I hope you don’t unfollow. I hope you cheer me on or even better, get inspired.)
As much as I don’t care what any of you think, I equally want you to be by my side.
The biggest lesson I learned in this decision is that if you’re 100% honest with yourself and who you are, as well as your beliefs and values, you really can’t go wrong. You just gotta get out of your head and start doing.
One step at a time.
As I sat down preparing to write this post, I contemplated which topic I should choose to begin this new journey. Although my first instinct was to share my insights on social media and marketing, I felt drawn to write more about what the essence of what this blog is all about — It’s not on anyone else, it’s always on you. It’s about understanding the importance of self-awareness and being able to take full responsibility for your actions and their results.
How quick are owners and management to blame their employees for something not going as planned? Perhaps the assignment was not completed in a timely manner or wasn’t done the way they expected it to be? Maybe an email was too long or too short. Unfortunately, I’ve seen management obsess over the little things and the first kneejerk reaction of many is to place the blame solely on the “inadequacies” of their employees. However, allow me to propose that perhaps it is you who is at fault and the reason for the failure. Could it possibly be that you didn’t set them up to succeed in the first place?
The reality is that we live in an employee centric world (Sadly, way too many employers have yet to figure this out). As owners, we often think that the company will live or die solely on our shoulders but we need to realize that it’s the employees who are the lifeblood of the company. How many employers out there have taken the time to sit down with an employee and discover who they are and what motivates them? The truth is that very few employers devote enough of their time, if any, to understand what motivates their employees. Yet we continuously expect our employees to go above and beyond the call of duty and are frustrated if they are unable to put in the same sort of effort we expect of ourselves. Why should the employee care as much as we do? We have a vested interest to make the company succeed, whereas most employees are just working to get by and care only as much as they are required to get the job done adequately. Maybe we should start creating an environment that rewards employees who rise up and show that they care.
We have to ask ourselves, are we listening to our employees? Are we setting them up on a path to succeed or simply providing enough to coast by? How do we react when our employees fail to meet our expectations? Do we yell at them, demean them, ask them how they could possibly be so dumb (ok, that’s an extreme, but you get the point) or do we look at ourselves first and then sit with our employees to help them do their job better? Have you ever asked an employee “How can I help you do your job better?” Try it and you’ll be amazed at what happens.
There are so many reasons why your employees are not performing to your expectations but you have to understand that it’s most likely your fault. If you want your employees to work harder and care more about your company then it’s time to finally show some interest and start caring about them.
This is an updated version of the article I wrote for Shopify Blog about the success my company True Rivalry has been having. The original can be found here.
Sports apparel is a one of the fastest growing verticals in ecommerce. Sports themed t-shirts, hats, and hoodies are popping up in online stores everywhere. True Rivalry is a successful sports apparel company that sells their goods through their Shopify store. They have steady sales, they’ve had a few of their products go viral, and they’ve garnered a whole bunch of local and national press — all without spending money on advertising.
1. Use Social Media to Reach Influencers:
If you’re not utilizing social media, then you need to start. Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram are great ways to reach out to influential people and celebrities. We did our research on influential sports fans and, simply engaged them on multiple platforms by saying we were big fans and since they were sports fans, they should check out our apparel. Of course most ignored us, but every now and then a celebrity would respond. Since we began reaching out to celebrities and athletes, quite a few have become supporters of our brand and even tweet about our products (see our celebrity following here). We can’t directly relate these posts to sales, but celebrity endorsement does create positive brand awareness and adds credibility to our online store.
2. Give Bloggers Stories andFree Stuff:
Bloggers are always looking for ways to give back to their readers. In addition to good story ideas, offer them promo codes and giveaways they can give their audience. When something big happens in sports, we reach out to team up with leading bloggers and offer them a deal, the return for True Rivalry was an article and a significant increase in sales. We reach out to as many major sports team’s blogs as we can. A lot of emails will go unanswered, but it only takes a couple of replies to make your effort worthwhile.
3. Start Local, Go National:
We learnt this lesson from our mentor, Daymond John (Shark Tank investor and FUBU founder). The problem with a lot of internet companies, and startups in particular, is that they have the tendency to disregard the local press. They believe it’s a waste of time and resources and that it’s more effective to focus all PR efforts on national media. That’s a mistake. You have to crawl before you run. At True Rivalry, we have garnered national press but only after getting local press mentions first. Getting a local paper or television show to feature your story or products is far easier than getting national coverage. Once we laid a foundation of small press mentions, we added it to our press kit and then approached bigger, more influential publications.
4. Give to Charity:
Good karma is a reality. We’ve teamed up with various athletes to create t-shirts where proceeds go to a charity of their choice. It’s something we love to do and not just for press it garners, but rather to support a good cause. It just so happens that it also got the attention of local radio stations and newspapers. Find a cause that resonates with you and team up with them and if it aligns with your brand, all the better. We all know that being a part of your community and investing in it is so much more than good business, it’s the right thing to do.