The new year is a time to look ahead and forecast industry trends for the upcoming season, with fresh culinary, floral, and design concepts taking precedence. Yet, beyond the familiar perimeters of the special events community, emerging trends in other industries are positioned to affect service-based small businesses profoundly.
One such shift is seen in the increased attention to privacy regulations and how companies collect, track, and store consumer data. Many small businesses have grown accustomed to the ease of robust targeting, extensive tracking, and lenient rules surrounding data collection. After all, these features allowed for easy, low-cost marketing.
However, a heightened awareness of privacy concerns has led to an overhaul in how we treat data as lawmakers set new online standards with measures like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).
So, what does this privacy-first revolution mean for small business owners? As we head into 2023 and beyond, expect massive changes to how we advertise, track user information, and store data—all of which may present far-reaching effects for the special events industry.
Here’s a look at what will change and how you can adjust your business’ marketing strategy to stay ahead of the game.
Privacy & advertising
The first privacy laws arose in the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2016, as governments learned that third-party agencies could access and use data from the internet to laser-target people on Facebook (now Meta) for nefarious purposes.
However, it wasn’t until Apple released iOS14 in 2021 that forced Meta to address growing privacy concerns. With the new system, Apple refused to recognize Meta Pixels on websites, effectively limiting the ability to retarget website traffic sent from Meta. Likewise, it is increasingly difficult to create reliable lookalike audiences, and Meta has eliminated hundreds of user interests, undermining the efficacy of interest targeting. All these changes mean one thing: Event professionals must adapt by creating an algorithm-proof marketing strategy. Rather than rely on the ever-changing nature of technology, go back to basics and focus on your marketing message. Messaging has the power to attract and compel people to do business with you, standing the test of time no matter how technology changes.
Specifics reign supreme when it comes to marketing messaging. Call out your ICA (Ideal Client Avatar) directly in your copy, making it clear to your audience that you’re speaking to them. Then, talk about what you do differently for that particular audience. For example, if you are an adventure photographer, write your ad copy to “adventure-loving couples” and highlight your wilderness safety certification or knowledge of national park regulations.
While you may not have control over targeting, rest assured that Meta’s algorithm continues to work behind the scenes. As you refine your messaging and engage the right people, the algorithm will learn and deliver your ads to more qualified audiences.
Action Task: Revisit your marketing messaging and update ad copy to pinpoint your ideal client’s wants and motivations.
Privacy & website analytics
New privacy regulations have also impacted how we track and collect data, so business owners can expect a significant change in how they evaluate web traffic. As the global community goes in a privacy-first direction, Google announced the end of universal analytics in July 2023 as they transition from Google Analytics to GA4.
It’s important to note that GA4 is not an upgraded version of Google Analytics but rather an entirely different platform. Unfortunately, you will not be able to transfer current analytics data to the new GA4 platform. When July rolls around, the current system will stop collecting data, and in December 2023, everything will be erased. If you don’t download and back it up now, you will lose all your historical website data.
To get ahead of the curve, start using GA4 right away—the sooner, the better. It doesn’t collect as much data out of the box, so it will require more setup. However, you can learn about GA4 to DIY your setup or hire an expert before July 2023.
Either way, it’s better to set it up now and collect some data (even if you’re not using it) than risk losing data at the last minute. Website analytics can inform better marketing decisions, so you don’t want to lose valuable insights!
Action Task: Download and back up your Google Analytics data. Then, create your GA4 account and start using it immediately—even if you plan to continue using Google Analytics until July 2023.
Privacy & Data Tracking
From email opt-ins to CRMs, many small businesses capture information about people before they even become clients. In the past, it was easy enough to overlook privacy guidelines and track data in the easiest way possible. Going forward, this laissez-faire approach won’t cut it. Instead, small businesses must pay greater attention to data consent, collection, storage, and protection standards.
Every business owner should familiarize themselves with the regulations on data tracking, but here are a few essential rules to get started:
- It should be as easy to opt out of data collection as it is to opt in. Don’t hide the ‘x’ on your pop-ups and make it simple to restrict cookies. Transparency is key.
- Confirm knowledge of where user data is stored and how to erase it. You must be prepared to remove data from your database if requested.
- Review privacy policies and guidelines for third-party platforms, like CRMs, email marketing systems, and invoicing software. Determine your rights and obligations if a user makes a complaint or request for data erasure.
- Develop a company policy for third-party data breaches. For example, how will you address the situation if your CRM database is hacked?
Action Task: Work through the list above to prepare for data-related inquiries. Read up on new regulations and stay informed about industry developments.
Many changes are on the horizon; unfortunately, small business owners will face new challenges as they navigate the new digital landscape with privacy at the forefront. The days of touch-free data tracking and simple marketing are ending; it’s time to get back to the basics of strong messaging with a people-first approach. As privacy trends evolve and mature, they will undoubtedly influence all small businesses, so get a head start and address these matters before facing issues with data violations.
Christie Osborne is the owner of Mountainside Media, a company that helps event industry professionals’ brands develop scalable marketing strategies that bring in more inquiries and leads. Christie is a national educator with recent speaking engagements at NACE Experience, WIPA and the ABC Conference. Christie regularly shares industry insight in her Catersource column, as well as on SpecialEvents.com, Wed Altered, Risingtide Society, WeddingIQ and NACE’s industry blog.
See Christie Osborne live and in person during her sessions at Catersource + The Special Event!
- Future-proof Your Marketing: How to use analytics & data for sustainable success
Tuesday, March 28 at 10:00 a.m.
- Put Your Heart into It: Secrets to creating an emotional connection with your ads
Wednesday, March 29 at 3:30 p.m.
- What Veteran Marketers Want You Know, But Are Too Polite to Say
Tuesday, March 28 at 1:15 p.m.
- Marketing Masters 2023: Effective Marketing Strategies for Wedding and Event Professionals
Thursday, March 30 at 12:30 p.m.