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We say it a lot. It’s in our training programs. We mention it during #StrategyStream. I did a whole 7-part series on it. Here at Grow the Dream, we place a high importance on the ability to track key performance indicators. One of the cornerstones of our strategic marketing approach is tracking measurable benchmarks, including everything from conversion rates to sources of initial contact.

But with recent law changes from the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (EU GDPR) to the California Consumer Privacy Act (“CCPA”) there are now significant limits and outright restrictions to using the easiest tracking indicator, a computer cookie. By the way, California just voted to upgrade to the California Online Privacy Protection Act (CalOPPA) earlier this month.

Oh, and those changes may pale in comparison to Google announcing that it is actively seeking to create a stricter set of privacy standards for the Internet. These will be implemented in their own products – and likely span the rest of the online community. The main thrust – eliminating third party tracking cookies. Apple’s Safari and Mozilla Firefox already have some form of this cookie blocking in place. And both continue to develop their efforts to reinforce privacy and trust.

So what’s a small business to do?

Healthy Snack Alternatives

On the plus side, a survey conducted last year by Marketing Charts in Miami shows that seven in ten businesses still ultimately use email to track their customers’ interest and movement through the sales funnel. And like most small businesses, you’re even more likely to use this method.

Some 43% of business websites utilize cookies – some in addition to emails, obviously. But the businesses that do use cookies may want to look closely at shifting to rely on them even less. Especially since California various law changes are precursors to other state, if not federal regulations soon to arrive.

Larger businesses surveyed appear to be confident that the quantity of data they’ve already amassed will help them continue to identify customers and potential clients easily. Nevermind that this data was largely acquired via cookies, and moving forward will be severely limited.

Both Google and Apple are working on ways to accurate track conversions in a cookie-less environment. And as I mentioned two weeks ago, Amazon already has their own similarly aimed proprietary system in place. There is also a slim chance that Facebook will start sharing its data. Or much more likely, it will force more companies to use a Facebook-oriented login in exchange for their digital identity keys.

Homemade Treats

One thing that is becoming clear to me as more and more regulations are put into place… A strategic marketing approach is more important than ever.

There’s a cycle we see over and over across the generations. It’s not always obvious until you look for it, but if you pay attention, it repeats itself again and again. The most important factor to successful, ongoing sales, in ANY industry, is RELATIONSHIPS.

Let me give you a totally unrelated example from my own life. In addition to my work for Grow the Dream, I am an actor and a screenwriter. I moved to Los Angeles in 2012 to pursue my creative endeavors. I had a couple of acquaintances, which led to a small, unpaid job. But more than half of the acting and writing jobs I’ve had since then I can directly track to people I met at that job the first two weeks I was in town.

In the old days, sales were closed by a handshake. As the internet and other messaging systems built up, making it nearly impossible to breathe or think without encountering a marketing message, people turned to relationships. Social media started spanning the globe – and word of mouth became the most important aspect of attracting customers (once again). We call it different names – referrals, recommendations, word of mouth, built trust… but they all describe the Power of Relationships for success.

Guess what? That’s still going to be true. We tried to sidestep it, create tracking algorithms and fancy keyword cheats. But none of that worked as well as Relationships. With the cookies crumbling, it’s time to go back to basics – “This is a football.

Organic Options

Don’t get me wrong – we still need to be businesses. Businesses need to grow. And to grow, we need to build NEW relationships. Relationships are built on knowledge, value, reliability and trust. You build trust by providing overarching value – especially when it’s free.

Free added value options can be in the form of Lead Magnets, educational blog posts and free teleseminars. Something you give in exchange for an email or phone number. The potential client gets something they can use and benefit from – even if they never do business with you again. You have a way to follow up; a means to remind them that they don’t have to go it alone.

Even if someone comes to your site and never returns or buys anything – they can become a referral source. A friend, neighbor or colleague of a one-time visitor needs something your company can provide. Luckily, that visitor has a lead magnet with your contact info – instant new customer.

Of course, organic search traffic is also hopefully a factor for your business. Whatever Google eventually comes up with to replace the cookie-tracking ad experience, you still need to create consistent content. Content that provides solutions to the questions that your ideal customer is asking. Relationships and trust are slowly built. But gradually potential clients become a customer, advocate, then evangelist for your company.

Yes, cookies may be going away. But the heart of strategic marketing isn’t. It’s as true today as it always was, and ever will be. If you need help building your strategic marketing approach or finding additional content for your website, please reach out. We’re here to help you Grow Your Dream.