The shortest guide to B2B data compliance and security

Learn how to navigate the complexities of B2B data compliance and data security while getting the information you need to be a better B2B marketer.
Table of Contents

From website user preferences to customer contact forms, data helps inform common consumer touchpoints and shapes impactful B2B marketing strategies. 

However, with more eyes on consumer data than ever before, governing bodies including the European Union and the United States have enacted strict data security and compliance laws. As B2B marketers begin to navigate the complexities of data security, it’s paramount to remain in compliance with global regulations

In this guide, we’re sharing all you need to know about B2B data compliance and security.

What is data compliance and security in the B2B world?

B2B data compliance and security refers to the formal (often governmental) practices for protecting consumer data against corruption, loss, misuse, and theft. This includes abiding by all regulations that apply to your B2B business, including the proper usage, organization, and storage of all consumer data. 

B2B data compliance is typically split between personal and business data. 

Personal data refers to any piece of personally identifiable information (PII) that can directly or indirectly identify an individual. This data is directly included under the scope of all data compliance legislation, regardless of jurisdiction. 

Examples of personal data include:

  • Real name, username, or identity numbers
  • Email address or IP address
  • Phone number
  • Location 

Business data refers to any piece of information directly connected to an organization, such as a business name or email address. 

Business data is not directly included under data compliance legislation; however, there is a gray area for one-person businesses, like freelancers and sole proprietors. In these cases, business data could constitute personal data if it enables the identification of a single person. 

Likewise, certain business email addresses could be considered personal, such as email addresses that include the name of an employee (i.e. janedoe@business.com). 

As a B2B business, you likely handle a range of personal data — like IP addresses and phone numbers — as well as business data like company emails. Under data security and compliance laws, identifiable data must be protected.

Standard data compliance-related legal terms simplified

PII vs PPI

In an effort to protect sensitive consumer data, you’ll come across a wide variety of legal terms. Let’s simplify some of the more common data compliance-related legal terms in B2B marketing. 

  1. Anonymization: Refers to a data processing technique that modifies or strips personally identifiable information from a data set, such that the data is informative but does not disclose the identities of the individuals represented.  
  2. Personally identifiable information: Commonly abbreviated as PII, personally identifiable information refers to all sensitive data that can be used to identify an individual or disclose their location. 
  3. Personally protected information: Often abbreviated as PPI, personally protected information refers to all non-public sensitive data that’s protected by the government, such as an individual’s social security number, date of birth, and home address or phone number.
  4. Digital identity: Refers to the body of information present online about an individual, organization, or electronic device. Rather than just an online username, a digital identity includes unique patterns and identifiers, like an IP address.
  5. Consent: Refers to an individual’s explicit indication of interest via a written or verbal statement or affirmative action (such as checking a subscribe button). Consent is only valid when an individual is given an opportunity to withdraw consent (such as an unsubscribe button). 
  6. Explicit consent: Refers to data compliance laws that require a written statement or digital note to verify consent. Other types of consent, such as a verbal statement, are more difficult to verify without a clear record and may not hold up against data compliance legislation. 
  7. Unambiguous consent: Refers to an individual willingly accepting terms or conditions that clearly outline the proposed processing of their personal data. Individuals must agree to technical terms or check a box to indicate unambiguous consent. 
  8. Pseudonymization: Refers to a data processing technique that organizes or stores personal data separately from the data subject. This encryption process makes it nearly impossible to identify an individual without the additional data stored in a separate location. 
  9. Opt-in consent: Requirement of explicit consent from an individual before a business can collect and process their personal data. Explicit consent is received by implementing an affirmative action to indicate the consent for processing personal data. For instance, you may ask customers to opt-in to track their online activity for marketing purposes.
  10. Opt-out consent: Refers to the option to withdraw consent after an initial outreach. Opt-out consent typically occurs as a pre-emptive choice, where individuals can uncheck a preselected button; or a consent withdrawal, where individuals can update their preferences or withdraw their permission via an unsubscribe button.
  11. First-party data: Refers to the information collected directly from consumers, such as actions, behaviors, and interests gleaned from interactions with your website, applications, email marketing, or social media pages. 
  12. Second-party data: Refers to information sourced from another organization’s first-party data. Second-party data encompasses similar information as first-party data, just from a source other than your own target audience. 
  13. Third-party data: Refers to information bought from third-party data aggregators that source data on demand. Third-party data is collected and organized in compliance with data security laws and is often not held by the data aggregator, only disseminated.  
  14. Walled gardens: Refers to a closed data ecosystem of consumer information that is managed by an ecosystem controller. Walled gardens limit access to sensitive information. 
  15. Legitimate interest: Refers to a necessity for businesses to only use collected consumer data for matters of importance or things of use to the individual. As a B2B business seeking data, your interest in consumer data must not override the consumer’s rights or interests. 

What are the benefits of compliant b2b data in marketing?

It should be obvious by now that B2B marketers have a duty to keep customer data secure. The benefits of B2B data compliance in marketing, however, may not be as evident to your sales and RevOps teams. 

Take a look at how data compliance serves as a benefit for B2B marketing.

Increased trust with prospects and customers 

At a time when ransomware and similar cybersecurity threats are running rampant, consumers want to know their data is safe with your brand. 

After all, 36% of consumers will reduce their business interactions with a company involved in a data breach while 22% will end the relationship altogether, as reported by Security. Data security and compliance helps build more trusting relationships with your users and keeps them around for longer. As more customers become concerned with how their data is managed (or mismanaged) by companies, it’s imperative to demonstrate responsibility for the sensitive data you store. 

B2B brands that showcase transparency and a willingness to explain exactly how customer data is used and processed come off as more trustworthy to prospects and customers alike. 

Reduced likelihood of data breaches

Data breaches are getting larger and more common than ever before. Consider the Apollo.io data breach in 2018, which exposed 9 million data points. 

You can mitigate a lot of these risks through data compliance. This includes everything from taking the proper precautions to secure your data to running routine audits to ensure your team is following proper data security measures. 

With the SOC-2 certification, B2B sales intelligence tools like UserGems have done their due diligence with the organization and storage of sensitive customer job changes data. This guarantees enhanced visibility into how data is used and any immediate risks. 

Cleaner databases

From customer relationship management tools (CRMs) to sales pipeline software, a cluttered database can significantly derail an effective B2B marketing campaign. 

Fortunately, those compliant with data security laws must audit all data held in the system to properly understand the exact PPI they have available. 

A data audit can help B2B brands declutter the amount of data collected, better organize the details in a usable fashion, and refine the storage process for a cleaner database of compliant b2b data.

Improved brand image

On average, 87% of consumers say they wouldn’t do business with a company if they had concerns about its security practices, as per a McKinsey & Company report

In comparison, nearly ​​half of consumers say they are more likely to trust a company that limits the amount of personal information requested. 

In other words, today’s consumers are not as in the dark about data security as you may think. B2B marketers who prove their dedication to compliance benefit from a better brand image and greater appeal to their target market. 

Compliance with the law

Of course, a primary benefit of B2B data compliance in marketing is compliance with the law. 

First and foremost, there are harsh penalties for brands that fail to comply. Businesses who violate standards established under the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) can face fines of up to €20 million or 4% of their global revenue along with customer lawsuits, for example. 

Secondly, the financial repercussions of noncompliance pale in comparison to reputational effects. Organizations with poor data security — especially those that fall victim to a cyber-attack due to poor security — do not fare well among today’s consumers. 

A whopping 71% of consumers claim they would stop doing business with a company if it gave away sensitive data without permission, according to the same McKinsey & Company report.

A three-point data compliance checklist for evaluating potential vendors

B2B data compliance checklist

It’s common for B2B businesses to source second or third-party data for marketing initiatives. To remain truly compliant in your own business, it’s imperative to confirm that a potential data vendor abides by data security laws when collecting, processing, and sharing this sourced information. Here is a three-point data compliance checklist to use when evaluating and verifying potential vendors. 

1. Learn how the vendor sources their data to verify if it’s compliant with data protection laws

Remember terms like anonymization and explicit consent defined above? Terms such as these play major roles when evaluating the data used by marketing and sales teams. 

It’s essential to learn how a vendor sources their data to verify it’s compliant with data protection laws, such as implementing explicit consent and not disclosing the identities of the individuals represented.

2. Check if the vendor has the required data security, privacy, and compliance certifications

With so many ground rules for compliance, there are now several certifications vendors can acquire to demonstrate data security, privacy, and compliance. 

For instance, check if their business is SOC-2 and ISO27001 certified.  

3. Audit how the vendor handles data to ensure their internal processes follow data protection laws

There are several elements of compliance beyond data collection, including how the data is used once it’s sourced. 

To remain in compliance, all data must be thoroughly audited as well as organized and stored with a type of encryption (such as pseudonymization) to limit the chances of data fraud or theft. Audit all stages of data storage, including migration, analysis, and archival. 

Navigate B2B data compliance and security with ease

Reliable data is an integral part of B2B marketing, and reliable data hinges on adequate data security. Now more than ever before, consumers expect that their data will be safe in your hands. 

How you choose to collect and store this data will either elevate your B2B marketing or inflict severe financial and reputational repercussions. Make sure you stay on the right side of data compliance by doing your research, staying up-to-date on regulations, and working with trusted (and certified) vendors. 

Frequently asked questions about B2B data compliance

1. Does GDPR distinguish between B2B and B2C?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) does not distinguish between B2B and B2C business types; however, B2B businesses do collect a majority of business data, which can fall under a gray area for data compliance. 

For instance, whereas a general contact email for an organization is considered business data that are not directly included under data compliance legislation, an email that contains the name of an employee will be considered personal data protected under GDPR. 

2. Is B2B covered by GDPR?

Yes, the GDPR covers all entities that collect, process, use, store, and disseminate personal data, including B2B businesses. 

Personal data includes any items of information that can be linked to a living person and when pieced together, identify that person. 

B2B businesses frequently collect email addresses, phone numbers, and IP addresses that could identify a member of their data set. 

3. Is company data covered by GDPR?

No, the GDPR directly covers personal data, not business (company) data. Exceptions to this coverage that may constitute personal data include one-person companies that allow for the identification of a singular person and personal data relating to an individual’s business activity, such as an employee’s email address that includes their first and last name. 

4. Is B2B data personal data?

Yes and no. Some elements of B2B data, like a business name or general contact email (i.e. hello@business.com), are not considered personal data. 

Other types of B2B data, such as email and IP addresses or phone numbers that can identify an individual, are considered personal data. Data relating to sole traders or partners are also considered personal data under the Data Protection Act.

5. Are emails personal data under GDPR?

Yes, most emails are considered personal data under GDPR. An email address is included as a type of personally identifiable information that can be used alone or in conjunction with other data to identify an individual. 

Emails that are not considered personal data under GDPR are business addresses not directly tied to an actual person, such as help@businessname.com. 

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