Category: <span>Marketing</span>

RT3 announces special webinar: Virtualizing your roofing business in light of coronavirus

The RT3 special on March 18 features experts in marketing, sales, technology and legal areas who will discuss how to virtualize your business as well as legal ramifications to consider.

Roofing Technology Think Tank (RT3), a group of progressive roofing professionals focused on technology solutions for the roofing industry, announced a special webinar that is open to the industry. Virtualizing your Roofing Business in Light of the Coronavirus is scheduled for Wednesday, March 18 at 5:00 p.m. ET.

During this worldwide epidemic, many owners of roofing companies have questions and concerns about their ability to thrive in this uncharted territory. Join the following experts to hear their insights on how a roofing company can virtualize their business to avoid the inevitable impact of the virus.

  • Host and Marketing Expert: Anna Anderson, Art Unlimited
  • Sales Expert: Ryan Groth, Sales Transformation Group
  • Commercial Roofing: Steve Little, KPost Roofing & Waterproofing
  • Residential Roofing: Ken Kelly, Kelly Roofing
  • Legal Ramification Expert: Trent Cotney, Cotney Construction Law

Register to attend the webinar.

Stay up to date with all RT3 news and events by signing up for the RT3 SmartBrief Newsletter at

About Roofing Technology Think Tank (RT3)
Roofing Technology Think Tank (RT3) strives to find innovative technology solutions to be used within the roofing industry. RT3 provides insights from progressive thought leaders both inside and outside the roofing industry along with practical resources for implementing potential solutions successfully. The organization will encourage and enable contractors to embrace technology as they seek to grow their businesses. With a commitment to disseminate technology advancement information, RT3 will help build the professionalism and appeal of the roofing industry. Learn more at


How to market your roofing company in a digital world

By RT3 member Art Unlimited/Kandi Hamble.

We are living in an increasingly digital world. I can still remember life without the internet, and my how things have changed! Art Unlimited has been around longer than the World Wide Web, and now we find ourselves fully immersed in this fascinating, always changing digital space.

It seems like every day there is a new rhythm to learn, and we often see companies fail to thrive when they don’t keep up. This may seem like a scary monster to fight off, but it can be easier than you think to join the circus without going crazy. All you need is a plan. We’re here to help you with that plan!

Step one: Go digital.

Living in a Digital World

First impressions for your brand were once limited to yard signs, vehicle wraps, flyers, and direct mail – also known in the marketing world as ‘traditional marketing.’ However, when the first website launched in 1991, the marketing world began to shift. Having a presence online is no longer optional—it is necessary to thrive and grow.

Here are four areas we will discuss:

  • Internet Presence – having your own website and having company profiles on third-party websites (such as GMB, Yelp, BBB, etc) is an essential way to manage and share your brand.
  • Fresh Content – major search engines, like Google, give priority to websites which are always updating. Paying attention to your SEO and posting regular, quality blogs can assist in keeping your website ahead of the pack.
  • Social Butterfly – choosing 1-2 social platforms to have a strong presence in can give your brand visibility, and give you a leg-up on your competitors.
  • Paid Ads – having digital paid ads geared towards your dream customer can help you grow your brand and change digital interactions to in-person customers.

Benefits of Going Digital

We must continue to learn new things or risk becoming stagnant. A solid marketing strategy is no different. In the movie Tron, Dumont says, “All that is visible must grow beyond itself, and extend into the realm of the invisible.” Adding digital components to your marketing strategy may seem like growing into an invisible world, but they will give you enhanced visibility to potential customers and raise your brand awareness. Greater brand awareness can then bring you more leads while also lowering the cost to gain them.

Extend Your Internet Presence

If you don’t already, having a presence across the internet is a must to thrive in the competitive landscape of hardworking, talented roofers.

  • Your-domain-dot-com – A website with your company name as the domain is like a business office which is always open. Having your contact information, hours, available services, and photos of previous projects can help a person choose you over a different roofer. Adding one of the many AI bots means searchers can even ask questions – whether you’re manning the phones or not!
  • Third-Party Websites – Creating or claiming your company’s profile on websites such as Google my Business, Yelp, and BBB will give your brand an even further reach. Your information should be the same on each site, as well as your own. This will let search engines know you’re trustworthy so they start sharing your information in searches. It allows previous customers to leave reviews for potential customers to form a positive impression of your business before they even pick up the phone.

Creating Fresh Content

Search engine bots are constantly scanning websites to see what new information there is to be consumed by the billions of people entering queries. According to stats compiled by an internet statics company, Google processes over 7-10 billion search queries a day worldwide, and 15% of those queries have never been searched for on Google before. The algorithms used to find content to answer these searches are changing almost every day.

Is it any wonder that a website drops in search ranking when it is not publishing new content regularly? How can you stay on top of keeping your website current and relevant? The good news is you don’t have to make changes every day! Publishing 2-3 blogs each month about topics you are an expert in can go a long way. If you don’t know where to start or are crazy busy, you can hire someone to write and publish blogs for you.

Working on your website’s SEO value a little each month can also help immensely. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) can seem tricky, but let me explain it this way: Search engines are always on the lookout for answers to the questions they receive. SEO is making a website visible to the search engines (by updating relevant pages with the keywords and content people are looking for)…much like introducing friends at a party!

Becoming a Social Butterfly

Being a social butterfly generally means flitting from event to event, interacting with whomever you meet, and being an asset to the lives you are interacting with. Now, owning that strong social presence could include having profiles on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, or Pinterest, to name a few. We have seen how building a brand on social media isn’t often used by roofing contractors.

What does this mean for you? If you build your brand on one or two social platforms (no need to spread yourself thin!) you could have a presence and be an asset to your community in a place where your competitors aren’t focusing – giving you the upper hand and a pool of leads for your company!

Paid Ads

There is a right way and a wrong way to do paid ads. Knowing who your dream customer is and what they are searching for when they need roofing help can help you dial into where to place your ads and how to word them. As they are tooling around the vastness of the internet and seeing your brand in strategic places, they will start thinking of YOU when their roof springs a leak.

Growing your brand and converting digital interactions to in-person customers is a long-term process. Patience is a virtue, even in this digital age. If you want to learn more about how to include digital marketing in your strategy, give us a call today. Art Unlimited has the experience needed to assist roofing contractors across North America to help them create a solid digital presence and surpass their goals.

Stay up to date on the latest roofing industry trends when you sign up for the RT3 Smart Brief e-newsletter. 

Source: Art Unlimited

5 Reasons To Harness The Tremendous Power Of WordPress

By RT3 member, Art Unlimited.

The Art Unlimited Programming Team has over 29 years of combined knowledge of building websites to fulfill our clients’ needs. We make our websites with WordPress, one of many website-building and content management platforms.29

Currently, WordPress is the largest website builder platform, holding 60% of the market share, which transfers to about 33% of all websites on the internet today. In fact, WordPress’s next closest competitors only hold 6 and 4% of the market, respectively (Joomla and Drupal).

WordPress sites host some of the biggest names, including Sony, Disney, PlayStation, and BBC America, but can handle your small businesses website as well.

There are probably a million reasons for WordPress domination among programmers, but here are the top five reasons the Art Unlimited Programming Team prefers WordPress.

1. Community Keeps it Free

“Free, you say? How can that be? Doesn’t someone need to make money from this?”
WordPress is more than a company; it’s a community. While this may sound hokey, it is very true. WordPress isn’t owned by one single person or business. They like to call themselves an “open source community.” It’s a group of tens of thousands of people who contribute to making the software. Anyone with a programming background can join the community. This community is also readily available for support and questions by its users. They even put on conferences multiple times a year! Once the software is made, it’s free for anyone to use and it is made to be copied.

2. A Plethora of Plugins To Do Practically Anything

The advanced features plugins add to a website are pretty cool. Most are free, but some have a minimal charge. Do you want to sell merchandise on your website? There’s a plugin for that. Do you want to put forms on your website? There’s a plugin for that (we really like Gravity Forms!). How about an event calendar? Yup, there’s a plugin for that also. WordPress has about 20,000 plugins made by the community, and you’re feeling adventurous, you can also try 3rd party plugins!
Before you install a plugin into your website, check the reviews and see what people are saying about it. Look for plugins with 4 stars and over 100,000 downloads to know they are good. You also want to check if the people who made it have a support team for questions. Some plugins are made and forgotten about, so make sure the plugin you pick is still being supported and is occasionally updated (within the last year) by the creator.

3. Own Your Website Files

This is the most exciting feature for our Art Unlimited peeps and something we’re most proud to offer. When we build you a website, we don’t own the files—you do! This is not something offered on any other website building platform. We will gladly host the files on our servers for you, but if you should at some point decide you don’t want us to host them, you won’t have to start from scratch! We can easily transfer them to you so you can continue to have your existing website. Other website building platforms insist on owning your files.

4. Easy to Optimize for Increased Ranking

Keywords and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) are always on our minds. When a website is lacking good SEO and the right keywords, search engines have a hard time finding it — which means customers have a hard time finding that website. WordPress includes an assortment of tools to help you incorporate keywords into your content. They even offer advanced features (plugins) which allow you to write specific metadata and descriptions for your pages. This will help the search engines find your pages, and even possibly move your website up in the rankings.

5. Google Prefers WordPress

According to, search engines like Google and Bing tend to rank websites which use WordPress higher than those which don’t. At one of WordPress’s conferences, Matt Cutts from the Web Spam team at Google presented, and says “WordPress is a fantastic choice, and solves ‘a ton’ of SEO issues, taking care of 80-90% of the mechanics of SEO.”

WordPress is a tried and tested website building platform we are proud to use! It helps us give a higher level of customer service to our clients. We can build custom websites which they own after we have built them. To learn more about our website building and hosting services, give us a call today!

Get the latest roofing technology news delivered right to your inbox when you sign up for the RT3 Smart Brief enews.

Source: Art Unlimited.

How To Manage Your Social Media Marketing

By Art Unlimited.

Did you know that for 45% of consumers, social media is one of the first channels they go to if they have questions or issues?

This fact alone makes it essential to have a strong social presence and digital marketing strategy (after all, they need to see you’re active and engaged). We’re here to help you through the first steps of launching a successful social presence.

Social Media & Your Website

If you’re starting your social media journey because you want it to drive tons of website traffic and conversions, be patient! Social media is, by definition, social. Badly presented sales content won’t make people like you, especially if they don’t know you yet. It’s wiser to start with a focus on brand awareness, customer relationships, and showing your values.

It’s true that connecting your social channels to your website (and vice-versa) will strengthen your website’s SEO and increase website visits, but a successful social media strategy takes time, effort, and consistent engagement to grow.

Get a Handle on It

When you’re ready to start, even if you’re launching only one social channel at a time, try to claim a good username (handle) on any social media platform you may later want to use. Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, etc., are all good places to have a presence. As your brand or business becomes more popular, people are more likely to snatch up the good names and leave you with a long, messy handle.

Why Social Media?

Social media is not only another way to ‘be found.’ According to PwC, “Social networks are the biggest source of inspiration for consumer purchases, with 37% of consumers finding purchase inspiration through the channel.”

If you’re marketing to a younger audience, it’s worth knowing that social is the most relevant advertising channel for 50% of Gen Z and 42% of millennials.


The channel, or platform, of social media you use greatly forms the outcome you will receive from your marketing tactics. Places like Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter can allow you to send indirect messages to long-time customers as well as prospective clients.  The key is knowing what your message is! When you’re creating an account and planning out your content (whether for a week, a month, or a quarter), use this as your starting point:

[Social platform] is where {target audience} can find {what content}. 

A rural resort could fill it out this way:

{Instagram} is where {adventure-seeking 25-35-year-olds} can find out {about our fun vibes and local attractions/activities}

This can be the same for more than one channel, or it can be different for each one! As you watch your audience’s engagement rates, you may find the people you’re picturing aren’t the ones loving your content, and that’s okay too. In the world of social media, where a post rarely matters more than 24 hours, it’s vital to be flexible in your game plan.

If you don’t know which channel (or channels) to choose, start with this general guide:

  • Facebook –  97% of social advertisers chose Facebook as their most used and most useful social media platform in 2018, and Facebook is the second favorite platform for consuming videos after YouTube! Have a lot of video content and a slightly older demographic? Start here.
  • LinkedIn – Recognized as the top-rated social network for lead generation, LinkedIn is especially useful for B2B (business-to-business) companies. Why? It’s chock full of decision-makers.
  • Twitter – How many times have you heard Twitter is going out of style or that people don’t really like it? In truth, Twitter is still growing rapidly and becoming increasingly popular as a customer support channel! Twitter is more of a niche platform than some others, so it may be wiser not to favor this channel if you don’t have a schedule which allows you to engage with your followers in the moment.
  • Instagram – This platform is becoming increasingly popular for all ages, but over half their user base is people from ages 18-24! If you’ve got strong visual content (Instagram is all about photos) and a younger demographic, get started now! 80% of Instagram’s users follow at least one business account. Better brush up on your hashtags!
  • Pinterest – This visually pleasing, unique channel is usually the odd one out in a social media line-up, but 90% of weekly active users are utilizing Pinterest to make purchasing decisions. Also, it’s actually the 4th most popular social media platform in the US! They’re still growing, and they recently expanded their advertising options to make them more versatile for marketers. While your average tweet is relevant for about 18 minutes, content on Pinterest can often last 1-3 months!


Your account is set up, you know your ideal audience, and you’re ready to roll! Except, what do you post? In your social media work, it’s important to strike a balance between fun, educational, and more business-oriented content.

Many social media professionals employ the 5.3.2 rule: for every ten posts you create, five should be interesting content from other sources, three should be educational, non-salesy, relevant information for your follower base, and the last two should be fun company-culture posts.

Unless you have a great deal to deliver to a warm audience, an outright sales call is almost never the way to go. Gain your followers’ trust, teach them how your product can solve their problems, and nudge them in the right direction so they’re free to seek you out when they’re ready.


The number of people who have seen your posts and updates is commonly called the reach of the post. Reach is tied closely to engagement; if people are engaging with your content, the social platform rewards it for being interesting by giving it better reach.

The more people see you on social media, the more people will be drawn back to your website. And even if they don’t convert off the first visit from social, or the second or the third, you’re in the front of their mind. They’re likely to Google your company by name and convert later!


Engagement is when someone interacts with your social media account beyond looking and scrolling by. To engage, they click a link, like a post, retweet, swipe through photos, or comment on your posts. People are on social media to be entertained, so make sure your content appeals to them and encourages them to interact.


You want to post when the most people are online, or just before they get there so your post is already nestled in the newsfeed. On most platforms, you’ll be able to find these activity metrics somewhere in the platforms own insights. While your social channel is new and hasn’t collected enough data to display these metrics, follow a guide, or in general, plan to post in the afternoon between 12 pm and 5 pm (stick to later times on the weekends).

To maximize the flow of traffic to your social media page, get in touch with Art Unlimited to help give you the right marketing techniques to get ahead of your competitors on the web (and on social media!).

Source: Art Unlimited

Ways to Build a Strong Digital Marketing Strategy

By Steve Eastlack, Surefire Local.

Ever wonder why so many businesses struggle with their online marketing? If you think you’re one of those companies implementing tactic after tactic but not quite seeing the results you expected, then you’ve come to the right place. The reason many companies fall short of achieving excellent results from their online marketing is because they lack a clear, smart digital marketing plan. That’s it, plain and simple.

In our recent webinar, ‘LIVE Q&A: Building a Winning Digital Marketing Strategy’, we answered some of the common questions business owners have when it comes to planning and establishing their digital marketing strategy. Below are some of the key takeaways from the webinar:

Learn how to diversify.

Running your business on referrals? Consider this as an accomplishment in itself because it speaks to your brand. However, you don’t want to run your business on a single channel. The solution? You need to diversify. Start by investing in Google Advertising. It is the channel where your ad dollars are best spent on, especially in the first stages of your business growth. It’s the only channel where people are proactively searching for you and the services you provide. Once you start, you’ll find it’s easy to use, easy to learn, and easy to see if it makes sense with regards to your business growth and lead generation.

In addition, don’t forget to invest in a comprehensive, mobile-responsive website. Make use of a content strategy, using blogs, videos and other types of content, to lure leads in and turn them to actual customers.

Identify the platforms that will work for your business.

To know which platforms are best for your business, you need to determine your goals, identify your target locations and know your audience. Some of the platforms you can use depending on your objectives are:

  • Websites
  • Local Search
  • Lead Generation
  • Ratings and Reviews
  • Directory Listings
  • Google Ads/Facebook Advertising
  • Content
  • Social Media
  • Rising Trends and Platforms

Note that not everything might work for your business. Be sure to consult your trusted digital marketing expert to identify the right solutions for your marketing efforts.

Reach out for help.

Contrary to what some people might think, creating a foolproof digital marketing strategy isn’t a simple task. Much like a home improvement project, it requires careful planning, in-depth research and active cooperation with a specialist. Assuming you’ve recently hired an expert to help you with your digital marketing, it pays to know you’ve hired the right team for the job. Here are some of the questions you should ask to your digital marketing partner:

  • How am I doing based on the key metrics we’ve established?
  • How many leads am I getting and how is that progressing?
  • Can you show me the processes you implement to make sure I’m meeting my goals?

By this time, you should already be prepared to build a winning digital marketing strategy for your business. You have the knowledge you need, the assets, and a rough structure in mind.

Source: Surefire Local

3 Virtual Reality applications for roofing contractors

By Michelle Mittelman, AccuLynx.

Virtual and augmented reality games may have originally been developed as entertainment, but are finding new applications across different industries every day. Innovative uses for these emerging technologies are starting to carve out quite the spot within the construction and roofing sectors as a way to help homeowners visualize their projects, and for contractors to provide more accurate estimates and safety measures for their crews.

Roofing Virtual Reality Applications for Homeowners:

The most accessible application of virtual reality in the roofing industry for homeowners is the ability to see products and visualize projects ahead of time without having to visit the store or job site.

It’s not until the project is finished that you know what it’s actually like to stand in the space. By that point, of course, it’s too late to make any meaningful changes. [source]

Technology has already significantly evolved the shopping process for homeowners looking to repaint or re-shingle their homes. Online applications like the GAF Virtual Remodeler are giving homeowners the ability to visualize the changes using actual photos of their home to help them make decisions alongside their contractors, giving them greater control over the process.

Using Technology to Help Educate Customers and Sell Your Services

Roofers who can provide virtual reality tools during their sales process can help homeowners make educated decisions regarding their homes, and ensure that they feel comfortable working with a professional contractor.

Virtual reality can be used to help educate homeowners. GAF’s virtual reality feature includes interactive teaching points that can help explain different roof structures and products to customers. It allows you to point out exactly what is wrong with a roof and actually show homeowners why it is a problem. This feature is helpful in ensuring that homeowners understand what is going on with their home and makes interactions with your client more informative and professional.

After discussing why a roof needs replacing, your sales team can use augmented, or computer generated virtual reality technology to digitally overlay recommended products onto a house at the job site as part of a sales pitch. As part of your customer service model, helping homeowners make informed decisions for their home with the help of virtual reality can give your company an edge when compared to basic paper estimates.

“By engaging clients early on it prevents costly fixes later and keeps clients interested in the project. They can see their vision, they know they’re heard, and they know work is being done. It makes augmented reality in construction a major investment in reducing costs for re-work” [source].

This augmented reality can also be used to the advantage of your estimators and sales team.

“3D modeling acts as a crystal ball, allowing contractors to look into the future and spot errors before they’re made. Simply by exploring the 3D model with virtual reality glasses, [roofing] professionals can spot errors and tweak designs before the work crew starts”. [source]

Offer Virtual Estimates

Another aspect of virtual reality that makes your job easier is removing the problem of scheduling conflicts. Homeowners cannot always be around to meet with someone from your team and vice versa, so it can be difficult to schedule a time when both parties can meet. Some companies are using virtual reality to resolve this problem by offering virtual estimates.

“3D modeling and BIM programs, which made huge advancements in the field of project modeling, can now be adapted to VR tools, to visualize a fully virtual representation of an idea in a new dimension at a relatively low cost point. Put simply, the user sees a 3D display through a headset and can get an ‘all-round’ view by turning their head to the side, up and down”. [source]

A drone operator take images of the house that the contractor uses to create an estimate and leaves behind virtual reality goggles. The homeowner can then use the goggles when they have time to view a virtual tour that explains the estimate. Both your company and the homeowner can do their part when it is convenient for them, resulting in a more efficient process that skips over any messy scheduling

Providing these 3D models to your foreman and crews can also help your team visualize the project before it begins, so they see and understand what the homeowner does –

“Many of the problems found in the construction industry are directly correlated with the inability of field personnel, designers, architects and engineers to truly experience a project before it is built.” [source]

The uses for virtual reality are growing everyday, especially in the roofing industry. Virtual reality allows your company to show what a project will look when its done, educate homeowners with ease, and prevent schedule conflicts, proving its usefulness. Ensure you stay up to date on the newest technology by employing virtual reality at your company today.

Stay up-to-date with the latest roofing and technology news when you sign up for the RT3 Smart Brief newsletter. 

Source: AccuLynx

5 Google My Business tools that contractors should be using

By Surefire Local.

Google My Business has quickly become one of the most powerful tools for a home improvement business. It allows you to easily manage and improve your business’ online presence, helping you attract the right kind of clients across the entire Google ecosystem including Google Search and Maps.

Google My Business Tools for Home Improvement Contractors

1. Google Posts: This feature allows you to create and publish content directly on Google. These Posts show up in the area below your Google My Business listing, also known as your Knowledge Panel. Google Posts allow for FREE views while helping to boost your content, promotions and events. To get the most of your post, make sure to include a picture, message, link, and button type.

2. Services: You can use this tool to highlight what you’re offering to clients, allowing you to add a whole menu of the services that you provide within your Google My Business listing in search results. This is a mobile-only feature (for now at least) and lets you categorize services and add descriptions. This offers a great way to draw the attention of homeowners looking for a particular service provider quickly.

3. Messages: This mobile-exclusive feature offers a new way to engage homeowners you want to interact with your business via mobile text. It comes with a customizable opening message and Google even measures and reports how quickly you respond. A fast response to your mobile audience can help make them interact more with your business.

4. Appointment Link: Make it easy for your prospective clients to reach your business with this handy tool. Setting it up is a piece of cake–just edit the URLs section of your Google My Business Listing and add the link to the correct field.

5. Video: Help homeowners get a clearer idea on how you do business with this new feature. Upload videos about your business to help generate leads. You’ll want to take the videos you upload seriously–they are more memorable than text content and can help increase conversions by up to 80%.

Source: Surefire Local

How to Use Mobile Technology for Your Business in 2019

By Kate Foster, AccuLynx.

Your smartphone can be used for almost anything these days. From ordering food to getting a lift to the airport, there’s an app for it. So why shouldn’t you be able to run your roofing business from your phone or tablet? Here are some ways roofers can make the most out of mobile technology for their businesses.

Marketing with Social Media

Everyone is on social media nowadays, making it one of your most valuable marketing tools. Social media apps can be accessed from anywhere, making them incredibly convenient.

Say one of the jobs you just completed is top-notch work and you want to share it. Snap a quick picture and post it to your Facebook or Instagram page for all your followers (and potential customers) to see. You can also spread the word for events, special promos or new services using social media.

The bonus to these mobile marketing opportunities is the amount of people who will see them. No longer do you have to send out individual emails or snail mail. Instead you can reach thousands with a single post.

Mobile-Friendly Website

Mobile technology is not just for the company end of your business; it can help make your company more accessible to your customers as well. Have you ever clicked on a website on your phone and only part of it pops up on your screen? In that moment it seems like there is no greater annoyance. Help your customers avoid this nuisance by making your website mobile-friendly.

This will potential customers to see your information in the correct scale, so they will not have to scroll and zoom to find what they were looking for. Making your website compatible with mobile devices means you can make the most of technology because it allows for easier usage and accessibility for your customers.

Access Business Information Instantly

One of the largest benefits of mobile technology is that you can use it from anywhere. You can navigate your company’s website, respond to emails and update social media at any time.

Mobile devices also have access to the cloud, allowing you to carry all of your important documents and information with you wherever you go. You’ll never forget a document back at the office or have to lug around heavy paper work again. Having access from anywhere also helps you answer clients’ questions or show them plans on the jobsite, improving your customer service and leading to a happier, well-informed client.

Having the flexibility to work from anywhere and access your information no matter where you are is a huge benefit to your business.

Mobile technology’s ability to simplify the use of your services, connect directly to social media, and provide access to your documents from anywhere make it a must-have tool for your company.

Source: AccuLynx.

Why Data Privacy Just Got Serious for American Websites

By Bekkah Anderson, Art Unlimited.

We have seen pretty much every app developer or corporate business send us an email saying they have recently updated their privacy policy. We’ve even seen those new annoying pop-ups telling us they have cookies, but now, consumer data rules are hitting your business.

As a business owner, is data privacy something to think about?

Two months ago, many people were saying, “Naw, just change your settings to block other countries from viewing your website.” But since California rolled out their own data privacy rules on June 28th, 2018 via the California Consumer Privacy Act, this isn’t something to sneeze at. As we start to see more initiatives to protect Americans’ privacy, big data should respond accordingly.

What do I have that could be considered private information?

You might not think you have any “big data,” but if you have a list of past customers, newsletter subscribers, a mailing list, online payment options, or use Google Analytics, you technically have possession of data that has privacy rights. Some privacy rights have always been out there, but most businesses had to make the ethical choice to use the information at their discretion because enforcing compliance on every business was obnoxiously hard for anyone to do.

Caveat: Unless one of two things happened to you that got people worked up:

  1. You had a ton of people you were contacting without permission that all decided to complain together and make a class action lawsuit against you.
  2. You got hacked and all of your customer data was stolen

Most of the rules for the new data protection, honestly, just made good marketing sense. Such as, if you send a previous customer 27 emails in one day, you’re going to get marked as spam and email providers will block you. This also has probably happened to you if you tried to include 60 people in the same email and you accidentally locked down your email account.

What can I do to ensure I’m compliant with the 2018 California Consumer Privacy Act?

Step 1: Ensure you have an updated privacy policy that clearly lays out how you use the data such as (but not limited to):

  • If you do remarketing with this data
  • If you keep their data to contact them later with promotional content
  • If you sell their purchase habits to a 3rd party provider
  • If you record their device location
  • If you track their last click to leave your website
  • If they like your page on Facebook
  • If you share their contact information with any of your affiliates in order to target users better
  • If you collect their information to use for marketing purposes via sweepstakes, trade shows, or drawings (or any other paper form)

The list could just keep going. Anything that collects information about your users on your website should be listed in your privacy policy or anyone who has access to this information should be listed. If you do it, name it in your privacy policy. You should probably get this reviewed by your legal adviser as well to make sure it has everything.

Step 2: Clearly provide an opportunity for customers to “opt-out” of how you are using the data

Website users now have the right to request that you stop collecting their data, and you need to make sure this option is provided loud and proud.

Tip: be careful with how your program your pop-up though, especially on mobile. If all your users can see is a pop up that blocks your homepage navigation on mobile, it could affect your ranking because of a poor user experience.

Step 3: Have a process for actually following through on the users that request to be removed from your data uses.

This is where my heart hurts for business owners because this is rarely enforced well. If you say you’re going to stop talking to them after they ask you to, ACTUALLY DO IT. In the past, I just marked you as spam, but now (if I was a California resident) I could just report you to the Attorney General’s office or go after you with a personal lawyer. Have a process the thoroughly removes their information from your system and documents when the user requested to be removed.

Step 4: Don’t target people under the age of 16 unless they have specifically given you permission to or their parents have agreed to consent (if under the age of 13).

Bottom line: You have to disclose how it’s used, who has access to it, and how users can choose to not be a part of the data.

Having a data control officer who knows where the information is, where it’s going, and how it can be removed is good to have for your business. The more you know, the safer you can make your business for your customers.

What happens now if I accidentally do something I shouldn’t with customer data?

Under the new California laws, you could have to pay a civil penalty of $7,500 per incident AND pay for the cleanup/recovery of any person that had actual damages affect them OR pay out $750 a person for the violation to their privacy (whichever is a larger payout).

How long do I have before I need to make these changes?

The California Consumer Privacy Act unleashes its fangs of consequences for non-compliant business owners in 2020. You have some time to start planning your implementation strategy. Don’t get nervous, but have a clear plan of action steps to get you to where you need to be. It’s also important to keep an eye on the changes that might happen to the data rules in the months ahead. If the laws get extended to other states, there might be some new changes that make things more detailed as to certain industry or specific platform compliance.

I don’t do business in California: Do I still need to change my privacy policies?

For the present, yes and no, if you want to block your website from being searchable by any of your customers within California you could just avoid this all together….But it’s going to limit your reach, hurt your ranking ability, and if some of your customers have a beach home in California, you might be losing some of your client base because they can’t find you.

More Data Privacy Rules Are Inevitable

No matter how much money Amazon and AT&T pump into lobbyists, the passing of new laws usually has a domino effect in American legislature. If it works out nicely for California, you can expect it to either start rolling out in your state soon, or becoming a federal initiative.

We’ve already seem rumblings in Washington to push this into a federal compliance law. So, it’s always better to start being privacy complaint sooner rather than deal with the consequences of doing it later. Rushing things in the last minute to avoid penalties is never a fun spot to be in as a business. Plus, who wouldn’t want to gain a higher level of trust with customers by being respectful of their data?

Note: This article first published on Art Unlimited’s website and can be viewed here.

Photo credit: Markus Spiske on Unsplash