What do you need to know about email marketing, or at the very least sending emails to prospects, in the “GDPR Era?”
Before we get started on this: here’s a look at GDPR slightly past its one-year anniversary in Germany, and here’s a quick look at using voicemail, texting, and LinkedIn in DACH markets. (Hint: You should not use any of them that much.)
OK, so now: What should you know about email marketing or prospect emails under GDPR?
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An email quality update
As we mentioned in the “GDPR at Year One” post above:
Anecdotally, it seems as if the DACH market is receiving less spam (good!) and the quality of sales emails is higher (great!). While there is limited actual research on the decline in spam — and it would vary by industry anyway — the general consensus seems to be that GDPR has declined spam overall, especially in DACH.
That’s positive. Less spam! And, to boot, some — such as Campaign Monitor — are claiming that GDPR is actually “saving” email marketing.
Setting it up
Make sure you are using a client (or have designed something yourself) where all the opt-ins necessary are taken care of for you. Make sure that you have the right boilerplate language about how you will use their data. Consent under GDPR requires a “positive opt-in,” so do not use pre-ticked boxes. Know things like this, or ask us!
The role of automation
Under GDPR, you cannot send automated emails to subscribers unless they give an active indication of the choice to receive them. While it’s not per se hard to get that active indication, you still need to make sure you get it: Opting subscribers into a drip campaign or other automation without active permission could cause you problems. Oftentimes, for example, a brand will automate more with customers likely to churn (logical, because at that stage they will either re-engage or unsubscribe), but again: If this is your strategy, you need active opt-in indication to be allowed to do that with inactive/possible churn list members.
Make sure there is an obvious and easy unsubscribe link
If you’re following that rule, you’re ahead of the curve. Obviously no one wants to blast an unsubscribe link and make it easy for prospects to unsubscribe, but it needs to be active and available and easy to find. Thankfully most email clients will provide one automatically at the bottom of any email you send. If you code your own emails and tie it to a list, make sure those emails have unsubscribe links in them.
What about cold emails?
If you want to send GDPR-compliant B2B cold prospect emails, here’s the five-step process to follow:
- Make sure your prospecting is both targeted and appropriate
- Explain “legitimate interest” in your email copy
- Make the opt-out/unsubscribe process easy
- Regularly clean your database
- Have a reply set for any GDPR complaints or questions
Of those, the second bullet gets the most attention from people, so let’s explain it a bit more. From the link above:
This is another reason for the importance of keeping lead generation records. As the ICO outlines, “The onus is also on you to ensure — and demonstrate — that your interests are balanced with the individual.” It is key you are aware of the full context and logic behind your use of legitimate interest.
Essentially, what GDPR is asking for is that the interests of your business need to line up the interests of the prospect. Yes, this is a slippery slope to prove and probably won’t be contested a good deal. But still: If you sell SaaS and you’re cold emailing a butcher who likely doesn’t need SaaS, that’s a bad play, not GDPR-compliant, and the butcher probably can’t afford SaaS either. So why send the email at all? Forget the butcher and focus on real targets.
As for “regularly cleaning your database,” well:
You must cleanse your CRM database regularly of inactive or unresponsive leads, check that your contact records are fully up-to-date, and appropriately label and tag your data to record how you have collected and processed personal data.
Here’s one strategy for that: If your email client has an “inactive subscribers” automated group, or you can set parameters to find inactive leads, email them every 12 weeks explaining your value prop and giving them the opportunity to:
- Learn more
- Opt out
Most will opt-out, yes. But some will be interested and had just been busy before. This is a good way to clean your list and drum up some new conversations at the same time.
How we help at BizXpand
We can talk through GDPR with you, as well as inbound and outbound lead generation tactics and packages.