Top five email marketing strategies to ensure GDPR compliance

GDPR unleashed an epic spam attack, customers everywhere asked via subject line, “Are we breaking up?” No one needed reminding that customers hate spam which, ironically, the GDPR prohibits. But that's not all it prohibits. To keep customers happy, you're going to need to rethink your email marketing strategies.

by Daniel - 28.05.2018

"We promise this isn’t another GDPR email. Just kidding. It is.”

May 25th, 2018, the day you officially became a GDPR “data subject” and your inbox became quieter than it’s been in years. Maybe you felt a Zen-like peace with your decision not to opt in to further communications from the vast majority of firms contacting you. Perhaps you took a moment to appreciate the extra few minutes you saved not having to sort through and delete so much junk email. No more unwanted offers for soothing cactus and volcanic ash detox spa treatments! Yeah!

The incessant spamming from companies you care nothing about had come to an end.

But the build-up to May 25th was anything but quiet. Up until the day before, businesses and organisations all over Europe spammed customers with re-subscription requests per GDPR legislation which overhauls how individual personal data is processed. This despite the fact that, in a lot of cases, those emails were unnecessary.

Day after day, internet users were inundated with requests from various parties asking for their explicit consent to “stay in touch.” Recipients became accustomed to subject lines which read “Do you really want to leave?” and “We care deeply about you. Do we have to say goodbye?” The heartache! Businesses sounded like sad, rejected partners, and - yes - as it turned out: many customers really did want to say goodbye.

With GDPR emails clogging inboxes everywhere, “data subjects” took to Twitter, sharing their reactions to the email deluge, reactions which ran the gamut from weary to amused to downright irritated:

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Email marketing laws under the GDPR

We didn’t need the GDPR to remind us that customers don’t like spam or that email marketers would rather avoid being labelled as “spammers”. But that’s exactly what the onslaught of GDPR-related emails did, even if – on the heels of the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal - many see the GDPR’s push towards giving individuals greater control of their own data a step in the right direction.

In fact, the GDPR is far from the first attempt to limit what businesses can do with customers’ information, specifically their email addresses. Many countries already have laws in place that fine companies which engage in spamming:

  • Under the United States’ CAN-SPAM (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing) Act, unsolicited marketing emails can be penalised up to $16,000 for each individual law-breaking email you send.
  • The UK’s Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations from 2003 issues fines up to £5,000
  • Under Italy’s Data Protection Act, you could face up to 3 years of jail time (!)

But now the GDPR is issuing its own set of email-related directives. Before sending any emails at all, you need your customers to provide unambiguous consent, allowing you to add their address to your mailing list. This entails letting customers know exactly what you will do with their email address.

If someone sign up for, say, your newsletter, you cannot - without their express permission - send them information about your latest promotional offers. If they’re interested in receiving information about your latest promos, they will need to provide you with consent before you can send them those particular emails. Failure to comply could cost you up to 20 million euros or 4 percent of your gross annual worldwide income.

And, in case you’re wondering, here’s what our own newsletter signup looks like, complete with “Marketing Permissions”.

Tips for improving your email marketing practices

In our post GDPR-world, communicating with customers is going to be a bit more challenging. Gone are the days of sending out pointless, uninspired, perhaps even unwanted emails which do nothing to promote goodwill or trust with your customers. If you want them to sign up, and stay signed up, you’ll want to make sure you’re giving them a reason to do so. In addition to first getting their consent, you should also:

Segment your list

This is a smart way to avoid over-emailing a particular group of subscribers, not to mention increase conversions. Most email marketing platforms make it easy to segment lists, allowing you to personalise emails – by interest, location, engagement level - and control their frequency. Once you know your customers’ preferences, it’s easier to know when, how often, and the type of email communication you should be sending. Moreover, you’ll be providing your customers with more choices for when and how they’ll allow you to contact them.

Provide a call-to-action

Inspire your customers to do something: “sign up,” “join,” “visit”. Every marketing email you send should be built around a clear call-to-action that keeps your customers engaged. That’s the whole point of a marketing email: encourage them to act. Keep your customers engaged with value and information and they’ll look forward to receiving your next email. Leave them uninspired and they’ll likely ignore you, hitting that unsubscribe button without second thought.

Have a purpose and personality

“Just checking in”. “Just following up.” Unless your goal is to leave customers asking “why?” as they read your vague, boring subject line before promptly removing themselves from your email list, be specific about what you want from them. “Have you had a look at our [new product/service/white paper], [first name]? We’d love to get your feedback.” Lifeless, canned emails are a dime a dozen. Specifying your intent is one way to stand out. So is personalising your communication.

Tailor your content

Invest in a content marketing strategy. White papers, guides, infographics – something visitors can access and download in exchange for sharing their contact information. And if you use website pop ups to invite visitors to subscribe, you can keep your mailing lists neatly segmented. Create specific pop ups for product news, blog posts, and promotions. But don’t forget: under the GDPR, you need to link your privacy policy to ensure compliance.

Personalise your email address

As we’ve reported before, creating a professional email address goes a long way towards building trust with customers. When 64% of consumers say they have little or no trust in a business that uses a free email address, you have to see your email as more than just an address. It’s a first impression, a way to quickly establish a professional brand image and boost your credibility. It’s also worth noting that customised email addresses are safer as they’re less a target for phishing and attacking. They’re small fish compared to a massive Gmail account which can produce a much bigger malware hit rate.

Email marketing that builds customer trust

The Digital Marketing Association reports that 85 percent of consumers want more say over how and why their data is collected and 62 percent of consumers are more willing to share their data if they know how you are GDPR compliant. What this is means is that you must be honest about why you would like to be able to contact your customer, how you will use their data, and take steps to present your company in the best possible light whenever you reach them via email.

Whether you’re building trust through a customised email address or regularly monitoring your GDPR compliance, your efforts will no doubt result in greater brand loyalty, trust, and reputation.

Good luck with your future email marketing efforts. And with that, we leave you with one final GDPR-related email Tweet:

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