There’s only one way to get people to sign up to your email marketing list ethically, and that’s for them to willingly do so.  Thus spake the GDPR over consent.

You can’t force or trick them. Well, you can (and many do), but that’s entirely the wrong way to go about it and won’t win you any friends.

Next May, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into effect and will completely change the way businesses are expected to deal with personal data.

As an email marketer, it’ll hit you pretty hard, but for absolutely the right reasons.

We’re all owners of personal data, and the GDPR has been designed to work in our favour. As email marketers, we need to ensure we comply with the new regulations in order to create a more harmonious, productive relationship between data owners and processors.

Much of this comes down to gaining that initial consent to store personal data. The upshot of the GDPR is that consent must be gained without forceful tactics and it be made abundantly clear why the data is being collected.

Balancing the right to privacy with the right to market

For some time, businesses haven’t really addressed the balance between the right to a person’s data privacy and the right to send them marketing messages.

The GDPR is all about ensuring businesses earn the right to use such data and, as a result, puts consent firmly in the consumer’s hands.

Your business will be affected by this if:

  • it’s based in the EU;
  • it sells goods or services to EU countries; or
  • it sells goods or services to EU nationals (no matter where they’re located).

Arguably, that covers virtually every business in the UK; your business would be an extremely rare example if it didn’t fall into at least one of the brackets above.

And, no, Brexit won’t make a jot of difference!

What is personal data?

It’s all well and dandy being told that you must gain consent to obtain personal data, but what is personal data exactly?

The official line on this is about as clear as they come: “A living individual who can be identified, directly or indirectly … by reference to their name, an identification number or to one or more factors specific to their physical, physiological, mental, economic, cultural, social identity, location data, or an online identifier.”

Therefore, personal data isn’t just names, addresses and telephone numbers – it relates to anything that identifies an individual, from their IP address to registered medical conditions.

How to properly gain consent under the GDPR

If you want to continue building your email marketing list ethically under the GDPR’s rules, you’ll need to be completely transparent about what you’re doing with the data that’s collected.

There’s only one way to do this, and that’s to build trust.

This takes time and patience, but it’ll ensure you only add people to your list who understand exactly why you want their information.

Most of us, if we’re honest, look to opt-out rather than opt-in to mailing lists. As a marketer you therefore have to work hard to sell consent.

You can do this by making it clear what the benefits are of signing up to your mailing list and being ultra specific about what you’ll be doing with the data. If you need to share it with a third party, for example – tell them. Likewise, if you intend to contact the data owner occasionally via other means (i.e. telephone), make a clear note on the sign-up form.

Wrap up

‘Sneaky consent’ may have been the reason behind the growth of many email marketing lists, but come GDPR time, it will put the businesses operating in that way under severe threat of heavy fines.

And that’s a very good thing indeed.

It’s time to review the way you gain consent, and we recommend starting that journey now, because May isn’t that far off at all.

Recommended further reading: How GDPR will affect email marketing



This post is for information purposes and is not legal advice, we advise you speak to your own legal advisors to find out what impact the GDPR will have on your business and what action you need to take.