I’m sure you’ve heard the whispers, and no doubt seen the ranty monologues about what GDPR means for business.
A lot of it amounts to misinformation and sensationalism about how established industries and mature marketing strategies are going to die. Things like email prospecting (aka cold emailing).
Since targeted email prospecting is a large part of what we do (our campaigns perform on average at 10% warm reply rate), we too had a few sleepless nights over GDPR.
Careful analysis reveals that we need not have worried
GDPR legislation protects people and their personal information. It doesn’t protect businesses from being contacted by other businesses offering relevant services. Neither does it prevent the correct individuals at said businesses being sought out.
GDPR also protects the personal information we’re allowed to gather and keep. A simple rule of thumb is only to ask for reasonable information you intend to use. Only ask for phone numbers if you’re actually going to call. Don’t ask for addresses if you’re never planning to visit. By the same token, if someone gave you both a landline and a mobile number, but you’re never going to use the landline, make sure you delete it permanently.
This brings us to clean data. GDPR also says that if someone doesn’t want to be contacted, or if they have a spam filter, or have opted out, or even just haven’t responded to your attempts in the past—you have no right to keep their information. Delete that shit. Because that’s how you must see it: as garbage, taking up space. This just makes sense; why would you ever want to contact someone who has no interest in you, or in what you have to say?
Cleaning and checking your data needs to be a continuous part of your process. Always check it before using it, and keep checking it against campaign feedback and bounces. Check to see if it has become garbage every time you send a broadcast, and clean it out if it has.
This keeps you honest, and your data relevant.
Most tools will do this for you, but one thing they won’t do is make it super (and we mean suuuuper) easy for recipients to opt out. This is something you must ensure manually when you actually write and design the campaigns. At times, these recipients will have some questions before opting out. “Where did you get my details?” or “why are you sending me this?” are common ones. So you absolutely must trust your data source, and be completely transparent about it. You need to have an honest answer to any question that comes your way. And we don’t mean honest in an ethical guideline kind of way – we mean honest by law.
You could reply with, “I have a service that’s had a lot of success with people in
In our own business, we only process business data from publicly available sources like LinkedIn, to avoid any possibility legal problems. We then test it for accuracy and validity, which includes everything from removing invalid addresses (to prevent bounces and keep our reputation intact), to removing risky email addresses like spam traps, catch-alls, and abuse emails (i.e., users who often complain and mark emails as spam).
GDPR is good for business
The last and most exciting part of the GDPR legislation (whilst we’ve touched on it above) deserves its own section. This is what’s termed legitimate interest. Interest is only legitimate if there’s evidence that your product or service could solve a pain in someone’s business, or is highly targeted to their situation.
Simply put: only contact people who you have good reasons to believe could benefit from your solution.
This is just sales 101. We’d still be doing this without GDPR! The more relevant and contextual the email, the better it performs.
Relevance is actually the key to success with targeted email prospecting. We take it so seriously that it’s one of the pillars in the salesmanship principles we teach and use internally. In fact, if didn’t believe that what our clients were offering was relevant (and adds value), we wouldn’t take them on as clients in the first place. We could never generate leads for someone when we don’t believe in what they do.
Relevance ensures that we can—and that the leads are relevant to you in turn:
- The prospective organisation is the right fit for your offer;
- We’re dealing with the correct stakeholder or decision-maker at the organisation;
- They have expressed interest in the offer.
With targeting, relevance is everything. If your offer was for C-suite execs in New York-based companies doing $500m p/a, which would you value more: five qualified leads from CEOs and CFOs in those respective companies, or hundreds of contact form enquiries from small businesses who don’t even qualify as customers?
Getting it right is all about responsible data and careful communication—two things GDPR loves.
Summing it all up + our 2 cents’ worth
Writing about how GDPR affects email marketing is basically the same as writing about how to use email marketing most effectively.
Email prospecting has to be targeted. Duh. It has to be relevant. Duh. It has to be purposeful, explanatory and clear. Duh, duh, duh. It has to not feel like spam. Double duh.
Thanks to the new legislation, we’re excited to see less spam and more relevant email marketing out there. GDPR simply demands more care and accuracy from lead generators. That’s good for all of us in the long term as it will increase email marketing’s effectiveness.
So what we actually have to say is: thanks, GDPR. You’re the hand that is forcing our entire industry into shape and making us better at what we do.