GDPR: is your SME prepared for email marketing after 25th May?
Speaking as a small B2B business owner…yes, I think so. If I had a pound for every email that I had received over the last 18 months about GDPR compliance, I’d be significantly better off than I am now. Somewhat ironic, it seems, when at the very core of GDPR lies data privacy, consent and the right to be forgotten.
I have also just started receiving emails from companies asking whether I wish to remain on their databases. Better late than never, some might say. Some have been sent to my business email address, some to my consumer email address. I have not responded to either. Partly because I know who these companies are and what they do; partly because I want to see if they do stop emailing me after 25th May. There is no malicious intent here on my part, I’m just curious to see how it all unfolds.
However, the very fact that I am receiving such requests from some organisations and not from others, suggests that even now there is still a certain amount of grey area around the ‘do’s and don’ts’ surrounding email marketing, post-GDPR.
So for what it’s worth, here is my understanding of how the land will lie from midnight on May 25th. And please (for the love of God) if I have got any of this wrong, feel free to post your comments below!
B2B email marketing…
…will remain ‘opt-out’, which means that you will continue to be allowed to send unsolicited emails to contacts with business email addresses, so long as they have not previously opted out.
The DMA and ICO have both recently advised that this is the case but have added that ‘best practice’ should be applied at all times. They say there needs to be a very clear way of opting out of future correspondence on every email and content should be relevant to the recipient’s business.
Common sense, it seems to me.
In which case, there is no need for us B2B people to obtain permission in advance of 25th May. For most responsible and professional B2B email marketers, I can’t see any difference between this and what we have been doing since day one under the old DPA.
As a business development agency specialising in using email to create referrals and engagements, the changes to our process should therefore be minimal, with a few minor tweaks. For example, we are implementing tighter management of our data. Email addresses are going to be checked daily for hard bounces. There will be continual data validation and cleansing to keep our clients’ CRMs compliant. We are increasing the size of the ‘unsubscribe’ line on our emails and adding a ‘remove me from your database’ link as well. Again, all good stuff and for the most part, common sense.
I believe firmly that if it’s done sensibly and professionally, there will remain a place for B2B email marketing after GDPR.
B2C email marketing…
…however, will become ‘opt-in’. Which means big companies will have to get your permission in order to keep sending emails to you. I get about ten emails a day to my personal email address from companies of varying shapes and sizes. And with precisely one month to go until ‘G-day’ I have still received very few requests from them to keep me on their databases. In fact, I have had more requests from conscientious B2B businesses.
So, what will happen on 25th May? Are we supposing that my ten B2C emails a day will suddenly stop landing in my inbox? That would be good. Again, I know who they are, where they are and what they do, so I have no need to remain on their CRMs. I’ll believe it, however, when I see it.
My only question is how all of this will really be policed. Yes, I understand the implications of big fines for big companies that offend, but what about the nuisance emails that consumers and business people alike receive on a daily basis? Emails with no ‘opt-out’ links. Emails offering irrelevant services. Emails sent from individuals with non-business email addresses (such as Gmail, etc)?
My guess is that they’ll make an early example out of one or two large companies. But I don’t see how the ‘spam’ problem as we know it will be solved overnight.
On a slightly separate note (but still relevant, in my view) what impact will GDPR have on nuisance phone calls? If there is a clamp-down on the volume of emails being sent, is there a chance that the number of calls will increase? Telemarketing is still ‘opt-out’ but relies on people signing up to the CTPS and TPS registers and following the correct complaints procedure when they receive unwanted calls. A system that, in my view, does not seem to be working in its current format.