As with all posts on the subject, I must start it by saying that I am not a legal expert. This blog should be read in light of that knowledge.
We are now just over 12 months since GDPR came into force. From the outset, it was suggested that the new regulations would have a significant impact on E-mail Marketing.
The ironic thing is that GDPR did not actively change the rules on e-mail marketing. Regulations in this area were set out years earlier in the e-privacy directive in 2002. Since then you have needed Opt-in in for consumer emails, and a clear opt-out for B2B campaigns. GDPR did not change that. What it did do however was re-enforce the burden of proof re consumer opt-ins. In broad terms, B2B email regulations were not altered. B2B email without a specific opt-in is still permitted where there is a “Legitimate interest” in doing so.
GDPR 12 months on
So, 12 months on, where do we stand?
For B2C campaigns, the burden of proof regarding opt-in now means that double opt-in, where subscribers confirm their intention, is the only real option. This post focuses however to B2B campaigns, the arena where most of our readers sit.
In B2B email, GDPR actually changed very little. When operating in markets where customer relationships go beyond simple email communications, and where broader relationships mean that strict double opt-in would become intrusive and unworkable, sending well-targeted emails to a contact group who are likely to be interested in your content, and where there is a clear and functional system for opting out (unsubscribing) is still perfectly legitimate.
Beyond the rules – attitudes have changed
However, post-GDPR, attitudes to email have changed. Not so much amongst recipients but rather in the minds of the companies supplying e-mail marketing solutions. In the eyes of these organisations, double opt-in is now the default. Whilst this may be appropriate given their focus on consumer markets, it can deliver challenges for legitimate B2B email marketers.
For these people it has shifted the attitude to e-mail, focusing squarely on quality, not quantity, and identifying email as a tool predominantly for communicating with people who already know who you are. The quality of your list is now, more than ever, critical to maintaining deliverability.
The best way to ensure this quality is to use double opt-in where you can be 100% sure that emails are accurate. However, where this is not possible, e-mail verification systems (we use one called kickbox.io), and the careful monitoring of bounces are key to maintaining list and data quality.
So, where are we 12 months on from GDPR? I think it has changed B2B e-mail marketing placing the focus squarely on quality rather than quantity, and forcing people to think about exactly how it is used, and who they target.
I think it has also increased the importance of Social Media (Especially LinkedIn in B2B markets) as a tool for reaching out more widely to your target market. But that is another post!