After GDPR, You Won’t Acquire Leads, You’ll Have to Earn Them

Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which goes into effect this Friday, May 25, has many marketers redesigning privacy and data policies and overall marketing strategies, particularly as it relates to email. While addresses, location data and other personal data ownership is being given back to the individual, email data usage is likely to have the biggest impact on marketers.

MarTech Today offered a comprehensive look at the new regulation which is operative for any citizen of the European Union, regardless of their current residence. That means any business with European audiences will need to understand the rules and regulations and become compliant or face penalties. Additionally, European citizens will need to have the ability to edit, remove or add personal data as desired.

All marketers need to make understanding GDPR a priority. While a regulation of similar magnitude in the U.S. may be unlikely, a shift in the direction of GDPR could have significant consequences for marketers. Getting ahead of this with data and email best practices will prove wise in the long run.

Studies show that email is one of the most effective marketing channels. Email list buying is widespread. But purchased lists, sold without opt-in consent, are now illegal under GDPR. There may be more flexibility with B2B email marketing, as this article suggests. However, currently that’s ambiguous.

As a concrete example, a list acquired from a European event can’t be sent marketing messages without express and clear consent from the person. This makes these lists obsolete for email marketing purposes in Europe. Additionally, any list or lead acquisition strategies for one product or service does not necessarily allow marketers to utilize these contacts to promote other products services.

The shift from opt-out to opt-in puts pressure on businesses to develop new ways to collect customer or potential customer data and engage them. Ignoring, for now, the complete overhaul to policies and practices, long-standing email growth strategies will need to be reimagined as well. Downloads and webinar registrations do not reflect consent under GDPR.

For marketers that rely on email for marketing, what’s the answer for growing a list under GDPR? In short, marketers will no longer be able to acquire contacts – they will need to earn them.

It starts with a shift in philosophy. Content like reports or webinars cannot be a straight lead gen or some lead gen piece pretending to be a free resource. Instead marketers must be delivering content that seeks to educate, inform and empower an audience. While quality content will be relative to the person, marketers need to see beyond the acquisition of leads, especially in this new climate.

The idea is that if the content is extremely useful, people will exchange their personal data for it. Consider it a transaction of sorts. Additionally, to enable these exchanges, marketers will need to offer opt-ins on form fills, an ability for users to edit personal data, opportunities to adjust email preferences and general adherence to the new regulations.

The change is going to impact how businesses use and acquire personal information in Europe, but in the long run, this will level the playing field in some ways. High ethical standards and value-adding content will be rewarded while spammers and data buyers will be penalized. Putting control of the data in the hands of the consumer creates a more competitive market where rising above the noise will be more a function of expertise and insight than sheer volume.

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