GDPR Compliance: 9 Ways to Increase Opt-Ins for Email Marketing

GDPR Compliance: 9 Ways to Increase Opt-Ins for Email Marketing
  • Asking for permission to send further emails when someone fills out a GDPR form could be enough to put you off email marketing.
  • Email marketing offers far too many benefits, so it's rather a case of how to encourage people to want to receive your emails.
  • How will you highlight what is in it for them? Check out these 9 tips to get more opt-ins while ensuring GDPR compliance.

General data protection regulation (GDPR) has caused a bit of a stir, especially when considering sending emails to a database that you’ve spent a decent amount of time growing. 

Between asking your existing database to re-opt in to receive emails and asking for permission to send further emails when someone fills out a GDPR form could be enough to drive email marketing into the ground for many businesses.

If you’re not willing to give up on email marketing... good! When done properly it’s a massive asset to businesses and customers alike. So how do you encourage people to want to receive your emails and maximise your investment in email marketing?

Opt-In and Permissions Tips for the GDPR Age 

Here are nine ways you can continue to grow your database and the effectiveness of email marketing in a GDPR age:

  1. Add value before you start
  2. Communicate this value
  3. Ask for permission
  4. Segment your database
  5. Personalise the bits they see
  6. Use dynamic content (HubSpot)
  7. Highlight what's in it for them (WIIFT)
  8. Drop disengaged contacts
  9. Email nurturing

1. Add Value Before You Start

Your ultimate goal is to use email marketing to get your audience to buy from you.  But to give your target audience confidence that you won’t just be spamming them with offers you can showcase your value early.

A great way to do this is on your blog and social media.  Using content marketing to show that you’re about sharing your expert knowledge (or your business’s collective knowledge) to add value to a relationship adds trust.  It shows potential contacts that signing up to your database will enable them to develop their knowledge of what you do, the difference you make and how you’ll fix their issues.

2. Communicate this Value

When you showcase your value properly a website visitor will end up in a form.  It may be a newsletter, signup or downloading content. Either way, it’s a good idea to set the expectation early on why they should sign-up.

‘Sign-up for daily marketing news’ or ‘receive our latest offers straight to your inbox’ helps people understand what they get in return for signing up.  If they sign-up expecting one thing and end up receiving another then you’ll notice a creeping level of unsubscribes from each email you send out.

3. Ask for Permission

Forms should now include an option to opt-in to marketing communications.  Whereas this was considered best practice before many marketers saw it as a barrier to growing their databases.

If you’re using a platform like HubSpot this would have automatically become a feature of forms once GDPR took over.  But what can you do to encourage sign-ups even with this question present?

Firstly, hopefully, people want to receive marketing communications from you!  If you’re a valuable asset to their life then they certainly will.  However, if you’re not confident then you can reduce barriers to form submission by making sure you only ask what you need.

Figuring out the perfect form length depends on the extent of your relationship with the contact, and how far they are along the buying journey.  For example, someone that’s just starting to look into a problem won’t be willing to fill in a long form.  A way around this, in HubSpot, is to use progressive fields.  You load a bunch of questions into your form, maybe 3 or 4 and once you have those answers from that contract if they go to fill in the same form on another page those 3-4 questions will be replaced by new ones.

This means you can build a picture of a contact without sticking everything in one form.

4. Segment Your Database

It may seem obvious but few marketers actually do it regularly.  In systems like Mailchimp you are easily able to create segments but because Mailchimp isn’t always linked to sales software, or the businesses’ main CRM it can lack the depth of information required to segment effectively.

Because HubSpot is both a sales and marketing platform you can pull sales information and marketing behaviour into your segmentation.  By using smart lists you can create rules around who is allowed on the list and can use things like how many times the contact has visited your website, which pages they’ve looked at and how much they spent with your business.

Also, consider whether that contact is being worked on by your sales team.  Hitting them with standardised marketing emails may damage a young relationship, likewise, someone that hasn’t bought in years may need further work to get them back into the fold.

5. Personalise the Bits They See

Getting opens on your emails is only half the battle, but it’s the most important as, without opens, you can’t have clicks.

Good email marketing systems (like HubSpot) include the functionality to be able to add personalisation tokens into subject lines and preview text.  This added level of customisation (and even the odd emoji depending on your audience) can entice people to open their emails.

The ‘from’ element also doesn’t get enough love from many email marketing campaigns.  Instead of using ‘Business Name’ or ‘Admin’ as the from email address use the person that last spoke to the contact or your CEO’s email address.  This increased personalisation makes a difference when competing for reading time against hundreds of other emails a contact may receive a week.

6. Use Dynamic Content (HubSpot)

It’s not just the subject line and preview text that can be personalised with a contacts first name or business name.  Some email providers enable you to create dynamic text based on rules you set.

In HubSpot, you can enable different smart lists, countries or device types to see different text blocks and images.  This can be really helpful to provide email content that is more likely to drive engagement from different audiences or for people at different stages of researching a solution.

The key to this working is understanding why someone might be engaging with your brand, and delivering them content that is relevant and interesting to their unique needs.

7. Highlight What's In It for Them (WIIFT)

Understanding what’s in it for them (WIIFT) is key to a successful email marketing campaign. This can be defined by their behavioural data, collected through things like web page views and the blog articles they’ve read or by which previous emails they’ve opened.

Rather than focusing on outbound communication (you pushing a message outwards), you should consider adopting an inbound marketing approach.  This involves creating detailed buyer personas of your target audience and understanding which content they need to see in order to be guided towards becoming a prospect for your sales team.

8. Drop Disengaged Contacts

Contacts that receive but do not open emails are disengaged from your brand.  This can happen for a number of reasons including that they’re bored of your message or have received everything they need from you.  People don’t always unsubscribe, especially if the email address you’re sending to is seldom checked.

Remove these people from your main email sending database so you can see a more realistic pattern of your email’s performance.

But rather than ditch them entirely consider enrolling them on their own separate email campaign that aims to re-engage them.  You may set a rule that when a disengaged contact opens and clicks on a link in your re-engagement campaign they go back into the main pool of contacts.

9. Email Nurturing

Marketing automation still has a long way to go but one area that has adopted and deployed the technology very well is email marketing. HubSpot uses workflows for marketers to be able to enrol contacts on a pre-planned automation path of emails and more.

Using automation for email nurturing not only involves a great automation platform but also a detailed sense of what you’re trying to achieve and the route a contact is wanting to take towards your end goal.

For example, if someone downloads a guide on your website for lawnmowers the temptation may be to up-sell them to a ride-on or cross-sell them onto hedge trimmers too as they clearly enjoy gardening.  Giving people the option to discover both of these things is ideal but if they show no interest in either instead of forcing your message onto them you should continue to educate them on lawnmowers.

Changes to email marketing shouldn’t mean that it is pushed into the ‘too hard basket’. Instead, it should be seen as a massive opportunity to reinvest in your email marketing and strategise a new approach to engaging your database.

Thomas Emmerson

Owner at Vanguard 86

Owner of Vanguard 86 [] and inbound marketer.