Email marketing, and those that rely on it, was thrown a curve ball in the form of GDPR, back in May 2019. It created all sorts of fuss and panic and was responsible for an unprecedented amount of email marketing in the lead up to when it was actually implemented. Oh, the irony and the reaction. Everyone suddenly had the best excuse to unsubscribe and clear their daily, weekly and monthly inbox deluge. Not a bad thing for them. In hindsight a good thing for companies to review their mostly outdated newsletter and email marketing behaviour.
Emma’s Diary was hit with a whopping £140,000 fine for flouting the law!
But when is email marketing considered spam? The obvious answer is when it is unsolicited email. If a person hasn’t signed up or agreed to receive email comms in the first place, then spam it becomes. Even if they’re a past customer of yours and you automatically add them on to your database, without their consent, it’s not permitted. If you sell on this data, without their permission, you are in hot water. In August 2018, Emma’s Diary was hit with a whopping £140,000 fine for flouting the law!
So, the best way to avoid this unpalatable situation is to not get caught up in it in the first place. Your focus is your business and to drive sales. Your underlying strategy is build a community and this requires trust from both parties. You and the customer base. Collecting email by any other means than transparently is a no-no.
To be completely free of any legal recourse, follow these simple steps to ensure you both communicate correctly and obtain customer information (email) legitimately:
- Make sure your customers opt-in and that you can prove it. Don’t automatically opt them in, so they need to untick the box to opt out – they have to positively opt-in themselves. By being able to prove the date and time that subscribers opted in and also where they did it. i.e. on a billing page or newsletter sign-on page, you leave no grey area.
- Explain the conditions of opting in very clearly at the point of sign up and leave no grey area. Making things very clear and transparent is the only way.
- Provide a very clear and obvious way for a recipient to unsubscribe or opt out. Normally this option is provided at the foot of the email. Increasingly companies are being clever and ever-so-slightly mischievous in how this is presented in the main body of the email. We all find this rather tiresome, so to avoid any loss of trust now or in future. Make it clear as day and no one gets hurt!
The bottom line with being GDPR-compliant is to ensure that you do the right thing by your customer. If they are an old customer, they will appreciate the fact that you checked with them to make sure they still wanted to be friends. It may even result in a fresh sale with them and a revitalised relationship. If they are a new customer, they will have an expectation from you as a modern business to follow the new rules of engagement that places the power of connection in the customer’s hands.
There’s lots of useful info on this subject, on the ICO website, if in doubt ask them for advice. No-one wants a whopping fine for mis-use of data.