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Why GDPR is Actually a Blessing in Disguise

Marketing Armegeddon

For those of us with email lists predominantly, or totally, made up of European citizens, marketing life in Europe may feel rather bleak right now. In fact, it may feel a lot like everything we've built to date has just gone up in flames, all thanks to the new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) that came into force in Europe on May 25th 2018.

The camp divided into two groups:

  1. Those relying on the lawful basis of legitimate interest to continue emailing their customers - which ensures you don't lose your entire email marketing list in one fail swoop and was the approach taken by a majority of businesses (except many healthcare businesses).

  2. Those who decided to bite the bullet and seek active, positive consent to continue sending marketing emails to their email leads. I took the latter route but I didn't do it out of fear of breaking GDPR rules because I could have also easily argued legitimate interest. Instead I lost just under 80% of my 13,000 mailing list and ended up with just 2,600 people on my freshly culled list.

Email Marketing Reality - Then and Now

Most marketing clients I have worked with, have generally had email open rates of 20% plus or minus a couple of percent here and there. A few have been closer to 15%. So guess what, when you do the maths, that means that 80-85% of your don't even see your emails. The ones that do, are the people who genuinely want to receive your emails and are more than likely to open them - ie. 15-20% of the originals.

GDPR has given us a legitimate reason to start afresh. It gives us a chance to respect our email readers in the same way that we'd want bigger businesses to respect us. It means we have to think much more carefully about our email list, be more respectful, offer value and genuinely nurture those 20%, something much more powerful.

It's an opportunity to redefine our marketing efforts and instead of thinking about emails being an opportunity to sell, to think about email marketing in terms of building and nurturing relationships, which after all, is exactly what good marketing should be all about.

So having a major spring clean of your email list is actually a great habit to get into, and something we should be doing regularly, regardless of whether or not it's due to having to comply with national or international regulations.

Here are some other benefits of spring cleaning your email list

  • Cleaning your email list can improve three key metrics: deliverability, open rates and click rates. The better these metrics, the more successful your email marketing campaigns will be.
  • A smaller list of engaged subscribers — people who actively read and interact with your content and brand — is more valuable than a larger list of subscribers who never open your content.
  • Lists with numerous inactive email addresses typically have higher rates of bounces, spam complaints and unsubscribes than ones that don’t and when you continue to send emails to people who don’t open them, internet service providers — like Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo — penalise you. Do this often enough, and your emails may end up in more spam folders, which decreases deliverability to people who actually want to read your content (and this is probably where most people are right now).
  • In some cases you can reduce email platform subscription costs - so you're not paying for a bunch of people who don't bother to open your emails.
  • Smaller lists encourage greater engagement because the people who have opted in and choose to continue receiving your emails are genuinely engaged in the content of your newsletters which is likely to lead to more conversations and better building of relationships because it gets...well, more personal.
  • In terms of GDPR specifically, individuals have much greater control over how you use their personal data and if you embrace the obligations of GDPR, this will over time, build trust and encourage much better, stronger long-term relationships which is what every business needs.
  • Again in terms of GDPR, there are lots of other benefits including better data security, the storing of a lot less irrelevant data and much much greater transparency - all of which will help build trust in the long terms and which we won't go into detail now.

In short - having a more engaged email list, with higher open rates and click rates and lower bounce rates is good news for any business, it just seems cruel right now, when many of us have worked so hard to get those leads in the first place.

But as the saying goes "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush"!

So how do you build your email list from afresh?

Adopt a marketing strategy that involves content or education-based marketing

As a number one strategy this is hands-down the best, most effective way to grow your email newsletter list as well as increasing engagement, building trust and authority in spades and encouraging sharing.

If you Google "what's the most effective long term marketing strategy", every result on the first two pages (I couldn't be bothered to go any further) mentions content marketing (or some form of it) in the top two or three strategies - that's how powerful it is.

Why is it so powerful? Because it focuses entirely on adding value to the reader. There's not a sales push in sight, it's purely about educating, informing and where possible also entertaining.

  • It generates a sense of reciprocity (meaning it builds a feeling of goodwill that people naturally want to return)
  • It's great a building an aura of authority and reputation
  • And it's extremely effective at increasing likability

And those are three out of the six key elements identified by Robert Cialdini, a professor of psychology, in his groundbreaking book Influence (which I would highly recommend to everyone as a book worth reading).

The other key benefit of this strategy is because the primary focus of the content you are distributing, revolves around adding value, you get significantly higher opt in rates, open rates, click rates and significantly lower opt out rates. After all, who's going to opt out to information they find useful?

Make sure that everything you do is geared towards collecting new email leads?

How? By creating high value content which can be downloaded in return for sharing email contact details (accompanied by a positive consent option to receive future marketing content if you need to be GDPR compliant obviously!).

Focus on consistently offering value in terms of providing information that can improve the quality of your readers' lives.

The Future of Email Marketing

Email is still a phenomenally powerful marketing tool, arguably even more today than it has been for the last 4-5 years. It's still a one way communication with an individual but this privilege must be respected. If you had no relationship with your business, would you still want to receive that email that you're putting together? Does it add value to me? Does it respect my time? Is it worthy of attention compared with the other million thoughts and pieces of information that are going to pass by my eyes today?

If you can say yes to all those, and your engagement rates support this decision, then email marketing will be one of the most powerful tools you have access to.

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