A quick guide to B2B email marketing after GDPR

A quick guide to B2B email marketing after GDPR

Congratulations you’ve survived GDPR! You’ve just survived months of emails from companies you don’t remember, all telling you they’re updating a privacy policy you didn’t ever read, and asking if you still want to be inundated with emails you definitely don’t care about.

For most individuals, it’s been a cathartic exercise in ignoring every company we couldn’t be bothered to unsubscribe, knowing that the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) will now take care of it for us. But what about businesses? What’s the world of B2B looking like now that GDPR is in force—especially when it comes to email marketing?

A quick overview of GDPR

Unless you’ve been living in a tent, jungle or remote mountaintop over the last 12 months, you’re probably aware of what GDPR is. Coming into effect last week on 25 May 2018, it’s a regulation designed to better protect all EU citizens’ data when being processed by another party.

The new rules have strengthened the need for:

  • gaining consent to collect and use data;
  • ensuring there is an option to opt out from future communications; and
  • reporting any detected breaches within a timeframe of 72 hours.

GDPR relates to personal data (including sensitive personal data), but not business data. However, care needs to be taken by B2B marketers with regard to the definitions, because while data such as company name, address, and email, might not fall under the new regulations, any data that can identify an individual would be classified under personal data.

6 lawful bases for processing data

Under GDPR there are now six lawful bases for processing data. These include areas such as ‘contractual necessity’ and ‘legal obligation’, which (as the names suggest) means you’re able to use the personal data if you are under contractual or legal obligation with that person, or under the law, to do so.

The two bases for processing data that are most likely to apply to B2B marketers, however, are:

  • ‘legitimate interest’ (if you can prove there’s a legitimate reason for you to contact the person whose data you are using, with minimal impact on their privacy); and
  • ‘consent’ (where the user has given you clear permission to use their data in specific ways).

If you’re in B2B marketing, we suggest you get to grips with the definitions of these two bases, as they will be especially important to those utilising email marketing.

GDPR, B2B email marketing and purchased lists

Those already following best practice with email marketing will know that their emails should always be relevant to the targets and they should always offer the option to unsubscribe or opt out of further communications. Businesses should also be clearly recording any instances of these requests to stop emails, etc, to respect user preferences.

Under GDPR, you now need to be a little more stringent with your approach. Most businesses can still be contacted by email to their general email address. But any you might be dealing with who can be identifiable as individuals (they might be a sole trader or a direct contact within a company), should really give clear consent to receiving email communications.

You could argue that you might be contacting them under ‘legitimate interest’—and, indeed, a lot of B2B marketers will be relying on this lawful basis for processing data. Which is fine if your marketing would be unsurprising based on their previous contact with your company, and you can justifiably prove the legitimacy of the activity and your consideration of the user’s data privacy. But it’s such a grey area that we’d argue it will always be safer to gain clear, recorded consent where possible. This also means making sure a positive action is required to gain that consent, as opposed to automatically opting people in and then requiring them to manually opt out.

In terms of the use of purchased lists, it’s been argued that GDPR could possibly see the end (or at least a downturn) of this controversial practice. With all future consent based on users explicitly agreeing to their personal information being used by 3rdparties—in order to send unsolicited emails or track online movements, etc—we find it hard to believe many will be signing up. And while we’re still waiting to see how the UK’s information regulator, the ICO, will approach this aspect of B2B marketing, we know that it will definitely take a hit in the near future—so prepare accordingly.

For further information, see the ICO’s rules around B2B marketing and the General Data Protection Regulations.

Looking for advice and help with GDPR-compliant B2B marketing? Get in touch, we’d love to help>

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Sara Brian
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