This is a rare blog for me. It will include me giving out some credentials. But never mind my credentials, because I must also add the obligatory: Do Your Own Due Diligence. This matters to everyone reading this.

Yes, that was a bit of lawyer-like language, but you don’t want to get into trouble when this new set of regulations start on May 25th, 2018. Wherever you are in the world, you are affected by this new set of rules known as the GDPR; The General Data Protection Regulation.

Meet the Mother-of-All-Things-Anti-Spam-And-Privacy-Rules!

When it comes to email marketing, as most of you know, I am a wee bit of an expert. Among my qualifications, I am a Certified Solution Provider with Constant Contact and attend specialized training with them on a regular basis.

While the GDPR covers everything including the famous and ubiquitous surveillance cameras found indoors and out, public and private throughout Europe (and the world), I am concentrating on its effects on email marketing.

For many years, I have been teaching the principles of email effectiveness and best practices. As a member of a national team of public speakers, I have coached groups and worked with hundreds of people. But don’t take my words as the last words. Do your own fact-finding, too.

Because here’s the deal: No matter what email method you are using to “market” your products or services commercially to others, and no matter where you live, you are now responsible to understand the GDPR. You have no way of knowing if someone lands on your site from one of the 28 countries who is protected by these rules. And the fines are HEAVY!

Using lead magnets? Watch out!

If you are, if you have landing pages or pop-ups that tease offers (Lead Magnets) in exchange for email addresses, the number one thing you need to look at is “consent”.

What is it, how do you get it, and how do you use it. There has always been a right way, a better way, and a wrong way to use Lead Magnets. This new law is cracking down on the wrong ways.

For years, I have seen it used the wrong way – deceptively gaining people’s email addresses. I reported on this “spammy” practice many moons ago in April 2016. Here’s the link to refresh your memory from the article I titled, “Are You Accidentally Being Spammy?

(This is a must read actually. I just re-read it for the first time since publishing it and it was/is very prescient!)

To avoid being spammy and to be in compliance, this new set of regulations makes three things very clear.

  1. If you make consent a precondition of a service, it is unlikely to be the most appropriate lawful basis. (Read that at least two more times.)
  2. AND (and this is a biggie), pre-ticked boxes are no longer allowed. If you are getting any contact information – say from a lead magnet – and you have a checkbox below the email field that says something like, “Yes, put me on your mailing list!” and it is already checked by default, that is illegal.
  3. If you ask for an email with the intention of putting someone on your list, but don’t make it clear that you are putting them on a list and what to expect from being on that list, that is a misuse of “personal data” and subject to fines.

In a nutshell: do not deceive or be opaque when you are trying to get someone’s email address. If you want them to join your list, make that clear. It’s not that hard and it’s the right thing to do.

Next, you need to be clear as to what you are going to do with that data. I have been teaching this for a number of years: Tell the prospective subscriber what they should expect from you then deliver that in the time frame you have promised. Your “offer” might look something like this:

Join my list and I will send monthly emails with news from my studio, and occasionally additional alerts about new work, special offers, and other noteworthy announcements. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Whatever you are “marketing” to that list is what they are giving you permission to receive. You do not send them something that is not in that description. For example, if you teach classes, you might treat that as a separate interest. Or, if you teach yoga on the weekends, don’t suddenly announce the next scheduled class to people who only know you as an artist. And vice versa!

The bottom line is: Don’t promise you will send A and then try to push B into their inboxes. That’s not only bad marketing, it’s now considered spam or misuse of the original consent. Avoid vague or broad promises. Spell it out and follow-through.

The Official Caveat

Despite all my knowledge, I can only recommend that you read more details and pay close attention to your current methods of marketing online. If you are following the CASL (Canadian Anti-Spam Laws) which are stricter than CAN-SPAM act (US laws) regarding email best practices, you are likely to be in pretty good shape already. If this is the first you have heard of CASL, then these new GDPR regulations are your new rules and a priority to employ. Today. Don’t wait for the 25th of May if you are not even using CASL standards. Again, you may have someone on your list who is in Canada.

Today’s Three Big Takeaways

  1. Relax. If you are acting in a reasonable, helpful, useful, honest and caring fashion in all that you present to the public, the chances that someone will “report” you as abusing their privacy or consent is very unlikely.
  2. Level UP & Get a Professional Service. If you have been avoiding using an email service provider, you should rethink your strategy. Companies, like Constant Contact, MailChimp, Emma, and others, “should” require you to use certain protocols in order to use their services. While I cannot vouch for any other than Constant Contact, I would be surprised if any of the “stand-alone” companies would let you collect information without all the proper legal notices. Their financial success depends on them doing it right!
  3. Check your current methods. Some of you might be using a proprietary service that comes with your website or other SaaS (Software As A Service) companies. An example would be using the email system that comes built into Wix, Weebly, or even a merchant sales processor, like SquareUp or QuickBooks. With the latter two examples, use their “native” system to generate an invoice, sure. But not as your “marketing” tool. SquareUp will let you generate mass marketing emails! Don’t do it! Instead, download your customer’s info and connect with them through regular ESP.

Stay Tuned for Part Two

In Part Two, I will drill down to what you should consider doing to be pro-active with your current email list. Email marketing remains the strongest single method for growing your business and sales. With the recent and continuing fall-out within the Social Media world, it’s never been a more important tool.

So stay tuned for my next bi-weekly article posting on May 2, 2018. I will share with you the steps I am taking in my own business to ensure compliance with the GDPR. In other words, I will be sharing the newest “best practices” to keep your email marketing effective. I will likely touch on website tips, too.

I am also putting together a separate PDF white paper and will distribute that to my list in the near future or include a link in the next blog.

Meanwhile, if you have any questions, I will try to address them in the comments below. At the very least, please comment and let me know what you might be most concerned about so I can gather those concerns and address them in my next article or my upcoming white paper.


Want an example of how to sign up “properly” using an ESP?

Example of a GDPR compliant sign up form!

Pay close attention to the attention that Constant Contact pays in their legal statement under the sign-up box. And then, check out the actual “privacy” link! Wow. Can you duplicate that in your Gmail world? Time for an ESP!

And please be sure to give me some feedback and questions, below.

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