GDPR for marketers

Do you know what’s the most valuable resource in the world? Data. It is often said, rightly so, that data is the new oil.

Personal data is so valuable that it’s being collected at an incredible rate, and thus, it’s vulnerable to theft and misuse. The people who use customer data the most don’t fully understand how they should use it, and former and prospective customers do not even know why they receive emails and messages from brands they didn’t sign up for.

To curb this, the European Union(EU) government has developed a privacy regulation called General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Before diving into GDPR, let’s look at some statistics. Within the last 12 months, some of the largest MNCs that failed to comply with GDPR had to pay hefty fines.

  • The world’s largest e-commerce company, Amazon Europe, is fined €746 million.
  • The world’s most used messaging app, WhatsApp Ireland, is fined €225 million.
  • The world’s most used search engine, Google, is fined €90 million.

Not just big MNCs but any company that violates personal data will be fined heavily.

What is GDPR?

GDPR is a set of regulations designed to give EU or UK citizens more control over their confidential data. It aims to streamline the regulatory environment for business so both citizens and companies in the European Union(EU) can fully benefit from the digital economy. In short, GDPR is the core of Europe’s digital privacy legislation and outlines how the EU wants their personal data to be managed.

That means organizations that store customers’ personal data should be meticulous about what kind of personal information they want to collect and why. organizations also need to regularly conduct privacy impact assessments, strengthen the way they seek permission to use the data, document how they use personal data and improve how they communicate data breaches.

And since it’s a regulation, it cannot be opted-out or ignored. Companies failing to comply with GDPR are fined up to 20,000,000 EUR or 4% of their annual turnover of the preceding financial year.

Why is GDPR introduced now?

GDPR, by a long measure, is the most impactful regulation in place for data protection in a tech-driven generation.

The EU has long valued its citizens’ online privacy and believes that the citizens should be protected and empowered rather than exploited or ignored. The EU regulators felt that the companies were misusing their citizens’ data for their gain and that they should be transparent about how they were using the data. GDPR was introduced to end this and give back the power to the customers.

GDPR is adapted from a document that was first adopted in 1980 and later modified in 1995. The outdated version could not cover the necessary data privacy principles for social media, smartphones, or any advanced web technology like AI or virtual reality. And the obsolete version was never a compulsion, so companies had a chance to opt out.

Since 25 May 2018, this is no longer the same.

With GDPR, every company across Europe or companies that handle EU data must follow the data privacy principles to stay away from hefty fines.

How does GDPR impact marketing?

On the whole, GDPR is difficult to implement, especially for small businesses or sole- practitioners. Wherein, in reality, there are only 3 areas that marketers need to worry about:

  • Data permission
  • Data access
  • Data focus

Data permission

Have you been bombarded with Emails or messages from the companies about their promotional offers?

Well, With GDPR, that’s no longer the case.

Data permission, in simple terms, means that the user has the choice to decide whether an organization can store or use his personal data.

From a marketing perspective, the direct impact of GDPR’s data permission is on lead generation forms. Unlike the pre-GDPR era, where the customer has no option but to receive promotional content.

Let’s look at two different examples of how this can manifest.

  1. Instead of assuming that the leads and customers opt for a pre-ticked box to receive marketing emails, organizations now need to ask them if they want to opt-in to newsletters by selecting the signup box.
  2. “Refer a friend” to claim an offer program helps companies get information about the friend like their email address or phone number without their consent. GDPR does not allow companies to store or process data to send marketing emails to these referrals without their permission. They can only just notify them about them being referred.

On that note, no marketing emails or messages should be sent to referees.

Data access

Have you ever observed the “unsubscribe” or “manage preferences” link at the bottom of a promotional email? “The right to be forgotten” is one of the cornerstones of the GDPR. It gives people the right to have outdated or inaccurate personal data removed from the companies’ databases.

The world’s most used search engine, Google, has been forced to remove pages/ cookies from its search engine results in order to comply with GDPR.

As a company marketer, it’s your foremost responsibility to ensure that your users can easily opt in or out of those marketing emails and messages. It gets easy for you and the customer if you include the unsubscribe link in the marketing template so that users can manage their data preferences.

Data focus

Marketing is a data game. Marketers will always tend to collect extra information than needed. For example, does a marketer really need to know someone’s favorite color before subscribing to a newsletter?

With GDPR in place, marketers should be able to legally justify the collection and processing of specific personal data. This means that companies must stop asking for “nice to have.” For example, if you need to know the prospect’s favorite color, prove why you need it. Otherwise, try to avoid collecting any unnecessary data.

Who is affected by GDPR in marketing?

1. Email marketing managers

For B2B marketers, email addresses are the driving force of lead generation. The earlier pre-checked opt-in for signing up to your mailing list or downloading content is now optional.

And also, buying an email list from third parties is strictly forbidden. That means email marketers can no longer automatically add these prospects or former customers to their mailing list.

2. Marketing automation specialists

Sadly, with GDPR in control, marketing automation won’t be able to work rigorously as before. The Information Commissioner’s Office comes into the picture and fine heavy penalties if your marketing automation system sends out emails on your CRM’s behalf.

So, ensure your CRM database has only emails of customers who have given explicit permission to receive marketing emails. If someone opts out of an automated email sequence, ensure no further emails are sent to them.

And also, with GDPR in place, having the next email already scheduled is not a valid excuse anymore.

3. Public Relations (PR) executives

Even with media databases such as PRweb and MyNewDesk in place, the marketers still need to take the consent of the journalist before sending any marketing email.

Journalists use platforms such as HARO and social media channels to give consent to the marketers to contact them. So if you’re not on those platforms yet – It’s time to sign up!

However, GDPR allows for communication the other way around. That is, if a journalist reaches out to you, you can pitch product releases and share company information with them.

GDPR: A good chance for marketers

Although GDPR law sounds intimidating and fines issued by ICO make you rethink your marketing strategy, it’s an excellent opportunity for marketers. Now, marketers can develop targeted marketing campaigns with the customers engaged with their brand.

Below are a few reasons why GDPR is a golden opportunity for marketers:

1. Taking consent

As discussed above, GDPR helps gain consent to use prospects’ or customers’ data. So, instead of bombarding the user’s screen with a ton of emails, provide them with a range of options so they can choose what kind of marketing information they are interested in.

GDPR also helps you segregate customers based on their interests and create email campaigns accordingly rather than shooting a “one size fits all” email.

2. Right to be forgotten

Under GDPR, you will be in trouble if a user opts out of emails and you still send them marketing emails.

Sometimes we tend to store data in different places for different purposes. With GDPR in place, it’s almost mission-critical to store customer information in a single platform solution like CRM to track data permissions. A CRM solution will create a single point of view on all the customers and break down silos of customer information to be GDPR compliant.

3. Transparency

Being GDPR compliant requires you to be transparent about data access, data permission, and data focus. Being transparent in business will establish trust and improve customer engagement – be honest with your customers about what you do.

You must demonstrate that an individual’s data is being treated with respect and held securely.

What tips and tricks can marketers use to navigate the GDPR?

GDPR is clearly influencing how businesses work. If your business is still not GDPR compliant, we have a checklist to help you meet those requirements.

1. Audit your database

With GDPR in place, 75% of databases that consist of emails are not being used anymore. Remove the users’ Personal information (PI) from your database if they Opt-out from your mailing list. For new users, send an automated email to confirm their subscription.

2. Create tailored content

Create a tailored marketing strategy for prospects with lead magnets such as eBooks, PDFs, and white papers in exchange for collecting their PI. This way, you change your prospects into potential customers.

3. Pop up on the website

Flash a pop-up when a person visits your website to read product launches, product news, blog posts, or company news, and record which customer engages with these pop-ups. This way, you can segregate the users and send them relevant marketing emails. Of course, send marketing emails only if you have received explicit permission.

4. Use a CRM system

Gone are the days of using google docs and spreadsheets to store customer information. Use a CRM system to centralize customer data and segregate customer personas based on their interests. Use these personas to develop tailored marketing campaigns.

  1. Train your sales team: Train your sales team with new sales techniques. Train them on how they should reach new prospects on social media and on how to share relevant content.
  2. Collect only required data: What would you do with knowing customers’ favorite color until and unless you are selling something on those lines? Only collect data that is required, nothing more, nothing less.
  3. Update your privacy policy: Review your current privacy policy and update it in accordance with GDPR requirements.


GDPR is not designed to stop organizations from communicating with their customers. It is designed to increase the quality of communication between organizations and their customers. It’s an opportunity for marketers to create value-adding campaigns for prospective customers and build lasting relationships by appealing to what really matters to a particular customer. To summarize, GDPR compliance rules are actually quite simple:

  • Don’t contact a person unless they want to be contacted
  • Don’t assume a person wants to hear from you
  • Don’t cold contact them – via phone or email
  • Don’t send irrelevant information without their consent
  • Heed a person’s right to be forgotten

Is your marketing team ready for GDPR?

Scrut Automation is an innovative and radically simple governance, risk, and compliance automation platform for growing startups and mid-market enterprises. With Scrut, compliance teams can reduce ~70% of their manual effort in continuously maintaining compliance towards SOC 2, ISO 27001, GDPR, PCI DSS, HIPAA, and CCPA. Schedule your demo today to see how it works.

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