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At least weekly, one of the Wizemail team will post a tip, trick or general email marketing advice here.
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At least weekly, one of the Wizemail team will post a tip, trick or general email marketing advice here.
Subscribe now to keep informed.
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You will pay a lot for copy for an email marketing campaign or blog, whether sourced externally or from Jean in HR who can produce a nifty phrase. It takes time, not so much for the typing as research and reading. Any copy that is worth paying for will be reassuringly expensive. It makes sense to get every last bit of value from it.
Let’s follow five thousand words you’ve produced for an internal case-study, perhaps research on how your latest product will be received. It will contain information that you wish to keep confidential, but much of it will be more general, even material that is available to anyone with the incentive to research.
Once its initial function has been fulfilled, it’s normally filed in a folder and later archived. It has served its purpose. All that work for its 15 minutes of fame. However, recycling is not only for empty wine bottles.
If the information is of interest to you, it might be the same for your customers. For instance, a revised version, with the confidential information removed, and targeted towards your subscribers, could go into the e-newsletter. Your readers will be grateful that they have not had to indulge in time-consuming research. What goes into an e-newsletter needs to be valuable as well as interesting.
Then there’s content marketing calling. Your blog might benefit from a further revised, and shortened edition, with bullet points abounding, and brief explanations of each underneath. Mention that ‘A fuller, and more comprehensive version of this article was published in our e-newsletter. To subscribe, please click here.’, with a link to a landing page. This should contain a box for subscribing to your e-newsletter and a clearly delineated box for subscribing to your email marketing list. Just think of all those leads.
Don’t forget the benefits of guest blogging.
These two published articles will, while subtly differing, have the same purposes; to get the readers to subscribe to an email marketing list. Yet has more or less written itself.
Now comes the drastic modification. Copy used in email marketing should not be just cut and pasted from a website. The two have different functions and further, we can, finally, indulge in precise targeting. With email marketing, you have specified the product.
The fewer words used in a marketing email that can persuasively convey the information the better. Cutting back to that which is strictly necessary is a skilled craft. People will scan an email, and every word needs to be focused on encouraging completion.
Similarities in wording between the marketing email and the blog can be helpful in case a subscriber reads both, but these should be limited to a short phrase or even a specific word. Cutting and cutting again can reduce a paragraph to nonsense so take care. It is easier to write articles than email marketing copy.
If you go external for your copy, ensure that the provider was aware of what use you will make of it, and is compensated accordingly.
The joy of the English language is that there are lots of synonyms. This is not only a ticket to untold wealth for thesaurus publishers, but handy for those who want to put over an idea in exactly the way which will produce the right response.
You will have a number of uses for copy: apart from email marketing, there’s website, blog and e-newsletter. The approach, words and voice will differ in each case, despite all being directed towards completions.
Targeting is not only needed when working out how to segment an email marketing list. The problem for website copy is that just anyone might wander along, and they all are potential customers. How can you target for such a catholic group?
You should get them to self-select. They want a quick route to what they are after. The person who wants to contact you will expect to be able to click on a main menu item. Those after a specific product will look for its image or a heading.
If a person clicks on a product image, the copy should helpfully explain the best points, the hook for sales. Include other convincing details, with the click through to more in-depth material. Calls to action should abound. Cajole rather than direct. They are interested in a particular product so concentrate on convincing them with persuasive words rather than forceful words.
Blogs are much more laid back. There’s no need for the pressure of a marketing email. There’s even a little room for self-indulgence. A joke, maybe two, but the rest is should be practical without being didactic. Use gentle language to bring the reader back to your products. All is not lost if they go without clicking through. If they enjoyed the blog, they’ll be back.
E-newsletters need to inform in an interesting format. They should be a gift. The main intent, that of sales, need not be hidden, just not too apparent. Don’t push them. They are already on your side.
Everyone not on your email marketing lists who visits your website, reads your blogs, or receives your e-newsletter, is a lead. Use words designed to exploit them.
I apologise for starting on a negative point, but sometimes relationships come to an end and there’s nothing you can do about it. It goes for subscribers to your email marketing list as well as for life, but in both cases you can sometimes can overcome their reluctance to continue.
Your subscribers will have a lifecycle and you need to recognise when they close in on the unsubscribe time. For some, it might be a sudden drop off in opens, with others it might be that their normal rate of purchase slows considerably. Then there are those who will give no recognisable warnings until you suddenly realise they haven’t completed in the last dozen campaigns.
It is always better to act early rather than late. Start a programme to encourage re-engagement to get them back in the fold. Set up an email marketing list for such reluctant subscribers and try one or more of the methods below.
1/ Stop sending them marketing emails.
This might seem counterintuitive but it can be effective. For a period of time, remove them from every email marketing campaign. If you send weekly emails, then consider every couple of months. The next one might trigger a response.
2/ Check to see if you are sending them relevant offers.
It might be that they’ve moved on from whatever they bought before. Try offering something to go with their recent purchases, especially consumables.
If they have been regular and reliable customers in the past, send an email with a ‘can’t miss at this price’ offer or a free gift. It’s an investment.
4/ Ask them what the problem is.
Work out the tone of message most likely to get them buying again. ‘We miss you so much’ is good but might not work with everyone.
5/ Letting them go.
If they hit the unsubscribe button, reply with a ‘thank-you for your custom’ and say that you hope they will consider your company in the future if they are looking to purchase.
6/ Give up.
If they don’t respond to anything, remove them from all email marketing lists. They will only mess with your stats.
Everyone has their preferred method of segmenting email marketing lists, be it age, location, purchasing history or [put your favoured way here]. How about trying a more sophisticated method, one that often gives a better ROI.
The evidence strongly suggests that splitting email marketing lists according to the lifecycle of subscribers is one of the most effective methods of targeting. It requires a little bit of work, but once completed, it is easy to slot your customers into their correct list. The number of stages will depend to a great extent on your product. You should pick as many stages in a lifecycle as will benefit you. For this article, we’ll run with five.
1/ Newly signed up
A brand new subscriber is a precious thing. They’ve already shown an interest but they’ll have expectations that you need to fulfil, at least to an extent. Whilst these will vary, it is probable that they will not include getting a bland ‘Welcome to our email marketing list’ email.
You’ll have to experiment to an extent, but try telling them what to expect, such as ‘Our first offer will be sent within the next few days’. How about also including a gift, ‘In the meantime, please find attached a thank-you for trusting us’.
2/ First purchase
It will be a relief to know that you’ve guessed right as to what interests them. Many companies have a ‘special’ offer in the first email. It need not be valuable. Something they’ll use regularly is best as every time they open it your name is reinforced.
Now’s the time to try to establish their preferences. Ensure you ask for subjects which will not be revealed after a couple of additional purchases. Target the questions in the same way you target marketing emails.
3/ Steady buyers
Once the subscriber has settled into buying, you will know their likes, dislikes, preferences and taste. You will be able to send an email at the time they are most likely to open it. Avoid the temptation to push them too much, particularly by sending too frequent emails. A regular purchaser is money in the bank. Mind you, experimenting is not only allowed by advisable. It might well open opportunities. Take care though.
4/ High value buyers
Ah! The gold standard of email marketing. These need husbanding but without cutting into the ROI so much that the profit margin suffers. They might expect reduced prices on occasion – ‘Specially for customers who have shown loyalty’ sort of thing. Something not valuable in itself can be just as effective, such as their own area of the website, or named people to contact if they have a problem.
5/ The lapsed
It is tempting to throw special offers at all those who suddenly cease buying from you. Given the cost of acquiring subscribers, this is understandable, but sometimes it is best to admit that they’ve gone. You’ll have to experiment a bit to discover those who might become regulars again, perhaps responding to a ‘last chance’ offer. If they don’t buy, remove them from your lists.
We recently gave some ideas on gaining subscribers to your email marketing lists. Here are six ways to ensure they stay and continue to buy.
1/ Respond to loyalty
This means more than just discounts and including them in generous email marketing campaigns, although don’t ignore coupons and special reductions. It can be much more useful to offer them pre-release items ‘at cost’, or products you have restricted stocks of. Try anything that will make it obvious that you value them more than just for what you can get out of them.
2/ Engage away from email marketing
Use social media in order to build a community. This over-used word really means interaction, discussions and, that most important aspect, feedback.
3/ Discover their preferences
Some companies seem reluctant to ask subscribers what they want, possibly because they view it as taking up a slot that can be used for email marketing. You could include a link to a landing page where they can pick what they would prefer to concentrate on. If it gets few visits, then be overt. Send a specific email telling them that you want to offer them precisely what they want.
The old ones are the best they say. A personalised marketing email has been shown in all research to increase click-throughs and completions. The only way in which they disagree is in percentages. There is no argument.
5/ Give them something
Allow access to your archived e-newsletters by subscribers who have been on your email marketing list for a certain time, and have completed one or twice. Let others know of your generosity as well.
6/ Ask them to contribute
I’ve mentioned before that I was asked to test a beta of a new item of software. I felt my expertise had been recognised. There must be some way that you can encourage subscribers to be an active participant in a promotion. You are telling them that you value their opinions.
If you think all this effort might be a bit expensive, remember how much each new subscriber to your email marketing list cost. It’s much cheaper to keep them.
We recently covered using forms on websites for gaining subscribers. They have a lot of advantages over offline methods as they are passive and require little effort once they are set up. They can also lower the risk of errors in completion.
There are certain situations when printed forms come into their own, such as when there’s a person-to-person interface. Trade fairs, counters, servicing and installations are excellent situations for targeting those who might sign up to an email marketing list. Direct your staff to concentrate on those who will give high returns.
We’ve all seen the clipboards at trade fairs, the number of leaves remaining denoting how successful the sales staff have been. The forms often consist of just three ‘boxes’: one for email address, another for first name, and one for last name.
This is all you need for an e-newsletter as there will be opportunities to gather more precise detail later, but for an email marketing list, more information is useful. Whilst I am the first to suggest that the shorter the sign-up form the better, face to face situations are opportunities to gain more data.
For instance, if at a consumer wedding fair, you will want to know if the person you are dealing with is half of the happy couple or is someone who will be paying for certain aspects of the day. The marketing email you will be sending will vary significantly in each case so have an additional box to specify their needs.
The most effective forms for the task are not going to be identical to the ones you use online. Design a form specific for completion by biro. Not only that, it might be that your staff member will be holding the clipboard and not resting it on a desk. So big spaces for email addresses; the same for names and job description. Have tick-boxes for a number of other questions but leave the decision as to which to ask to the person completing.
Your staff should be able to exploit the personal contact. Have them smile and chat while completing the forms. You might want to consider rewards according to how many subscribers they gain. Include the caveat that the subscriber must stay on your email marketing list for three months and make at least one purchase.
Just because the forms are paper, or better still card as we don’t want to appear cheap, does not mean the GDPR no longer applies. Ensure the personal data is treated with the same security considerations as if they had signed up online.
Once the forms are collected, have them entered on their own email marketing list. You should then send out an email to the new subscribers thanking them for their interest and asking for confirmation, via a tick-box, that they wish to receive marketing emails. Only when you receive the completed form should you enter them on your main list.
Do not make any offers on this email, just emphasise that it’s a security check as you deal with personal data responsibly.
Whilst digital technology scores over a biro most times, there are certain occasions when paper forms can provide a better service. Do not ignore the old-fashioned ways for obtaining subscribers to your email marketing lists.
One of the positives of online subscription forms, accessed by someone browsing your webpage or via a link to a landing page, is that it goes quietly about its business with little input from you.
However, printed forms can do almost the same. All you have to do is display the forms in locations where they are easily seen by those whom you are targeting.
The classic places are front desks, counters and reception areas. Many people who are waiting to see someone tend not to take out a book to read as this appears as if they expected to be ignored. They will look for provided magazines or, if they can’t find any, grab one of your forms.
Incentives, such as a promotional pen, can prove persuasive, and many of those who had not considered signing up to an email marketing list before might be tempted to.
Paper forms can also be useful in places where there can be input from your staff, such as trade fairs and counters. It can be economical to provide an incentive for your servicing mechanics and such to gain signatories.
Design the forms both for specific locations and those who are likely to be there. Those at counters might be in a hurry and to ask for more details than email address, name and position might put people off. At a trade fair, you could encourage your staff to complete the form and judge what additional questions to ask.
Remember that the GDPR still applies and the completed documents must be treated as securely as all other personal data. Have a sealed box for depositing the forms, which should be emptied regularly.
The provable records required by the GDPR more or less make a follow up email, with a tick box to confirm their permissions, as essential. Explain clearly what they’ve signed up for.
Paper subscription forms can be extremely effective in gaining subscribers to your email marketing lists.
Some suggest that the only things harder to come by than subscribers are good ideas. Yet there is an easily accessible way to find a ready source of ideas; subscribe to the email marketing lists of successful companies. Fair enough, you cannot copy verbatim, but what you should do is ask yourself why they do things differently to you.
An international software company, which seems to be expanding steadily, has a landing page that appears to commit one of the fundamental sins of email marketing. It uses trickery to gain subscribers. Most people, including me, would say this is a recipe for disaster.
I bought a product and on the automated reply acknowledging the order I found a hotlink. Who wouldn’t click though to ‘further information about the product, including manual download.’ There was a straightforward menu at the top of the landing page but underneath was a traditional looking sign-up form. The basic questions were all present but there was a surprising addition.
There were four tick-boxes, giving a choice of what to sign up for. There were three e-newsletters, each one promising to ‘mainly’ concentrate on one particular line of product. This is classic way of discovering what interests the subscriber. The ‘mainly’ means, in essence, the company was not limiting itself, so there were chances to mention other products.
At the bottom was the fourth tick box, but this one asked the reader to tick it receive ‘periodic offers of products’ with no further explanation. As it came directly after the e-newsletter boxes, with the text in identical style, the risk was that many of those who ticked the box would be expecting something similar. A significant proportion might be surprised to discover later that they had been placed on an email marketing list.
Here we have a successful company committing the error of not being clear. It seemed to be a trick, so a betrayal of the essential trust between subscriber and company.
I obviously clicked on the e-newsletter that wa specific to the product I’d bought and also the offer, or rather email marketing list, and waited to see what would happen. Within the hour I received what was obviously an automated welcoming email. It was generic, and had little to distinguish it from any other. There was the first e-newsletter, on the subject I specified, attached together with a link to previous publications.
The penultimate paragraph stated that I had clicked the box to subscribe to their email marketing list. There was a little bit about how security of personal data was important to the company and a request to tick another box to confirm the subscription. The final para included unsubscribe buttons for both newsletter and email marketing list.
I still felt cheated, but then one might conclude that many would not. The company had balanced the risk of people clicking the unsubscribe button against the larger number they hoped to catch.
It you are caught cheating, you’ve lost potential customers forever. However, this example shows that even the firmest of received wisdom can be ignored with clever systems.
The festivities are over and your New Year promise to go to the gym every morning is, thankfully, a fading nightmare. But what of your resolution to ‘do something’ about your email marketing lists? Now that you have more free mornings, it’s a good time to start honing your biggest asset into a sharp tool.
What you should do depends to a great extent on your particular products and the nature of your concerns with your email marketing lists. Let’s start with the basics of building your lists.
Most of us use online forms as the most convenient method. They are passive, require little maintenance, and are there all the time. With regular campaigns to encourage potential customers to the landing page, you should gain a steady flow of subscribers.
Look to your returns. The data will highlight both weaknesses and strengths of the form. Don’t take the bare number of completions as the best criterion. Be more concerned about the quality of your subscribers.
For instance, is the unsubscribe rate of new subscribers at a concerning level? Those who sign up should be looking forward to bargains and your first offer should be something to impress. If they stay for just a few emails and then unsubscribe, maybe buying nothing, then you are doing something wrong.
The reason might be that they were not sure what they were signing up for. The one thing that is extremely risky with online forms is to deceive and that includes not only telling an outright lie but also not being clear.
Tell them what ticking the box means and do it in big, bright text. You might think that the phrase email marketing might put off potential subscribers. I prefer the phrase being used, but perhaps including your average reduction percentage would be useful.
The old saying of size isn’t everything is never truer than when referring to email marketing lists. You need to ignore sign-up rates and look for those who stay and complete. The most effective way to ensure they don’t tick the unsubscribe box is to be honest with them right from the start.
The promise of Happy New Year might seem to be ironic for those involved in email marketing. Looming over everything is the spectre of Brexit and its fallout. It’s worrying for everyone, including those who are hopeful of a clean break. After all, none of us know what is going to happen.
The calendar, as proposed by the government, or a proportion of it I suppose, is as follows (dates subject to change):
7–27 January – Withdrawal Agreement approved.
January-February – European Parliament consents to the Withdrawal Agreement.
January-March – The Withdrawal Bill is debated and passed.
March – Withdrawal Agreement ratified by EU and UK.
29 March – UK leaves the EU.
2020 or thereabouts - There will be a transition period ending 2020 or at a later time as the Northern Ireland Backstop terms dictate.
If it all goes to plan, the effect on email marketing in particular, and marketing in general, will be minimal during the transition period. The UK will still be in the Single Market and the Customs Union for that period. It is best to say minimal as there are likely to be technical or legal issues that will arise from time to time.
As mentioned previously on these pages, the regulations regarding the way you collect and process your email marketing lists will stay the same subject to any, albeit highly unlikely, requirements imposed by the EU during the transition period.
Now we come to the ifs, and ands.
In the event the above process is not followed, the default position is that the UK leaves the EU with no deal. Or, to put it another way, the government has to do something to stop a no deal exit.
There are a number of processes suggested as to what could happen, but there is no favourite at the moment.
Many businesses are wary, to say the least, of the effects should a no deal happen and are wondering what they can do. If this is you then there is some help available.
The government has produced to series of publications to, in theory, explain matters. The first one is brightly entitled; Guidance on how to prepare for Brexit if there's no deal. See https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/how-to-prepare-if-the-uk-leaves-the-eu-with-no-deal
There are initially 21 chapters, covering everything from Applying for EU-funded programmes to Workplace rights. Of most interest for email marketing will probably be Structuring your business if there’s no Brexit deal. See https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/structuring-your-business-if-theres-no-brexit-deal--2/structuring-your-business-if-theres-no-brexit-deal
The EU has published their Preparedness Notices, all 79 of them at the time of writing, in the event of a no deal. They have also published the Contingency Plan, download here: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A52018DC0880
There is further guidance from the UK Government on data protection law if there’s no deal: See https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/data-protection-law-eu-exit/amendments-to-uk-data-protection-law-in-the-event-the-uk-leaves-the-eu-without-a-deal-on-29-march-2019
One significant, although existing, requirement regarding email marketing lists and other data, Article 27 of the GDPR, is that a controller or processor not established in the EEA must designate a representative within the EEA, although there are minor exceptions. The government has said that the requirement will be made reciprocal and controllers based outside the UK must appoint a representative in the UK.
As nothing has been decided yet, there might seem little point in an article on what will happen on 29 March to the email marketing industry in this country. However, some things are clear; there are three options ‘on the table’. There might be more but let’s go through the main ones.
If that happens then everything should carry on as before. The GDPR will still exist and control what we can and must do with our email marketing lists. It is likely there will be a lot of political posturing. As I said, everything will carry on as before.
The Government deal
There will be a transition period, scheduled to end in 2020, but it is possible the date will be extended. For that period, everything will carry on as before.
This is the backstop, enshrined in legislation. On 29 March if there’s no changes, the UK is committed to leave. We’ll deal with the possibilities of this alternative as it applies to email marketing.
The one thing that is certain is that the GDPR will continue to apply to the UK. There have been suggestions that, as there was a high level of alignment between the EU and UK’s data protection systems then data will be allowed to flow either way, subject to review. However, whilst data will be able to flow from the UK to the EU, there is considerable doubt as to whether the reverse will be allowed.
The UK will need to apply for an ‘adequacy’ decision in the event of a no deal as the UK will be a ‘third country’. These have, historically, taken some time, years in fact. However, as the laws in this country comply with the EU’s, one might hope, rather than expect, that it would be shorter in our case.
The stumbling block is Article 51, GDPR. This ensures that the UK will no longer be considered a Member State and our supervisory authorities will not be recognised.
One would hope that the ICO is working with its EU counterparts to smooth the passage of recognition.
The problem with all predictions about Brexit, and what it means for email marketing, is encapsulated in the title. Even now, less than 100 days until we officially leave, there is some doubt that we will actually do so.
Some things are more or less set in stone. The GDPR and similar EU legislation will still need to be complied with so there should be no changes in the way to collect, store and deal with the data on your email marketing lists. But what else should we expect?
There seems to be a lack of people who are willing to go on the record. Some are happy to share options, so that’s all I can do.
A journalist on a national television channel told me nearly two years ago that the decision on what will happen would not be made until a ‘few’ months before the deadline; 29 March next year for those who’ve been asleep since the vote. Who better to go to than someone who was spot on?
A week ago the journo said that no one knew what the outcome will be. The options seem limited to a hard Brexit, something similar to May’s plan, or we remain in the EU. Further than saying that he’d listed them in order of what he thought was their likelihood, he was not prepared to go. His last comment was, ‘The vultures are circling.’ In other words, countries are after what they can get out of us.
Comments on May’s plan were easier to come by. I’m writing this just before Christmas, with the vote on it being (provisionally) rescheduled for 14 January. It is, I was firmly informed, unlikely to be passed without major modifications.
So where does that leave us?
The state of the GBP suggests that if/when we leave the rate of exchange will be lower, giving many of us in email marketing a bit of an advantage. Given that 46% of our exports go to the EU we all probably hope for some kind of agreement before the day arrives.
We have no idea if any trade agreements have been pencilled in, although New Zealand and Sweden have made certain overtures. There may be more, some of whom will not want to be seen too early to be supporting the UK.
It seems clear that there will be a certain amount of loss if the UK goes through with hard Brexit. This will probably be lowered to an extent if we enter into some kind of ersatz Norwegian style of option. A positive aspect is that the EU will suffer if we leave without an agreement.
The EU businesses that sell much of their stock to the UK will be, no doubt, pressuring their negotiators in order not to suffer too much of a hit.
This is not a reassuring prediction, such as it is, but it seems that if we carry on with email marketing in the way we are doing now, we are likely to suffer less of a blow than other SMEs. Here’s hoping.
Let’s be reassuring; no matter how badly your current email marketing campaign is going, or if the inter-departmental problems are restricting your ability to do your job properly, you have it easy compared to the Prime Minister. Mrs May’s had a rough couple of weeks and, if anything, the forecast is that it will get considerably worse come the New Year.
While the intra-governmental battles, and those with the EU, are compulsive viewing, all they seem to do is make the type of Brexit we will have more obscure. As I write this, no particular Brexit has become more likely. What is clear is that no one knows what will happen. The result of all this uncertainty is a hit on the pound and the threat of essential workers leaving the country.
The most sensible advice would normally be to plan for every eventuality, but that’s rather pointless given the plethora of options. Email marketing is likely, it would appear, to have a period of stability whatever happens. We will still need to comply with the GDPR as it will be embedded in our legislation for some time. Your established systems for processing your email marketing lists will be all you need.
Tariffs could be imposed. It is possible that we might receive some notification of this but it is advisable to have some sort of plan for any variations in prices. Different email marketing templates for countries with different commercial agreements.
One of the options being suggested by the media is another referendum. There have been denials from those in authority in the government but whether that is merely whistling in the wind or not is unclear. Remaining in the EU, even temporarily, might be seen as the easiest for us. There would be more time to prepare if, at the end of a 2-year hiatus on Article 50, we have an agreed route to leave.
No dependable commentator seems willing to give a most-likely option for 29 May. All we can do is have flexible plans. However, it seems likely that initially, email marketing will be little affected compared to other form of marketing.
This time last year, almost all email marketing commentators and bloggers would have suggested that the then soon to arrive General Data Protection Regulations would be the big thing for 2018. I’m not only saying this to show how prescient I was. Everyone said it.
We were proved right of course. What few suggested was that it would be all but transparent as it was hyped as the biggest thing since the last big thing. Once it became law it was apparent that it was more evolutionary than revolutionary and most of us went on as before, although with significant, if minor, modifications to procedures, especially in the way we handle our email marketing lists.
The ICO recently published details of its first enforcement order, a process that is more or less a warning that things could get nasty, under the GDPR. It has been law since May, so the gap of six months is quite short. The ICO must have identified the breaches of the regulations almost from the off.
AggregateIQ Services, based in Canada, so a bit outside the EU, was found to have sent online political messages to UK citizens during the Brexit campaign. The order requires the company to ‘cease processing any personal data of UK or EU citizens obtained from UK political organisations or otherwise, for the purposes of data analytics, political campaigning or any other advertising purposes’.
A bit late now you might think. However, all procedures on breaches of regulations must, of necessity, be reactive. You might also think that it has little relevance to email marketing, but you’d be wrong. It puts down a marker for those companies considering following AggregateIQ’s example.
Firstly, and most importantly for us if Brexit does proceed, it shows clearly that companies outside the EU can be prosecuted if they monitor the behaviour of EU citizens in breach of the GDPR’s provisions. We have been warned.
It also demonstrates that nothing is out of bounds. It is a political issue but the ICO seems happy to take it on. It is clear that the way you process your email marketing lists, or anyone else’s come to that, for whatever purpose will have to comply with the GDPR.
What is not so clear is why the company wasn’t penalised, other than by an enforcement notice. Either there was evidence of wrongdoing or, if not, why the enforcement notice. Prosecution without penalty would seem an odd decision in the event. The ICO hasn’t shared the reasoning behind their decision in the matter unfortunately.
On the ICO website we are told, in the comments on this case, that they remain a pragmatic regulator. They say that ‘this should not be taken as an indication that the ICO will not start issuing fines for breaches of the relevant legislation’. You might think that a clearer sign of this would be to issue fines.
The ICO has, historically, aimed at stopping breaches being repeated.
With the possible penalty being €20 million, or 4% of annual turnover if they fail to comply with the notice, it is a serious threat.
I know you are not that interested in my problems, not with Christmas coming and not knowing if Brexit is, but getting known as a writer on the GDPR and email marketing has a certain downside this time of the year. I’m being pointed to as the bloke who told the headmistress of my grandchildren’s school there was nothing in the General Data Protection Regulations about filming year three’s Nativity play.
It wasn’t as if we argued. I said my bit politely to the headmistress, unfortunately in the presence of parents, and I was asked how come I knew so much about the GDPR. I showed her these pages and, with no real surprise, discovered it made no difference. She had contracted a professional to film the event and sell CDs to the parents. She refused to stop a revenue stream, something we can all sympathise with.
Similar misunderstandings are covered by the ICO, under the dreadful heading; Sleigh-ing the Christmas GDPR myths. I like puns, but even I will admit there are limits. Anyone in email marketing must be aware of which festive indulgencies contravene the GDPR. After all, what about Christmas cards to subscribers?
Despite what’s on social media, Santa Claus is not in contravention of Article 4 of the General Data Protection Regulation (EU) 2016/679 just because he made a list. Farcical perhaps, but no more weird than some of the myths and misdirection corrected by the ICO in a blog. See: https://ico.org.uk/about-the-ico/news-and-events/news-and-blogs/2018/12/sleigh-ing-the-christmas-gdpr-myths/
For instance, they reassure us that you can contact parents to tell them what stall they will be running at the school Xmas fair. They also mention a town in Germany which recently banned children from the traditional posting of letter to Santa on the town’s Christmas tree. I didn’t believe it either, but it seems it is true. See: https://www.euronews.com/2018/11/21/good-news-gdpr-doesn-t-ban-letters-to-santa
Whilst I would assume most of us know what is allowed and what is verboten, it is probable that the subscribers to your email marketing lists are confused. Why not visit the ICO’s blog and include the destroyed myths in your next campaign or e-newsletter, so putting your readers’ minds at rest.
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