What is GDPR and How Does it Impact B2B Cold Emailing?

Data privacy and protection has been a critical issue for businesses and consumers in recent years but the issue moved to the forefront when the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went into effect on May 25, 2018. The law, which is designed to protect the personal data of EU citizens, has long-reaching implications for marketers especially for cold emailing.

As a B2B company based in the U.S., you may wonder if the GDPR impacts your business. While GDPR is designed to protect the personal data of EU citizens, the law applies to all companies processing and storing the personal data of EU customers – whether they are located in the EU or not.

While the law is designed to protect individuals not businesses, the law applies to all personal data, regardless of whether it’s customer or employee data. B2B companies need to understand the implications of GDPR to their email outreach.

What is GDPR?

GDPR imposes restrictions on how companies can collect, process and store the personal data of EU citizens. GDPR isn’t specifically focused on the using the data but rather on giving customers ownership of their data and the ability to provide consent to companies on what data they can use. One provision enables EU citizens to request companies remove certain online data about them. If companies don’t comply, the EU can impose fines up to 20 million Euros or 4 percent of annual revenue (depending on what is greater).

The data covered under GDPR includes:

  • Name
  • Photo
  • Email address
  • Social media posts
  • Personal medical information
  • IP addresses
  • Bank details

GDPR focuses on three main areas:

  1. Consent: Companies must obtain and document the explicit consent from customers to track their online activities with cookies. Companies must provide customers a clear opt-out and the ability to control subscription preferences.
  2. Data Management: Companies must give users the right to:
    1. Understand what data has been collected on them
    2. Update the collected data
    3. Request data be erased or deleted
  3. Privacy Policies:  Companies must align their privacy policies with GDPR requirements and

document your legal basis for processing their personal data.

Other Regulatory Implications

Even if you don’t process the data of any EU citizens, GDPR has highlighted how seriously governments are taking data privacy and protection. Expect other countries to follow suit with similar regulations over the next few years. In the U.S., California recently passed a law to protect the personal data of California residents. In the future, other states will likely pass similar laws, with the federal government potentially following suit.  In addition, GDPR has also made customers more aware of how their data is used.

Implementing GDPR-compliant cold emailing strategies now can help you serve your customers better and help you be prepared for any future regulations. This post will discuss the impact of GDPR on B2B email outreach and the steps necessary to ensure customers’ personal data is protected.

GDPR Impact to B2B Marketing

The big misconception about GDPR is its impact on B2B companies. Since GDPR relates to personal data, many B2B companies think the law doesn’t apply to them. However, an individual’s business email address can be considered personal data because it enables you to identify from the email address (as opposed to a generic email address such as [email protected]). Company name and generic company names are not considered personal information.

Before GDPR, marketers could use a customer’s email address for a number of activities including adding the person to a mailing list, using it for analytics, or selling it, among other uses. GDPR allows for personal business data to be used to market relevant products and services long as an opt-out is provided. In effect, it’s similar to permission-based marketing. Marketers must get customer consent before using email addresses or other personal data.

How to Send GDPR-Compliant B2B Emails

Although GDPR governs the way you collect, manage, store and delete personal information, the law has not eliminated the use of cold emails for B2B marketing. Under GDPR, the personal data you collect needs to be adequate and relevant to the purpose of the email and your email content should express legitimate business interest.

When building your cold email prospect list, ensure each contact is likely to benefit from your email and the content of the email is clearly connected to prospect’s business. Also, collect only the personal data you will use in your campaign. If you aren’t going to call or physically mail your prospects anything, don’t put company addresses or phone numbers on your list.

To ensure your cold emails are effective while meeting data protection requirements, you should follow some general guidelines:

  • Easy and obvious opt-out option
  • Accurate sender field
  • Appropriate target audience
  • Relevant subject line and personalized email content
  • Legitimate physical address for your business
  • Only businesses and corporation email addresses (avoid individual business owners without a business email address)
  • Instant removal of people who opt-out
  • Maintain directory of opt-ins and opt-outs
  • Remove outdated and irrelevant leads from database
  • Disclaimer with short explanation of reason for contacting them

Bottom Line

Whether your business is directly impacted by GDPR, it’s important to understand what GDPR means for B2B cold emailing. Implementing the GDPR measures mentioned in this article will help keep your business safe, optimize your marketing operations and enhance the customer experience.