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7 Huge Lessons GDPR Has Already Taught Us About Email Marketing

7 Huge Lessons GDPR Has Already Taught Us About Email Marketing

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It was the best of email marketing, it was the worst of email marketing.

If your inbox is anything like mine, it’s been absolutely crushed by all this GDPR hoopla.

It’s May 30th.  The compliance deadline was the 25th.  Will the opt in emails ever stop?  I’ve gotten at least 5 today.

I thought this was supposed to mean less spam, not more.


One can dream.

Nobody’s gone to jail yet, but still there have been some lessons learned.

The sheer volume of missives gracing my inbox has provided ample opportunity to reflect on what good and bad email marketing looks like.  A few key insights:

1. Fun wins, all day errday.

Does being jokey about GDPR make you a bad marketer?  I vote no.

The ones that were interesting are the ones that got read.  Like this gem:


My favorite part is of this entire email is:

“Okay so %%whoever you are%%,”

That’s one heck of a default value for no first name.

And then, the lists when you click through….

IMG_8642 (1)


Takeaway: Be different or be gone.

2. We don’t BCC people on emails.

Bless the hearts of the people at Ghostery who accidentally exposed their customers’ email addresses in the CC line of their email about how much they care about our privacy.


Seriously though, some underfunded marketer had the worst day ever, and my heart really does go out to them.

Get that guy or gal a Pardot license, dammit.

3. Yes means yes.

It’s really easy for people to say no to you.  There are a million other things competing for their time and attention.

So make it easy for them to say yes.

Zoom GDPR.jpg

People have kind of mocked this example, but honestly, I think it’s brilliant.

People already have a way to say no – by doing nothing.  It’s quite accessible.  In fact, it’s built into everything – our subscribers and site visitors have that opportunity for inaction everyday.

So when possible, how might we guide them to take action and raise their hand to indicate interest?

4. List names matter if they’re exposed in an email preference center.


Or things like this happen, ya’ll:


Seriously, people forget that MailChimp list names are exposed to users.  At least in Pardot you can specifiy internal and external names.

Here’s a MUCH LESS funny example from the Oakland Police Department:


Yes, they have a list that includes “NO AF AM.”  I’ll let you draw your own conclusions on what those abbrevs mean.



5. Print media matters.

I’m kind of digging print lately.  Mail is fun.  More blogs on that later.

In the meatime, shoutout to the analog marketers sending out notices like these:


I’m going to use “CUZ GDPR” as the excuse for why I can’t do things from now on.

Can’t do the dishes? GDPR.

Not making dinner? GDPR.

6. Privacy concerns aren’t limited to just one channel. 

Regardless of whether GDPR functions as intended (it won’t), it’s virtually impossible to make yourself a digital ghost.

So whenever, wherever you are, be sure to proclaim your consent or lack thereof…


7. Fines are the worst.

GDPR theoretically can fine companies up to 4% of their annual revenue for violating this legislation.

The optimist in me says:

“Yay privacy!”

The pessimist in me says that this is an impossible burden for small to mid-sized companies to comply with, and it unfairly hampers competiton.

It will be fascinating how this legislation fares in front of a judge and jury and how this evolves as cases are tried and as legal precent is established.

The Bottom Line

GDPR is going to usher in some important changes in the way we think about digital marketing, but there’s a lot that is still open to interpretation and that will continue to develop as people get dragged into a courtroom.


In all seriousness though… if you have a question or a “what if” scenario you need help with, let’s hear it in the comments!  What have you observed from companies scrambling to comply with the law? Examples to share?

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  • Andrea Tarrell is the CEO & Founder of Sercante, as well as a 12X certified Salesforce MVP and Marketing Champion. Andrea caught the Salesforce bug at Dreamforce 2011 and hasn’t looked back since. She’s worked for consultancies, agencies, and client-side marketing teams over her career and is passionate about making marketing and sales teams successful with their tech stacks. Andrea lives in Atlanta with her husband Buck and her daughter, Arla. When she’s not working, she’s most likely playing with her German Shepherd Murphy, starting a new hobby that she will engage in exactly one time, or making homemade gin.

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