A step-by-step guide to running a GDPR opt-in campaign

A step-by-step guide to running a GDPR opt-in campaign

As someone who’s been talking about GDPR for 3 years now, fortunately the time for talking is almost over. We know the ramifications of GDPR and have an insight into what ePrivacy Regulation will bring when that lands in the coming months. The board meetings have been called, lawyers have been contracted and organisations are in the trenches now in a race against the clock to get all their business units and operations GDPR compliant before the 25th May 2018 deadline.

From a marketing perspective, things are pretty clear. The combination of GDPR and ePrivacy regulation means it’s all about consent. That is, getting opt-in consent from the people whose information you want to use for whatever reason. As marketers, we’re primarily concerned with being able to send marketing communications in whatever form they take to as many relevant people as possible.

If you’re a business that’s been started in the last couple of years, and you’re into inbound marketing and the idea of building corporate reputation, you may be smugly sitting there now with a strong sense of satisfaction. That’ll be because you started with your lead gen strategy in a compliant way. If that’s the case, you are excused to go and make tea (bye Charli).

For the rest of you, it’s likely you have a database of some description with customers and prospects on it. Whether it’s a spreadsheet, a collection of spreadsheets, a simple CRM set up, or a 3 way synchronised database between an ERP, CRM and Marketing Automation system – your task is the same.

Whether you have 100 contacts or 1,000,000 contacts, your task in the same. How to get the highest number of compliant opt ins for your marketing communication channels – whatever they may be. It’s the name of the game, folks.

Don’t worry. It’s likely you’re sitting as part of the silent majority. Enough of the small talk, let’s get on with covering off some practical guidance on how to get the biggest percentage of your database opted in as possible.


Start with an audit

You haven’t got long to do this, so don’t spend more than a few days putting it together, but you need to get to grips with your data.
You need to know the answers to these type of questions (for reasons that will become clearer once you’ve read the rest of this blog):

  • What is the total number of contacts?
  • What is the blend of customers, prospects and lapsed etc?
  • How many contacts have email addresses?
  • How many have phone numbers?
  • How many have postal details?
  • What is the last contact date?
  • How did they end up on the list?

A sound base assumption from most of the work we’re doing with clients at the moment is they can provide no GDPR/ePrivacy Regulation compliant audit trail whatsoever. Even those contacts that have been transparently opted in online often have been done so with either pre-ticked boxes, or ‘click here if you want to opt out’ messages. Such infamous tactics were, for the longest time, designed with the sole purpose of confusing the hell out of those unfortunate enough to have to navigate a web form or landing page at the end of a long day.


What to do with the audit?

Now you have a picture of what data you hold, you need to figure out what you’re going to do with it. Obviously you need to be going out there at some point and directly asking for that all important opt-in. Don’t get too carried away, we’re not doing it yet.

You need this information early-doors because you need to start the process of getting budgetary sign-off for this, from wherever that needs to come from.

You see, a GDPR opt-in campaign is going to cost some money.

Take the number of contacts you have with phone numbers and postal and start to do some ‘fag packet’ numbers.

Telephone – £3 per contact
Postal – £2.50 per contact

We won’t worry about email numbers. You’d need some total cost calculations that will probably still end up being really cheap per contact. So for the purposes of getting compliant before the deadline, let’s just agree email is cheap and not worth running through as a cost per contact.


Make them care

For GDPR, we need a statement of clear, affirmative action. OK – so how do we get that then? We approach this quite simply. You need to make them care. Make them care about the content they receive.

Importantly, in the context of a GDPR opt-in campaign, they need to recognise the value of your content before they consent and give you a tick in the box. It’s a key difference between a clear opt-in, and people not being arsed to opt-out.

We need to make sure that the content they are receiving is helping the contact in their daily lives somehow. Now that’s not just helping them when they’re ready to buy something, with product sheets, comparisons and the like – it’s also getting involved much earlier in the buyer’s journey. That is, when they’re experiencing the symptoms of a problem, or assessing the range of solutions that are open to them to solve that problem.


The power of newsletters

Practically, sending people emails they haven’t asked for would rarely be seen as good practice in today’s inbound-dominated landscape. But, if you’re in a position where you’ve got a database of 100,000 contacts acquired over 20 years in business – what are you to do? That database has probably cost you a fortune to acquire and would cost you a fortune many orders of magnitude more if it died off as a result of non-consent. You’ve been sending email on an opt-out, outbound basis for so long – we’re going to put that experience to good use!

You need to design a really strong newsletter format. And quick.

Consider these:

  • Feature blog-style content. If you have a blog, take it from there. If you don’t, you should make a section on your website (you’re going to be creating the content anyway) and it’ll take two minutes if you’re on a decent content management system like WordPress.
  • Use keyword analysis on Google to figure out what questions are being asked on the internet that are relevant to the products or services you sell. Ultimately, this is a goldmine of information – a real insight into the minds of your unwieldy database. Create content that leverages those keywords.
  • Write! Whether it’s your internal team, or someone like, us, someone has to sit down and get it done. It can’t be best endeavours – there’s a legislative deadline to meet ‘ere! Aim for no more than 5 articles per issue. Feel free to blend in videos – whether case studies, or explainer videos.
  • Don’t make it too salesy. We’re talking information of value – remember? Sales-focused content is only relevant if someone is about to buy. In some sectors like non-commoditised products and B2B products, people spend the vast majority of time out of the buying mindset. Remember that Buyer’s Journey we discussed before.
  • When it comes to sending this fresh, think about it as a campaign. We’re advising clients to get a couple of months of newsletters in minimum, so people can get a feel of the value of the content first. And then actually work a follow up email, ‘opt in to receive more content’, once there’s some recognition. In constructing landing pages and forms, you might want to check out our blog article on landing pages. It has RuPaul in it (don’t ask).


The hard problem

If you have a load of contacts, with no email address and no phone number, one option is to create a proof of concept hard copy newsletter. It could mirror the content in the digital one. You can use this as a means to drive people to an online subscription form, and then drive them to an opt-in form to receive email versions in the future. Whether this is a good idea or not depends on your data audit. If you have postal contacts who were added to the system 10 years ago and haven’t been touched by sales and marketing since, that probably wouldn’t represent great value. If it’s a contact you speak to regularly, but they just never wanted to give up their email address for marketing previously you would probably want to.

It’s worth pointing out, getting someone to recognise the value in a printed doc is the easy bit. Getting them to change channels and make the leap online to complete an opt-in process requires a helluva lot of action on the contact’s part. That’s never a good thing for conversion. If you’re going to go down this route, start small and test with a small proof-of-concept first before printing and posting tens of thousands of copies. Also, think about how to shrink the opt-in process to be as streamlined as possible.


Calling for you

If you found as part of your data audit that you have a tonne of contacts with phone numbers as the sole decent contact details, you can decide to go down the telephone route. As part of a waterfall approach, this would be the final fall into the foam. That’s because it offers the highest cost per contact opt-in rate.

This is a tough sell. Contacts tend to be quite closed to phone calls to begin with, and suffice to say you’re having to sell contacts on the benefits of opting in to receive your marketing communications.

Some tips from our war wounds:

  • Have content examples (e.g. your shiny new newsletter) with operatives ready to send as evidence of the quality they will receive when they opt-in.
  • Bring in quality. Telemarketing is tough. Good telemarketers are worth their weight in gold. If you don’t have skilled internal telemarketing team, don’t be tempted to undermine what’s involved. All too often people go out and recruit low paid and unskilled/temporary workers. With a short term perspective, you can imagine how much care and attention goes in to delivering the message.

Again, it’s sensible to start small (1000 contacts or so) to validate how the channel performs for you. You don’t want to commit to giving a telemarketing agency a huge contract if you don’t get the opt in conversions


Timing’s of the essence

You’re going to waterfall this campaign. That is, you’re going to start with email, then go to post, then to go phone. Where there is an email address, you’re going to spend a time and effort trying to use that method. The reasons for this are twofold: ultimately it makes getting the audit trail easier – the all important evidence that someone has given their consent. Putting it as blunt is possible, it’s also loads cheaper. Who doesn’t like to save some dosh?
Keep these things in mind:

  • Map out your campaign into a full on Gantt chart.
  • Make sure all emails are part of a email nurture drip automation.
  • Look at your plan once it’s down with dates attached and ask yourself, with an objective mind, “will people recognise the value here”?
  • While you don’t want to be a one hit wonder, you also don’t want spam the shit out of them. You’re definitely going to send the wrong message then! Think about the right blend of re-sends for emails (should it be people who haven’t opened, or people who haven’t clicked, or people who haven’t opted in?). You’ll want to get in at least 2 or  of your email newsletters.

Help is at hand

We’re GDPR and ePrivacy regulation compliance experts. We’ve been working on engagement, engagement and consent campaigns for nearly 3 years with a wide range of businesses. It’s not too late to call in help if you need it. Contact us today and don’t lose the value of your data.