Is GDPR a threat or an opportunity for your subscription-based content marketing?

By Alenka Bešter, Head of Digital Content Marketing for Zavarovalnica Triglav


I support the general idea of GDPR, giving customers the right to know what is happening with their personal data, which information is being gathered, who is using it and to what purpose. For one, because I am also a customer leaving a lot of data trails behind me and often wondering, why I started to receive a certain newsletter I never subscribed to.

Besides, as a content marketer, I firmly believe that we should only deliver our content to the people who actually subscribed to it. Spamming them with unwanted information has never led to any success.

A huge list of “subscribers” gathered through online competitions might impress your boss only as long as you don’t start reporting on your open and click-through rates. It’s just another one of the vanity metrics that doesn’t say much about the success of your content marketing.

So far so good.

GDPR will force us to go through our e-mail lists and check how and where we got our data from, if we haven’t been doing this very diligently so far. It will make us obtain the explicit, free consents for all the e-mails previously collected through gated content downloads. And we will have to set the necessary systems in place to be better able to track the source and use of our gathered data in future.

Yes, our subscriber lists will probably shrink. But that’s a good thing.

There is no worth in continuing to annoy people that never open our e-mails. I don’t want our brand to be the intruder of other people’s inboxes, do you? That’s like being the person crashing a private party that everyone keeps ignoring but nobody bothers asking to leave.

Not all e-mail is equal

If you work in a big organisation, your newsletters might be just a fraction of all the communication going on between your company and your customers. Right now, your compliance team is probably mapping all the different communication channels and personal data sources, carefully wording opt-in and opt-our forms for each of them.

You need a seat at that table even if you find all the legal talk to be nothing but a nuisance for your creative mind!

GDPR sees your high-quality newsletters like any other form of marketing communication, no matter how much attention you put into them. In order to become GDPR compliant it would be enough to come up with a consent form wide enough to cover your newsletters as well as all your other direct mail campaigns.

But do you really want to do this? Sure, your sales team would love it. They probably see every new contact as a lead ready to be monetised and your content marketing program as a great tool to gather more of those contacts.

How about your subscribers? If they want to hear from you regularly it’s because you have managed to fine-tune your content to hit their sweet spot. That doesn’t mean they also want to receive your sales offers. On the other hand, some of them maybe do. Then there might even be some, who don’t care about your awesome content and just want to get your discount coupons.

In terms of GDPR all these e-mails are equal, but clearly they are not! Presuming that your customers either want all-in or all-out would be short-sighted.

Fight for your subscribers and deliver on the promise

If your audience only wants to receive your content because it delivers them value, entertains them or makes them feel a part of a community it is your responsibility to do everything you can to enable this. Your content might be their first touch point with your company and it might take a while until they are ready for the next step. Use your data to show to your sales team that it is better to keep them as subscribers than to lose them from your radar altogether if you start pushing them through the sales funnel too soon.

By fighting for your subscribers you will also help to set up a system that will be more friendly to every other customer entrusting you with their personal data.

I am happy to report that we managed to do just that. We were able to persuade our compliance and or sales teams that we need a separate opt-in form for our newsletter subscribers. If they don’t want to be marketed to but still want to receive our high quality content, tips and stories, we will deliver just that and nothing else. I believe that trying to tie this to a wider consent form would be denying them service of sharing our know-how with them.

On the other hand, the customers who only want to get our latest sales offers or to be notified about their policy renewal, will not automatically also get our newsletters, even if GDPR enables us to do so.

Yes, becoming GDPR compliant requires a lot of hard work. But if you’ve invested so much effort, go the extra mile. Offer your customers the option to choose exactly which types of your e-mails they want to receive, even if by GDPR standards they all fall under the same “marketing” category. Take this chance and turn the whole process from a nuisance to an opportunity.

Zie Alenka live tijdens CMFF op 12 april a.s. !

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