Building your mailing list up (again!) in a post-GDPR world

By Sam Turner July 04, 2018 GDPR

GDPR came (and went!) in May and so too, probably, did a portion of your mailing list.

If you are anything like a vast number of businesses out there then you probably found a mailing list tucked away in the corner that you couldn’t account for and fulfilled your obligations under the new regulation by getting rid of it.

If that scenario does sound familiar then it’s interesting to take stock for a moment. Has taking that action negatively impacted your marketing in any way? Or has there actually been very little impact?

The majority of businesses we’ve talked with fall into the second camp. Data obtained by any means other than that laid out by GDPR seems to have been doing very little of note for firms. Typically, with that data having been from an unengaged prospect list or archive user group, that fact is perhaps not altogether surprising.

Whatever the reasons and results though, it’s possible that you’re now in a position where you have a depleted marketing list. What should you do? How can you increase the number of people you communicate with? If you manage that then what should you be doing with them?

Here are some useful next actions in a post-GDPR marketing world..

Give people a real reason to sign up to your updates

Asking people to ‘sign up to our newsletter’ just won’t cut it any more (if it ever did) when it comes to building an audience. Instead, offer people something in return. This doesn’t have to be the world’s best bit of content that you’ve spent ages putting together. Martin Lewis has built an empire on offering a ‘free weekly email full of deals and guides’. That’s not much different from a newsletter, but the tweak in the positioning is significant. What do your clients tell you time and time again that they want from you? Can you find a way to condense that down and fit it into regular email communications? Can you present it to prospective clients, as well as client,, for free? As we all become more aware about our data and who we give it to, your marketing will have to really fight for attention and give people the reassurance that they are getting something worthwhile and genuine.

Consider a more personal alternative to newsletters

Some time ago we switched from a newsletter style of marketing email to short, personal emails that came from a named individual at ClientsFirst. The emails changed their approach from ‘here’s the news’ to ‘here are our thoughts on the news’, mainly focusing on one topic, rather than several. Here are some headline stats:

  • Open rate increased by 53.3%
  • Click through rate increased by 207.7%

The selection of mailers used for these statistics had the added benefit of being sent only to a GDPR compliant database but still, those are numbers that are worth bearing in mind when it comes to your next communication. Which brings me to...

Use this as an excuse to challenge ‘what you’ve always done’

Newsletters are probably easier and cheaper to produce; they’re the email equivalent of a comfort blanket. Stepping outside of that comfort zone can pay dividends.

Even if it’s just with one month’s mailer, try something a little bit different and take a look at your metrics. Did it help or hinder your marketing progress?

Better yet: what is marketing progress to you? Why are you sending newsletters at all? What’s the long game? What are the business aims that you’re helping with your mailers?

Use GDPR and the new mailing list situation to kick off a more thorough review into what you do and why you do it.

Treat your mailing list as something to be regularly reduced, not grown

Here’s a radical idea.

Your mailing list is only as good as the (level of) engagement of the people who are on it. This is what defines your mailing list’s quality. Not the overall volume, but how likely it is that the people on it are going to interact with you and, eventually, do either first business with you or more business with you.

With that in mind, consider your mailing list as a flourishing tree that needs to be pruned carefully and often in order to stay healthy. Do you really need to keep emailing that contact who hasn’t opened a single one of your emails for the last 12 months? Put yourself in that contact’s shoes. They probably see your newsletter every month and delete it without opening it. Is that good for your brand? It certainly isn’t getting you anywhere and it isn’t helping your open rate figures.

Establish a rule for cleaning your mailing list on at least a 6-12 month basis (you need to do something similar to this anyway, to keep up with GDPR). Treat these cleanses as a positive rather than a negative: anyone you delete was never going to buy from you as a result of your emails anyway and you now have a much more targeted list to communicate with.

Happy emailing!

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Sam Turner

Sam Turner

Sam has responsibility for ClientsFirst’s inbound and content marketing, as well as helping clients to execute their own marketing campaigns and produce engaging copy. He has a background in blogging, copywriting and social media and is always on the lookout for a story or an emerging social technology. A keen traveller, when not in front of a computer keyboard, Sam can be found planning his next trip away or, closer to home, back in front of a keyboard writing something covering film and TV.

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