B2B Email Marketing and GDPR : What You Need to Know

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Recently, a long standing client asked why we had been selling illegal B2B email marketing data. Naturally, we hadn’t, but we were very curious to know why they thought we had.

The client in question had attended a marketing seminar which examined the impending GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and its implications on email lists. It soon became apparent that they had received misleading information. Their understanding was that B2B email marketing data should all be ‘opted in’ and mechanisms to do this should have been in place for the past five years. We had to point out this is not the case for B2B email marketing. B2C ‘opt-in’ rules are more stringent (and ever changing) and this could be providing the confusion.

On a similar note, we have been asked by a few clients to complete forms and provide assurances that our B2B data complies with GDPR. This is something we’re always happy to do but it is another example of the misunderstanding that surrounds the regulations attached to B2C verses B2B data. In short, GDPR applies to consumer data for email marketing purposes.

The good news is, it is clear a lot of businesses are now getting to grips with their due diligence as the subject of GDPR becomes a pressing issue. However, it is also becoming more prevalent that the regulations around business and consumer data need to be more distinctive.

Clarifying B2B Marketing List Regulations

Firstly, any B2B marketing data used for prospecting and lead generation needs to comply with the Data Protection Act (DPA), and specifically PECR (Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulation). With regard to the GDPR, The European Commission are currently reviewing a new ePrivacy Directive and the DMA have stated “The final version of the Commission’s proposal…. does not require opt-in consent for B2B email marketing". This is obviously favourable for the B2B marketer.

Looking at this in more detail. There are two classifications of organisations as far as the DPA, PECR and GDPR are concerned. These are:

1) Sole traders and partnerships

2) All other types of organisations

Details of sole traders and partnerships are considered to be personal information, so these people/companies need to be opted-in to receive marketing communications. Sole traders might otherwise be known as proprietors, self employed, one man bands and so on.

Companies that are Ltd, PLC, LLP, LBG or public sector organisations and charities do NOT need to be opted-in to receive marketing communications, but you must give them the opportunity to opt-out if you send them marketing emails, and you must include the details of who you are. Wherever possible an opted-in list is always the best option and will ultimately lead to better results.

A question we often get asked is, is an info@soletrader.com email address personal or non-personal? Can this address be used legitimately for B2B email marketing? Even though it doesn’t identify the person by name, we believe the email address will be deemed as personal data by the ICO, as it will possibly be the only email address for the small business or probably go through to the business owners email app on their phone, tablet or PC.

At Data HQ, we work very closely with our main contributors to our B2B marketing database. 90% of our business email data is opted in, including any sole trader and partnership records.

The final draft of the GDPR is still in a consultation stage, but at the time of writing this, it looks like the vast majority of consumer list sales of email and telephone-marketing data will be stamped out come May 2018. Thankfully, most B2B marketing data is immune from GDPR, but there are still a number of rules and guidelines that you must adhere to. You can read our best practice and tips for B2B email here.

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