GDPR: What now for gated content in B2B email marketing?

The scare-mongering is over, the GDPR deadline arrived and nothing terrible happened, except for our inboxes being flooded with privacy policy updates, which was awful for all concerned.

So, now we can all move on in a positive way, within this new GDPR framework, but how does it affect email marketing and specifically, gated content?

Can B2B marketers still use gated content to gather leads for email marketing?
This article addresses B2B email marketing and does not apply to B2C due to the way in which businesses can rely on ‘legitimate interest’ instead of ‘consent’. If you can show that people are being contacted because of their job, not who they are and that they need your product and so may be interested, there are possible grounds for legitimate consent. Check out Seven things B2B marketers need to understand about GDPR for more about legitimate interest.

There’s no denying that email is the undisputed king of B2B Marketing and the best lead generation tool for ROI. In fact, The Marketer email tracker 2018 report found email marketing’s return on investment (ROI) is £32.28 for every £1 spent, up from £30.03 last year.

Gated content has always been a fantastic way to build a B2B email marketing database. Both, the company and the B2B consumer know how it works: useful content, whether blog posts, video, or other resources, are shared in exchange for contact details and further marketing as payment.

This can kick-start the lead generation and sales process, both getting people interested in your products through your content and giving you the means to contact them later.

But now that GDPR requires consent to be given for an explicit purpose, once the data has been handed over to be able to receive the content i.e. e-book, and that transaction has completed with the content download, does that mean the company cannot send that contact further marketing emails?

Many believe that gated content can provide a good method for GDPR compliant lead generation. With a correctly designed opt-in that covers all the regulatory bases you can collect all the data you need in exchange for handing over valuable content.

According to Peter Austin, Co-Founder and GDPR Geek at Fresh Relevance, it’s key to get your Legitimate Interests Assessment (LIA) right and ensuring your process in relation to data collection for email is clearly defined within it.
Austin goes onto very clearly outlining that the gated content form should include:

• “We process your personal data with care, as described in our [linked] privacy notice”.
• “We may contact you with information about our products or services, in addition to providing a download link for this eBook”.
• The form requires business details, not personal details (e.g. business email)

Providing clear information on data collection and usage on your data collection form is key to being able to use the data for future marketing purposes.

Opt ins
As stated in their article, ‘Improving lead gen quality and battling formopobia’ By Influence Agents, “under the new regulations, it’s necessary to make it as clear as possible why you’re collecting information, to be careful about what data you ask for, and to store evidence of consent in your CMS. Opt-ins will continue to help you build high-quality lead lists, particularly due to the self-qualifying nature of opt-ins.”

Thankfully, email automation software system such as Mailchimp have our backs covered with their new signup forms. Their optional, GDPR-friendly forms include checkboxes for opt-in consent and editable sections that explain how and why you are using data. Plus, all new opted-in contacts are date and time stamped giving you an accurate record of opt-in.

Better targeting
If you use gated content to segment your lead list, using the type of content that they sign up for as a hint about customer interests and intent, you can use this to create better lists and more precise targeting.

With a Legitimate Interests Assessment (LIA) in place, data collection and usage information provided to the B2B user on the gated content form and opt-in via an email software provider, such as Mailchimp, it appears that marketers can still use the tried and tested gated content method of B2B lead generation in a GDPR compliant way.

The GDPR is broad in scope, and successful compliance will vary between organisations. The changes we’ve outlined in this article are for informational purposes. Neither this blog nor our advice can be used as legally binding advice.