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Confusing eh? The above example may be extreme, but sadly it is not a million miles away from what many a marketing maverick has pressed publish on in the past.
For me, this kind of trickery has been near the top of my web-peeves list for many years, and thank goodness, things are about to change…
Enter the GDPR
Amongst many (many) other things, the GDPR contains a number of regulations relating to marketing consent. We’ve read the full set of guidelines on this (available here on the Information Commissioners website), and are now well equipped to help all of our clients keep their websites compliant.
Here is a quick summary of the key points:
1. You must not pre-tick checkboxes, and they must be “opt in” rather than “opt out”. It’s a positive action towards joining.
2. Consent must be “unbundled”. For example, you cannot have a checkbox that says “Accept our Terms, Conditions, and subscribe to our newsletter”. These have to be separate checkboxes from now on.
3. Your consent request must make it clear what the user is signing up for. For example, if a visitor on your website signs up for a “monthly newsletter”, you can’t start sending them a daily sales blast. If that was something you wanted to do, then you’d need to change your consent request, and either add the new subscribers to a different list, or ask your existing subscribers to consent to the new request.
4. It must be easy to withdraw consent (unsubscribe) at any time. We should all already have an unsubscribe link at the footer of every marketing email we send, however it is a good thing to go the extra mile and make that hyperlink (or account preferences) available from your website too.
Keeping a record
This is where things begin to get fiddly…
If your web forms change over time, you need to ensure you keep a record of the consent statement encase any complaints arise. It is important to know exactly what every individual subscriber has agreed to.
Many CRM systems allow for custom fields or have a “notes” field, and we’d recommend adding the consent statement to each individual subscriber record, so we can see exactly what every subscriber has agreed to.
Consider other sources
I’ve lost count of the number of mailing lists I’ve joined simply because someone has picked up my business card. From now on, this is not sufficient consent for marketing. Even if you ask the question verbally. Consent must be given in writing.
So if you already have a database packed full of contacts typed in from business cards, you will need to remove those subscribers, as technically they have never signed up in the first place. This leads us nicely on to…
Reviewing past practises
The regulations do not just apply to the future. They also apply to the past. You will need to look at your current subscriber lists and review the sources they came from. If consent is not provable, then they must be removed.
In some cases this could be a near-impossible task, and it has been well publicised that Wetherspoons recently deleted their entire marketing list as a result.
It is worth mentioning that if you did decide to delete your marketing list and start again, it is worth sending a “goodbye” email to that list. Let them know they will no longer receive emails and must resubscribe if they wish to going forwards.
I’d expect the majority of consent-related complaints to be about receiving unsolicited email, however, don’t rule out the possibility that someone may actually feel upset that they missed out on important information, or even offers that could have saved them money.
Here’s to a better web!
In general, we want to build a trusting and honest relationship with all of our website visitors.
The new regulations will stop those that have previously employed sneaky and devious methods to entrap people into their email communications, whilst also bringing consistency to those of us that have always wanted to provide an honest experience for our website visitors.