Getting Smart About Data Collection and Permission

Before Facebook and Instagram and Twitter and all the other social channels, there was email. 

Twenty years ago, marketers began falling in love with email marketing because you could send messages directly to people, and you didn’t have to wait for them to come to you. But like all good things, bad actors with bad practices showed up and spam became a thing. Because of this, we needed laws to curtail all of the junk email that was clogging up the internet pipes and flooding inboxes. Enter CAN-SPAM, which was a step in the right direction. We now had to ask people to opt in to email marketing and identify messages as advertising. 

Easy enough. 

But that law didn’t go quite far enough, so Canada passed their own anti-spam law, known as CASL. An important feature of that new set of rules required marketers to not only ask permission before they could send email to their subscribers, but now marketers needed to be able to produce documentation of that permission. 

And then General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came along, and it requires that subscribers can request to be forgotten and to have all of the data that marketers know about them to be deleted. 

And now, we see data privacy laws popping up everywhere. In the United States alone, four states have passed their own privacy laws (like the California Consumer Privacy Act, or CCPA), and another 13 have active bills winding their way through legislation. That’s a lot to keep up with. 

Everything that hit email with standards and ethical considerations is now hitting (rightfully) media targeting and other forms of data-driven consumer activities.

But here’s the thing: If you are following best practices when collecting data and taking care to send email messages to your subscribers that they actually want to receive, you will get a lot more value out of the relationships you are building with your subscribers and customers, and you won’t have to worry about complaints.

Here is what we mean:  

Permission: All good email marketing begins with asking permission to send email to your subscribers. Pre-checked boxes in shopping carts and web forms are a no-no. You need proactive and explicit permission. Other media are beginning to follow these long-established best practices.

Data collection: Once you get that permission, tell your subscribers how you will use any data you collect from them. That data should include subscriber preferences, like what content they want to receive from you, or their birthday if you have an annual birthday promotion. Don’t ask subscribers for information you will not be using; for example, don’t ask for a mobile phone number if you do not plan on contacting subscribers via phone. Other data you collect will be information on campaign engagement (emails opened, links clicked, etc.). You need to make sure your subscribers know that you use this data to deliver personalized content to them. For more information on collecting subscriber data, see my previous article, Get Your First-Party Email Data Ready.

Automation: With all of this great data you are collecting, you are now ready to create automated journeys for your subscribers. Be thoughtful about the journey your subscriber is on, and ensure that the touchpoints they experience along the way are relevant and triggered by your subscriber’s actions. Review your automations and messages on a regular basis to ensure your automations are functioning properly and your messages are relevant, content is not out of date, and links are not broken. And then, you’re ready for the next generation of permission: to deliver journey-based media campaigns. We think this could be hugely successful.

What’s next: Now that you have great data from and about your subscribers, what do you do with it? Sign up for updates to get notified when we publish our upcoming article on first-party data, how to gain access to it, and what you can do with it.