General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Guide for Email Marketers

  • Linkedin
  • Facebook
  • Whatsapp
  • Twitter

Email marketing campaigns have to adhere to the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to be able to send emails to anyone in the EU. This guide will discuss what GDPR is and what you will need to adhere to GDPR.

Table of contents

What is GDPR?

GDPR is a European privacy law that came into effect on 25 May 2018 to regulate the collection, use, and processing of personal information of the European Union individuals. These guidelines aim to prevent any misuse of personal data.

As GDPR governs the collection and use of email addresses by businesses, it has great implications for email marketers. The law extends to European companies and companies doing business with any European contact.

The seven principles of GDPR

The European Union has defined personal data as any information related to an individual. It can be their private, professional, or public life information:

  • name

  • photo

  • email address

  • bank details

  • posts on social networking websites

  • medical information

  • computer’s IP address.

GDPR's seven principles for the lawful processing of this personal data are:

1. Lawfulness, fairness, and transparency

The companies must gather, process, and use the individuals’ data fairly, legally, and transparently.

2. Purpose limitation

The act limits the use of collected data to explicitly specified legitimate purposes.

3. Data minimization

Reduce the data processing in relevance to the stated purposes only.

4. Accuracy

The stored data must be up to date. The companies should delete or rectify incorrect information without delay.

5. Storage limitation

The data stored with an organization should be in proper form. It must allow the identification of data subjects. Moreover, it can’t remain stored longer than is necessary for processing the specified purposes. GDPR requires several measures on account of the safety of the rights of individuals.

6. Integrity and confidentiality for security

The primary concern is the security of individuals’ personal information. The companies need to adopt proper measures to ensure no unlawful data processing, destruction/damage, or accidental loss in any scenario.

Related guide: Email Security Best Practices to Keep Your Business Safe Today

7. Accountability

All the entities using and processing individuals’ PI will be accountable to them.

Who needs to adhere to GDPR?

The act applies to all those companies that collect and process data of any European citizen, no matter whether the company is based in Europe or not.

But, the law doesn’t hold if the European citizen is living outside Europe during data collection.

How will GDPR impact email marketers?

As per the GDPR, email marketers must collect freely given, specific, informed, and unambiguous consent (Article 32) of the individuals before collecting any private data. As an email marketer, you have to take into account new practices which are:

  • New permission rules of customer opt-in to be implemented.

  • Proof of the consent storing systems to be available.

  • Setting up a procedure that allows consumers to ask if their PI has been removed or not.

The GDPR applies to both B2B as well as B2C businesses. No company can use the soft opt-in and soft opt-out approaches.

Apart from that, you have to check the third-party data. The third-party solutions must adhere to the GDPR guidelines on the processing and storage of data. Transferring data outside Europe is only possible if you meet the adequate requirements and ensure privacy protection through ‘Binding Corporate Rules.'

The scope of GDPR expands to Profiling. Thus, you need to follow the same. Otherwise, there will be a risk of a fine. You can appoint a data protection officer, if necessary.

What is GDPR compliance?

If any organization is GDPR compliant, they must be transparent about the European citizens’ data. They have to state everything clearly. What data and information are they collecting? How will they use it? From which source are they gathering it? Where are they storing it? And whether they will share it with anyone else or not? In addition, they need the consent of subjects for processing the data.

If they plan to use it for some other purpose in the future, they have to take permission from the respective individuals. In addition, GDPR requires more safety measures for the companies for data transfer across borders. You must state the servers in other countries (if any) in your privacy policy or display it on your website.

Consumers have the right to check and see any information stored about them with you. They can ask you to correct if there is any incorrect information. Also, they can revoke their saved data with you and further switch to some other service. The company needs to remove the data from all the sources if the consumer decides to revoke the permission.

The businesses must have records of all the steps of processes. For example, how are people opting to be on their marketing lists? What measures are they taking to protect sensitive information? Consumers have the right to ask for proof along with supporting documents.

The organizations must notify the consumers within 72 hours of any data breach.

The non-compliance to the GDPR results in some severe consequences, including a considerable amount of fines. It can range up to €20 million or 4% company’s global revenue annually, whichever is higher.

How to send GDPR compliant B2B cold email

GDPR mainly focuses on the personal data protection of EU citizens. There are a few points you can follow to send a GDPR compliant business email:

1. Appropriate targeted prospecting

As per the data minimization, the PI you’re collecting must be adequate and relevant to the processing purpose. Be precise about your ideal prospects and segments. You must customize your copy and campaigns accordingly.

2. State your legitimate interest in email copy

You must specify the reason for contacting a particular prospect and the relevancy of your offering. Besides, you have to mention how you’ve processed their data for contact.

Article 6, Clause 1 of GDPR states legitimate interest is legal only if the processing is necessary for the legitimate interests pursued by the controller or by a third party. But, there is an exception where such interests are overridden by the interests or fundamental rights of the data subject, which need personal data protection, mainly where the data subject is a child.

Your basis of legitimate interest can further be contested. Therefore, you must ensure your interests are in line with the individual. Whatever your offering is, it should relate to the specific business activity as declared by the company statute.

You should do some background research beforehand. Then, the email copy should specify some context of the same.

You can add the following three critical pieces of information to signify legitimate interest in your email copies.

A statement: It should contain information about how you’ve processed the individual’s data.

A brief explanation: It should specify the reasons why you’re precisely processing their data?

Instructions of change/removal: It should’ve instructions of the procedure following which recipients can change or remove the data.

3. The option to unsubscribe or opt-out

You must give people a straightforward way to opt-out or unsubscribe to whoever sends cold emails. The recipients should exercise their right to erasure and right to restriction. For this, you can add an unsubscribe link at the bottom of the email.

4. Clean and maintain your database regularly.

You must check the CRM database regularly and keep it up to date. Delete any unresponsive or inactive leads. Data security is essential. The software and system should comply with GDPR. You’ve to regulate the data access and maintain a proper record of levels of data clearance. You can anonymize or pseudonymize the data or even encrypt it for more data security.

5. Be prepared for the GDPR questions and complaints.

You should be ready with an informative reply to tackle fundamental questions and complaints from the GDPR prospects. Well-supported by the relevant details, the companies should answer the questions reasonably and explain their stance clearly.


With the introduction of GDPR, companies in the EU have changed how they handle personal data. Failure to comply with GDPR can lead to a fine of up to 20 million euros. Complying with the rules will benefit everyone- the EU can benefit by securing its residents’ data, your business will be considered trustworthy as you value your customer’s privacy, and in return, your customers will experience transparent communication exchanges.

What you should do next

Hey there, thanks for reading till the end. Here are 3 ways we can help you grow your business:

  1. Talk to an email expert. Need someone to take your email marketing to the next level? Mailmodo’s experts are here for you. Schedule a 30-minute email consultation. Don’t worry, it’s on the house. Book a meet here.

  2. Send emails that bring higher conversions. Mailmodo is an ESP that helps you to create and send app-like interactive emails with forms, carts, calendars, games, and other widgets for higher conversions. Sign up now and send 10k free emails/month. Sign up here.

  3. Get smarter with our email resources. Explore all our knowledge base here and learn about email marketing, marketing strategies, best practices, growth hacks, case studies, templates, and more. Access guides here.

Send 10k free emails/month