How to Create an Email List With GDPR in Mind

The new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) came into place back in May 2018 and meant that businesses across the world had lots of work to do to ensure they complied with these new regulations. Designed to protect the personal and sensitive information of all EU citizens these new guidelines were a more thorough and updated version of the regulations that came before them.

While this is good for individuals and the safety of their personal data, it created a lot of work for companies who didn't meet all the regulations beforehand. With the threat of a huge fine looming over those who weren't compliant, it’s easy to see why businesses leapt into action when the GDPR deadline was announced.

Email marketing is just one of the areas of a business that was affected by these new regulations. If you’ve begun building or already have an extensive email list, it’s likely that you’ll have had to send out and implement opt in forms for all customers and users of your business. Once these consent forms had been sent out, you may have seen a drop in your subscribers. What’s more, with consent forms and the right to access personal data at any time, it is now trickier to build and retain a strong email list.

But fear not, there are several ways you can create an email list whilst always keeping GDPR in the front of your mind. Below we’ll look at five ways to begin building or strengthening your email list, so your marketing efforts are not damaged by these new regulations.

How to create an email list with GDPR in mind

Building an email list is no mean feat at the best of times, let alone now you’ve got GDPR to deal with. But if email marketing is an important part of your overall marketing strategy and has in the past generated a number of potential sales leads and revenue, then you need to take this seriously. Check out the five steps below for creating a strong email list.

  1. Refresh your content

If you found that post-GDPR you lost a number of subscribers, this could be the perfect opportunity for you to re-think your content. Consider why people might have unsubscribed, are your emails aesthetically pleasing and attention grabbing? Perhaps you need to put some more thought into your subject lines or maybe the information you were sharing wasn't really relevant to your customers. Take some time to re-evaluate and refresh your marketing emails. This can help you to attract and keep subscribers. Just be sure that any information you include is GDPR compliant and that you get consent before sending emails to users.

  1. Be sure to optimize your email sign-up forms

To ensure you comply with GDPR your email sign-up forms need to outline what users should expect from your emails, what they’ll get from them and how you’re going to protect their data. For this reason, you need to make the most of these forms, while not making them too complicated or overwhelming. Keep it as short and sweet as possible while still ensuring clear consent from users to receive your marketing communications.

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There are a number of places you can put your sign-up forms on your site, whether that’s at the checkout, popups on key pages or in your site footer. Choose the best location or have multiple locations for these forms, just be sure to choose the place that is going to best for increasing subscribers to your site. Once you’ve got your sign-up forms in place, there are a few final details you need to keep in mind.

Firstly, GDPR means that the pre-ticked boxes that we’re so used to seeing are an absolute no-no. You can’t simply tick the box for the user and hope they don’t deselect it themselves. Your forms must also contain consent details or take users through to another page which contains GDPR friendly information and asks for their consent. Get your copyright to make this key information easy to understand for all users. It can also be beneficial to optimise your pop-up forms based on the behaviour of the people using your site so that these will appear at the best time for maximum impact.

  1. Show the value you're offering

You're not going to build an email list if you don't give your customers or users a reason to subscribe in the first place. You need to make sure that the benefits of signing up are clear to those using your site. This is a good opportunity to offer promotional incentives such as first-time discounts, you just need to make sure that you're really showing the value of signing up to your brand.

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Remember, users are providing you with their personal and sensitive information and in a time when many are hyper-aware of GDPR you need to offer plenty of incentives in exchange for this. Two examples could be offering ’25% off your first order’ or sharing a free downloadable ‘how to…’ guide.

  1. Make the most of social media

Social media is an extremely powerful marketing tool and can really help you to grow your email list. Be sure to share regular content with your followers which encourages them to subscribe to your emails and explains the value of doing so. You can include your incentives in these posts, for example ‘subscribe to our site for 25% off your first purchase’. You can also use social media to explain the benefit of signing up and the ongoing value you’ll be offering to your customers.

Include a link to your sign-up form straight from your social media channels. This will outline to users how you’ll be using their data and how this will benefit them. This is also your chance to get consent and ensure you're complying with the new regulations. Social media offers plenty of opportunities to boost your brand and encourage sign-ups, so ensure you're making the most of these platforms.

  1. Create a referral campaign

Finally, a great way to drive sign-ups and grow your email list is by creating a referral campaign. Word of mouth is a very powerful form of marketing and can really help to build your brand’s reputation. Incentivise new subscribers and existing customers to share your brand with their friends or family. Encourage them to do so by offering incentives such as a discount code for every person they get to sign up to receive your emails.

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Written by Sean Huggett, Director and lead Data Protection & Information Assurance Consultant at

Mercy - CBNation Team

This is a post from a CBNation team member. CBNation is a Business to Business (B2B) Brand. We are focused on increasing the success rate. We create content and information focusing on increasing the visibility of and providing resources for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. CBNation consists of blogs(, podcasts, ( and videos ( CBNation is proudly powered by Blue16 Media.

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