GDPR and Buying Contact Lists

Neil HartleyB2B Inbound MarketingLeave a Comment

GDPR and Buying Lists

You’ve no doubt already received an e-mail offering you a list to buy containing “qualified, decision makers” in your niche. This post considers whether or not you should take that option and purchase a list.

The short answer is “no”.

The long answer is still “no” and here’s some context on why that is.

To further clarify, the answer was “no” before the introduction of GDPR in May 2018, and it’s still “no” now.

If you’re not already familiar with GDPR there are more posts out there explaining it than you have time to read. Hubspot provide a good overview here.

The primary objective of GDPR is to protect the personal data of EU citizens and, therefore, has an impact on any business (located anywhere) that processes this personal data.

As you’re in our target market (B2B tech companies) then you might think this doesn’t apply to you (as its aim is to protect the personal data of EU citizens). However, if the businesses you target are sole traders or partner based then you should treat your communication with those individuals as ‘personal data’ in which case GDPR does apply. If the businesses you target are not sole traders or partnerships then GDPR doesn’t directly apply (although the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations – PERC – do, as does CAN-SPAM).

So why wouldn’t you buy a list and start communicating with the contacts on that list? Before getting into that more fully, it’s important to recognise that your ability to communicate with any contact is not restricted to having the contact’s “consent”. Within the Data Protection regulations there are six lawful reasons to process personal data and “consent” is just one of them.

In B2B (excluding sole traders and partnerships) the most applicable (lawful) basis on which to communicate with a new contact is “Legitimate Interest”, either yours or the business of the contact in question. “Legitimate Interest” doesn’t mean you can spam people but there’s nothing wrong with a well thought out e-mail explaining why you’re contacting them and how you believe you can help their business.

The latest guidance from the Information Commissioner says that legitimate interests may be the most appropriate basis when: “the processing is not required by law but is of a clear benefit to you or others; there’s a limited privacy impact on the individual; the individual should reasonably expect you to use their data in that way; and you cannot, or do not want to, give the individual full upfront control (i.e. consent) or bother them with disruptive consent requests when they are unlikely to object to the processing.”

So, “Legitimate Interest” can be used even when cold contacting people on a list that you have purchased. But, here are the two main reasons why you should save your money and not buy that list in the first place:

  1. The marketing world is inbound, not outbound. With your limited marketing budget, your chances of success reaching out to people just based on their sector/job title (and who have not expressed any desire/need for your product) has a very slim chance of success and is much less effective/efficient than tapping into those who are actively looking for a solution to a problem that you solve – this is inbound marketing. If you’re at Series-C or -D stage financing with cash to burn in the bank then the numbers game of outbound marketing can and does work – just not for our target market.
  2. How current/up to date is that list? There are some providers of high quality lists out there (Rain King and Contact Enhance spring to mind) but the vast majority are very poor quality. The real issue with this is when you come to mail that list through your e-mail service provider who will fiercely protect their deliverability performance. Your introducing a bunch of hard bounces from your poor quality list is going to introduce you to their compliance team pretty quickly.

There are many other reasons why buying lists is not the smart move but it not working for our target market will suffice for now.

“Legitimate Interest” can apply to all your communications (not just lists) and should be the basis for all website sign-ups (white paper downloads etc.). You don’t need to ask permission to send follow-on information when using this legal basis – you’re not asking for consent – but it’s important not to mix and match. Don’t use “Consent” in some places and then rely on “Legitimate Interest” elsewhere.

Your lawyer may have a stricter view on this but we have used “Legitimate Interest” ourselves and on behalf of our clients in successfully sending hundreds of thousands of e-mails with zero spam complaints. Ensuring your communications are interesting, thought provoking and, above all, educational (rather than product focused) – while always including an unsubscribe in the e-mail footer – is the best approach. Those who are genuinely not interested will unsubscribe rather than lodge a spam complaint because you’ve annoyed them.

If You Like This Post, Please Share It!

Click the icon below to share with your network

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *