If you’re not yet aware, the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, is going into effect in the E.U. on May 25th.

This means if you’re located in the E.U., do business with any clients living in the E.U., or even just have people from the E.U. on your mailing list, you need to sit up and pay attention.

In super short layman’s terms, the GDPR aims to give individuals more control over their data and privacy, which means that if you collect any personal data from any person in the E.U., you must be compliant with the regulations or risk a fine.

My friend, lawyer Gena Shingle Jaffe breaks it all down for us in this video:

*this is not legal advice but rather information to help educate you around GDPR.

Check out Gena’s full webinar on the topic and her GDPR-ready privacy policy template here.

What does this all mean for content marketers?

If you’re a U.S.-based company, you’re probably wondering, “Do I really need to worry about this?”

If you can guarantee that you never do business with or collect information from people in the EU, then yeah, go right ahead and ignore this.

But for the majority of us, we live in a global economy. That means pretty much anyone who reads English, anywhere on the planet, is potentially going to find my website and potentially both opt-in for my email list and even do business with me.

(Fun fact: Want to guess where the second highest number of sales of my Kindle book come from after the U.S.? India. Go figure!)

Someone in a business forum I belong to said she remembered the acronym by thinking “Good PR” — and I think that’s a marvelous way to look at it. While the U.S. may be slower to enact privacy legislation like the E.U.’s, we as business owners can take the initiative to go the extra mile and protect our customers’ data without being forced to.

It’s just good business.

But I’m going to leave the actual compliance stuff to experts like Gena; what I can talk about is what this will likely mean for us as content creators and content marketers.

Are freebies dead?

The biggest change for many of us will be in how we offer our freebies. In the longer GDPR webinar I linked to above, Gena explains that we must explicitly get consent before adding someone to our email list.

Some marketers are doing this by adding a ticky box to their opt-in forms, some are using a link on their thank-you page, or a double opt-in system. The point is, we’re going to have to be a lot more forthright about the fact that if you give your email address to download our latest “free” thing, you’re also going to be added to our email list and marketed to in the future.

“Duh,” you might be thinking, “Everyone knows that as soon as they give away their email address, they’re going to be marketed to.”

Well, you know that and I know that, but it’s certainly possible that people outside the industry don’t know that. Regardless, we’re now being compelled to be more transparent about our intentions right from the get-go.

Gena points out in the webinar I linked to above that you can also simply change the way you talk about your opt-ins, by saying something like, “Join my email list and receive this bonus for free.”

But the stark reality is that when people are reminded that they’re joining your email list, they may pause. Give them the option to get your free thingy without also getting on your list and — you guessed it — a certain percentage of them are going to do just that.

The cold hard facts are that when you implement these requirements, you are almost certainly going to see the number of leads you get from your opt ins drop.

There’s no way to predict by how much, but this is going to be the new reality.

Is this going to kill my existing list?

Another question that’s going around is what this will mean for people who have E.U. residents on their existing list. Technically, you must ask them for consent (no matter how they opted in in the first place) and basically have them re-opt-in to your list.

Some marketers are trying to segment their list by location (using the IP address collected by their email providers) and only request that people in the E.U. reconfirm their subscription.

Personally, I will probably scrub my entire list, giving everyone on it the option to opt back in… or not.

Why would I do such a thing?

In her excellent Medium article on the topic, Tara Gentile says:

But here’s the thing: subscribers don’t pay your bills.

Customers pay your bills.

You make better decisions for your business when you measure what ultimately matters to you. It’s not that tracking leading indicators like email sign ups is wrong — not hardly. But, in the end, your marketing and sales decisions should have the greatest impact on who shows up for products, not freebies.

This is why it doesn’t matter so much if you lose subscribers. People who aren’t willing to step up and affirmatively consent to hearing from you aren’t going to affirmatively consent to buying your products either.

Tara’s absolutely right: it doesn’t matter how many people you have on your list if they aren’t buying from you. Personally, I would rather have 1,000 true fans than 10,000 people who signed up, but never read my emails.

We have to remind ourselves that our worth as businesses and business owners is not predicated on the size of our list.

Should I be panicking?

This is an opportunity to stop looking for the next marketing tactic, and start focusing on providing real value.

For years, the prevailing wisdom has been that if you don’t offer some kind of opt-in freebie — often called an “ethical bribe” — people won’t bother to sign up for your email newsletters. Newsletters were so passé that we fell all over ourselves trying to come up with the next shiny bauble to (let’s be real) trick people into agreeing to receive our newsletter.

But what if we instead focused on trying to provide a really valuable experience, resource, or insight in the newsletter?

What if the newsletter went back to being the shiny bauble, the value-add, in and of itself?

Earlier this year, when I surveyed business owners making multiple six and seven figures about when and why they would sign up for an email list, it was never because they wanted the freebie. To a person, they said they would sign up for an email list when they liked what the person had to say.

That, above all else, is why I’m not particularly worried about GDPR and how it will affect my content marketing strategy, or the content marketing strategies of my clients. Because we focus on providing value first and foremost, knowing that the resulting amity and trust is a much better predictor of sales than any growth hacking tactic available.

Interested in overhauling your marketing strategy with these new requirements in mind? I’d love to help you get a handle on it. Click here to read more and apply for a Strategy Session today.