The GDPR created huge changes in the world of marketing when it arrived in 2018 and in many ways, we have been adjusting ever since. There have been plenty of theories about how databases would be affected and how difficult it would consequently become for marketers to reach out via channels such as B2B email marketing. Privacy in Email Communications Regulations states that you must not send electronic mail marketing to individuals, unless: they have specifically consented to electronic mail from you. Alternatively, according to the ICO, you can send marketing emails to individuals to existing customers who bought a similar product or service from your business in the past, and you provide them with a way to opt out in every message you send.

What is legitimate interest?

In simple terms, it’s a lawful way to process personal data that could make B2B email marketing much more straightforward. For any business sending direct marketing emails it offers a second option to consent, a way to process personal data in a compliant way – the GDPR specifically says, “The processing of personal data for direct marketing purposes may be carried out for a legitimate interest”. In the immediate aftermath of the GDPR many businesses – panicking at the potential fines and penalties that could apply – decided to focus only on consent as the basis for marketing to a database. However, many have now expanded this to include legitimate interest. If you want to use legitimate interests as the legal ground for processing, you’ll need to complete a Legitimate Interests Assessment (LIA) to see if this is the best option for the type of processing you want to do.

What does legitimate interest actually mean?

In the context of email marketing, legitimate interest only applies to corporate subscribers. This includes employees of companies but not sole traders, for example. So, it’s essential to make sure that if you’re going to use legitimate interest as your basis for B2B email marketing you have a very clear idea of the audience that you’re reaching out to. This is also necessary because to establish that you have a legitimate interest in emailing those people, you’ll need to make sure you’re comfortable that there are likely benefits to the person you’re reaching out to. Developing buyer personas could provide evidence of GDPR compliance if they show that the people, you’re contacting are actually likely to be interested in what you’re emailing about and likely to benefit from your products, or services. These are the key points to consider if you’re using legitimate interest.

  • What’s the reason for processing this data? Make sure the business benefit of goods or services is clear.
  • Who benefits from the data being processed? Who is the likely buyer of the goods or services?
  • Can you demonstrate that the way the data is being processed is both ethical and lawful?

Legitimate interest provides an alternative to consent as the basis for data processing in B2B email marketing. However, like every aspect of GDPR compliance it needs to be carefully managed, thought through and documented. Find out more about the latest ICO guidance for more information regarding Legitimate interest.

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