B2B Marketing blog

GDPR opt-in campaigns: best practices in B2B

Is your business all set? Or, are you still busy organizing data, privacy actions and your opt-in campaign? In both cases it could be good to look at the best practices of others. Because why would you reinvent the wheel?

When we start thinking about a GDPR-compliant way of working we often start with an audit: what data do I already have, what can I do with it and who gave me permission to start mailing and who didn’t? Now we can launch our opt-in campaign, right? In the end that would be the easiest way to reach out to our contacts in the database.

Colin Day, Chief Technology Officer of Fintech leader FIS, worked on a building a GDPR-proof company: “Our GDPR journey was about checking out every single contact in the database. For obvious reasons, we started off with an emailing campaign. This was the easiest way to get to the masses. We asked them to give us their consent or reconfirmation of the consent they had given us previously. We operated multiple consent models around the world. What the GDPR allowed us to do was consolidate those models down to one single model.”

The best opt-in campaign

I keep asking myself: what are the best texts, the best formats and the best preference centres in order to end up with the best possible database? This has been subject to many articles and conversations for years, it is not only a latest trend discussion.

Marketing consent

First of all it is important to decide how you want to make use of your data. Because the GDPR has such a big impact on web shops, the organization Thuiswinkel.org explains the difference between marketing consent and legitimate interest as follows:

“The GDPR has to make sure that the process of personal information is organized in a consistent way. That is why you always need as they call it a foundation for the process of personal information. The foundation is the most popular by far is of course the ‘consent’, but for a web shop ‘legitimate interest’ can also be an important foundation for the process.

There is a case of legitimate interest when there is a ‘relevant and fitting relation’ between the organization and the person whose data is being processed. This relation is for example found among organizations-customers and organizations-employees. You could also read this article, the article has 10 questions and answers about the GDPR.

So, I can mail customers?

Yes, mailing customers is allowed, If they have legitimate interest. The customers you have a work relationship with need not be asked explicitly for permission to mail service updates.

Three kinds of opt-in campaigns

But a big part of the database is not a customer, so we certainly want to start up and opt-in campaign, because we would like to establish a relationship that allows us to use his or her data for interesting mailings.

There are several kinds of opt-in email campaigns:

  1. The blunt approach.

This is where a mail is directly sent to a customer to ask his or her permission to receive emails.

Permission Passing Process

Source: https://thesocialeffect.com/gdpr-strategy-getting-existing-email-database-opted/

This is how telecom company Tele2 Zakelijk tries out multiple versions and continuously evaluates which works better. It is advised to use different versions for different segments of your database, and role out the campaigns step by step. See also these examples from Social Effect.GDPR compliant Email examples

  1. The hit-reset approach.

In the example of Wetherspoon, even though this is B2C, they explain to all of their contacts that they will delete all data.

  1. The positive approach, explaining the link to content.

Last but not least a HubSpot example, HubSpot has a more positive approach with “Yes! Keep me opted in”

More of their campaigns are to be found on their website: https://blog.hubspot.com/customers/making-your-mailing-list-gdpr-friendly-with-hubspot-permission-pass-campaign

example of permission pass email with hubspot

Succes factors for a successful opt-in campaign

  • Make different mails/campaigns fitting the segments and goals of your database.
  • Test your subject lines, design, format and messages.
  • Make your message as personal as possible.
  • Make sure links to the privacy statement and cookie policy are to be found in the mail.
  • Optimization for mobile is key.
  • An unsubscribe option needs to be there as well.

You will need to choose a way that fits you, but whichever option you choose, keep testing and evaluating which is best.


Examples and inspiration for opt-in forms.








Ingrid Archer

Ingrid Archer is a marketing and communications professional ‘pur sang’ with more than 20 years of experience in B2B marketing and communication. She is co-founder of spotONvision and the B2B Marketing Forum. She initiated successful campaigns in various sectors and is one of the experts in the field of content marketing, buyer personas and lead nurturing in B2B.