Can you still use Lead Magnets for List Building under the GDPR?

Lead Magnets and the GDPR: What to do?・Kerstin Martin Squarespace Studio

Disclaimer: I am not a legal expert and this post does not constitute legal advice.

Because consent must be specific and unambiguous, someone downloading a lead magnet from you does not equate to consent to be added to your general email list.
— Amy Porterfield

I was pretty upset when I realized that under the GDPR we can no longer use lead magnets to automatically add subscribers to our mailing lists. Amy Porterfield wrote a really good article about this if you are interested in more details. This is what the GDPR says:

  • Consent means offering individuals genuine choice and control.

  • Don’t use pre-ticked boxes or any other method of consent by default.

  • Avoid making consent a precondition of a service.

I had only just started using multiple lead magnets and it was working so all I can say is boo! Amy suggests this workaround: "You can use lead magnets to get their name and email and then try to sell them on joining your list at some point in your funnel that you are allowed to have without getting further consent."

This did not really speak to me so I decided to investigate the good old Join My Newsletter approach, which according to many experts is old school and not very effective. I asked myself:

What if I put the horse back in front of the cart and made my newsletter the main attraction and turned my lead magnets into optional freebies for subscribers?

Can you still use Lead Magnets for List Building under GDPR?・Kerstin Martin Squarespace Studio

In her article Amy says "There’s no question that this consent [for the newsletter] would be sufficient, assuming you disclose what you will include." So as far as I am concerned I am disclosing everything that comes with my newsletter, including the discount code and my free optional resources. I want to give my subscribers good value in the form of useful information and by sharing my experiences as an online business owner. I also want them to have a chance to get to know me and to see what it's like to work with me or learn from me. My subscribers have genuine choice and control over which information and resources, if any, they want to get. 

My Studio Notes offer a lot of value and it's all free and optional.

As business owners we still need to be able to apply processes that make sense and that do not cause undue burden on our customers. The most important thing about GDPR is transparency and control over our own Personal Data. I am being super transparent about my newsletter and what it includes and how often I send it, and I am very clear on what I am asking consent for. 

Here are the steps I took with regards to making my newsletter and free resources compliant:

Step 1

I changed the wording on my homepage to focus on my newsletter instead of opt-ins.

Step 2

I turned my opt-ins into free optional resources that subscribers can chose from as part of my newsletter offerings.

Step 3

I stopped using the Squarespace newsletter and form blocks and opted for the Mailchimp GDPR enabled sign-up form instead, which also has the right kind of language for the required permission and the consent check box. Click here for Mailchimp's help article on how  to turn on GDPR fields. By using the Mailchimp form I don't have to display all of this in the newsletter section on my homepage which would be really ugly. 

Here is my new sign-up sequence:

  1. Click on the subscribe button on my homepage.

  2. The Mailchimp sign-up form opens in a new tab/window.

  3. Add your email address and select your optional free resources from the list. I set these up in Mailchimp using groups and each group has an automation that sends an email if someone chooses a free resource.

  4. Check the Marketing Permission consent box. This is not mandatory and people can subscribe without checking this box. Meaning: they will get their free resources because I set up an automation for that which kicks in as soon as a subscriber is added to the respective group. But that's it. After this I cannot send them any more emails. This part feels very ambiguous to me but the GDPR is clear: consent has to be voluntary and explicit and cannot be forced.

  5. After clicking "Subscribe to list" you get the reCAPTCHA asking you to confirm that you're not a robot.

  6. Once you've confirmed the reCAPTCHA you are redirected to a thank-you page on my website. So even though you leave my site to sign up you will be guided back. You configure this on the 'Confirmation Thank You Page' form in Mailchimp.

  7. Once your email address has been added to my Studio Notes list you will receive my welcome email with the instant 20% discount code that you can use for my courses and Ask-Me-Anything sessions. If you selected one of my free resources you will also receive an email for each of those with further instructions or information. The welcome email is only sent to those who checked "I agree" on the sign-up form, I am using a Mailchimp automation and segmentation for this.

Step 4

Because it is recommended that you keep evidence of consent I printed out the sign-up form (which adds a date) and also saved it as a PDF and filed both into my digital and physical legal folders. 

Step 5

Going forward I am sending my newsletter campaign only to the segment of subscribers who  checked the consent box. Mailchimp has more info on that here.

While I really like the Squarespace forms and how they integrate with Mailchimp they are just not sophisticated enough to deal with groups and segments, and they are not easily made GDPR compliant. When I originally set up my lead magnets I used the Zapier integration to add people to the respective lead magnet groups within Mailchimp but this was, to be honest, quite cumbersome as it's not a very straightforward integration. Using the Mailchimp form is easy, compliant and it works!

Can you still use Lead Magnets for List Building under the GDPR?・Kerstin Martin Squarespace Studio

What else is needed for consent compliance?

The GDPR also makes the following statements with regards to getting consent and I feel confident now that I have addressed and am compliant with all of these:

  • Doing consent well should put individuals in control, build customer trust and engagement, and enhance your reputation.

  • Consent means offering individuals genuine choice and control.

  • Consent requires a positive opt-in. Don’t use pre-ticked boxes or any other method of consent by default.

  • Explicit consent requires a very clear and specific statement of consent.

  • Name any third parties who will rely on the consent.

  • Make it easy for people to withdraw consent and tell them how.

  • Keep evidence of consent – who, when, how, and what you told people.

Whether using the newsletter sign-up as the main attraction is effective remains to be seen. Using lead magnets as the opening door definitely helped me grow my list in the last few months but as so often happens, other authorities make decisions that impact the way we do business (remember the upheaval when Squarespace changed their pricing plans!) and we have to do our best to adapt. 

If nothing else this makes me re-focus on the value of my newsletter and making sure that I continue to offer helpful, interesting and honest content that my readers enjoy.


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Can you use Lead Magnets for List Building under GDPR?・Kerstin Martin Squarespace Studio