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Top Tips for Effective eMarketing and List Management – Part 3: Data Privacy

-By and

When you engage in eMarketing and collect contact records, you comply with the data privacy laws, right? But does your team understand the regs and play by the rules? Now is a good time for a check-up as more U.S. states consider similar laws.

Data Privacy

The time to address compliance with data privacy regulations is now. Start by having conversations with your firm’s general counsel to define your data privacy compliance policy and procedures. There are a multitude of regulations in place around the world that your firm may want to consider when deciding what compliance will entail.

The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is widely considered to be the gold standard since compliance with this stringent regulation typically covers the requirements of other regulations. GDPR dictates that you must have the contact’s consent to hold their data and subsequently send them emails.

Most eMarketing providers have built-in tools and methods to track and comply with consent requirements, but it is up to you to ensure that those options are available and get utilized. Bear in mind that it will be easier in the long run to establish consent procedures early in your email list creation process than to retroactively apply them down the road.

One option to consider is having a welcome email sent to contacts with a link to a preference or subscription page on the website that lists available email publications and invitations and captures the electronic consent when contacts add themselves to lists. This captured consent is recommended or required by some privacy regulations.

Also consider implementing a secondary “high-touch” process for high-value contacts such as new clients, where the professional working with the client sends a personal email with a link to the preference or subscription page. These types of consent requests may get a better response since the email is coming directly from the person they know and trust, as opposed to an automated, system-generated email.

You will also need a mechanism/process to ensure that the professionals do not override the contacts’ preferences. For example, if a contact takes them self off a practice area list, a professional should not be able to add them back onto the list. The process for achieving this will vary depending on your eMarketing system, but common solutions include establishing exclusion or “anti-lists.” It’s also important to have a way to view contacts who have unsubscribed or asked not to receive communications from the firm, so that people don’t try to add them to lists.

It may also be time to review the all-to-common practice of allowing professionals to randomly assign contacts to mailing lists. While this may not violate privacy regulations for U.S. contacts currently, the process should be thoughtfully considered in the wake of a plethora of new privacy laws. A better solution may be to allow professionals to send new contacts an email that has a link to the firm’s subscription page to allow the individuals to choose what they want to receive. This will allow the firm to capture the electronic consent and may even result in the contacts subscribing to multiple publications. Analyzing this subscription data could also lead to the identification of cross selling opportunities.

For more comprehensive information on data privacy, see this article.

Other considerations for establishing and maintaining lists

Here are a few more list management best practices we’ve gathered while working together with hundreds of professional service firms to help them achieve CRM and eMarketing success:

  • DO categorize competitor firms for establishing an exclusion list to keep them from inadvertently receiving communications or invitations.
  • DO regularly review and research bounces and update their contact information and/or remove them from lists.
  • DO regularly monitor and report on contacts who are not on any mailing lists.
  • DO track which professionals have relationships with the contacts.
  • DO NOT allow individual lawyers to circumvent or override firm data privacy policies.
  • DO review the contacts of attorneys who leave the firm and who are on mailing lists.
  • MOST IMPORTANT: DO NOT hesitate to ask for help. Our team has been helping professional services firms achieve success with eMarketing, CRM and related and integrated marketing technologies and strategies for 15 years. We would be happy to help you with any eMarketing or list management needs.


For more than a decade, the team at CLIENTSFirst Consulting has been helping professional services firms and other organizations successfully select and implement CRM and eMarketing systems to maximize value, adoption and return on investment. If you need help achieving CRM Success, please contact us at 404-249-9914 or

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