LEGAL DISCLAIMER: I flunked out of law school. True story. This blog post is NOT intended to be legal advice. You need a lawyer for that. Also, this post contains affiliate links. I get a commission if you sign up for OptinMonster or ConvertKit using my links. Capiche? K, let’s continue then.

Most beginner entrepreneurs I know don’t have their websites set up to comply with the new GDPR rules—rules that govern how you use data from your EU subscribers, and whether or not you can legally add them to your email list.

They’re continuing with the “download my freebie so I can add you to my list” model—and that’s totally fine. But it’s not a scalable strategy.

Not setting yourself up to scale is one of the biggest mental blocks I see entrepreneurs unknowingly wrestle with (i.e you do the thing that works today because you don’t really believe in a tomorrow that includes 50K people on your email list.)

But I DO believe in a tomorrow that includes a 50K email list.

My goal is 30K by the end of 2018. I want thirty thousand QUALITY subscribers. So before I wrote a single word of copy for my new website, I set out to make sure every popup and opt-in would be fully CASL- and GDPR-compliant, regardless of where visitors come from.

That means there’ll be a checkbox on every single one of my popups that looks something like this 👇

If you’re new to GDPR regulations, here’s the most important thing you need to know:

You can no longer just add people to the “newsletter segment” of your main email list just because they signed up for your special freebie.

This is a major change for email marketers like me. Here’s why.

Why I’m obsessed with being GDPR Compliant

The new GDPR rules are similar to CASL rules already in place in Canada (again, not a lawyer), and I’ve long been sweating about the fact that the opt-in forms on my current site are only about 50% CASL-compliant.

I’m upping my compliance game because a) it’s only a matter of time before the US gets on board, which is where most of my traffic comes from, b) it makes for stronger subscribers, and c) I don’t want to get locked out of my email service provider for breaking the rules (or paying a 2,000,000€ fine).

IMPORTANT: I’m not interested in a huge email list just to have a huge email list.

I’m interested in an engaged email list—even if it means letting a few thousand subscribers grab my freebie and run (with Optin Monsters retargeting features I can win them over at a later time, but I’ll get to that later).

The subscribers who intentionally opt-in to my list are the ones who actually read my emails, hit “reply” when I ask them to, and eventually buy my offers.

Plus they send me emails like these…

Screen Shot 2018 07 31 at 1.32.01 PMScreen Shot 2018 07 31 at 1.31.27 PMScreen Shot 2018 07 31 at 1.31.40 PMScreen Shot 2018 07 31 at 1.32.11 PMScreen Shot 2018 07 31 at 1.30.42 PM

Email is the engine of my business.

If I get locked out of my provider for spamming my subscribers, I don’t have a business anymore.

My goal is to create a lasting relationship with my audience. They’re pretty frickin’ awesome and I want to keep every last one of them on my list, opening and reading my emails, for as long as possible.

What I did with my pre-existing EU subscribers

Fortunately, I use ConvertKit, which has been tracking the location of my subscribers from the very first signup — without their permission, since I didn’t have a cookies notice on my site.

I’m embarrassed about this, and we’re fixing that on the website redesign.

Here’s what we did for those people:

  1. Created a segment of EU subscribers
  2. Sent them a 3-email sequence asking them to re-opt in to receive my newsletter
  3. Deleted those who did not opt-in

Of the 423 people we sent that message to, 81 opted in. We deleted 342 subscribers.

Did I miss a single minute of sleep about it? Nuh-uh. I don’t want people on my email list who aren’t reading my emails. I’m paying for them, after all. And the slackers who don’t read my emails are messing with my open rate anyway.

Next, we turned on the feature in ConvertKit that shows a special consent box to web visitors in the EU. It looks like this:

consent checkboxes

Moving forward we’re only using OptinMonster for this type of form because it allows for a much higher level of design customization, as well as a bunch of super high-level targeting features (which I’ll get to in a sec).

Why I’m leaving SumoMe for OptinMonster.

The easy answer is “so I can be GDPR-compliant” because that’s what initially attracted me to OptinMonster.

I’ve been using SumoMe for 2 years after getting a free 1-year subscription as a prize for winning Copy Hackers email copywriting challenge. But I never really fell in love with it.

The interface is not super user-friendly, even after multiple updates. There was a lot of coding required to get my welcome mats up and running, which was fun to learn but a massive drain on my time when I could be earning $3000/day.

OptinMonster’s geo-targeting features make it possilble for all of my popups to be CASL- and GDPR-compliant.

I’m especially excited about those features because I have a workshop called “Get Paid In USD” that’s only for Canadians. That means I can target Canadians with some free content around running a business in USD, then put them into a sales sequence inviting them to purchase that workshop.

> If they check the opt-in box, they’ll get added to my newsletter segment after they finish the promo sequence.

> If they DON’T check the box, they still get the promo sequence, but they wouldn’t go to the newsletter segment after.

Other ways I’m excited to use OptinMonster to scale my business:

  • Use page-level targeting to show customized offers for specific blog categories: I have 2 audiences, freelancers, and course creators, so this features allows me to target them with opt-ins I think they’ll like
  • Device-based targeting: My current welcome mat looks crazy on mobile. I was so embarrassed I turned it off
  • Exit intent popups on mobile: Right now those only work on desktop, but OptinMonster has a feature called “Inactivity Sensor” that activates exit intent on mobile
  • Schedule out my campaigns, so they automatically appear and disappear during certain promo periods—so I’m not accidentally promoting B-School weeks after enrollment is closed
  • Experiment with “Content Locks” to withhold the most valuable portion of my content for subscribers only (translation: you’d have to opt-in to see the rest of this blog post)

That’s just what I think I can achieve in the next 3 months. OptinMonster has MANY more cool features I intend to implement in my business over the next year.

Don’t hate on pop-ups. They work.

Pop-ups work. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to use them. You can be a sleek AF spy girl and show your visitors crazy-targeted opt-in opportunities.

Or you can hit them with a sidebar form, floating share buttons, a slide in AND a lightbox popup all on the same page (often without even knowing you’re even doing this).

The biggest problem I see with pop-ups is people having too many of them. But there are plenty of other reasons to hate on them.

Crappy copy = no one opts into your list, even though the design is gorgeous.

Crappy (or inefficient) design = people hating the user experience on your website and bouncing.

It’s so important to have someone else test the user experience of your website (Hint: have an entrepreneur friend test your website and record their experience for you. You can also hire me to do it—this is a great use of my 1-hour express service and will pay for itself many times over.)

If you’re serious about building an email list (and I hope you are because that’s where the money is), consider using OptinMonster, in combination with your existing email service provider.

I’m using Convertkit, and the two integrate beautifully.

I’m legally required to tell you that I get a commission if you sign up to OptinMonster through my link. But to be honest, I’d be promoting them anyway. Their competitors all have a generous affiliate program I could be promoting here, but I chose to promote OptinMonster because, after wasting hours trying to find a similar-but-cheaper alternative, I came up empty-handed.

You can’t afford to ignore the rules of GDPR-compliance if you want to grow your business.

Don’t be like the former Tarzan who pretended it didn’t matter because she only had a few subscribers. That’s setting yourself up to fail. It’s the reverse version of Law of Attraction. Call it Law of Repulsion.

You want the subscribers, right? The best ones? The ones who buy your sh*t and send you save-for-later-worthy email replies.

Then create the container for them.

That’s what my new GDPR-compliant email strategy is all about.

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