5 Alternatives to Email Marketing (That Are Not Affected by GDPR)

5 email marketing alternatives for marketers to adopt that are not affected by GDPR.

Most pharmaceutical industry marketers we speak to understand that the stringent GDPR regulations have meant the growing email databases has become challenging.

Some vendors we work with have reported a significant reduction in email database size, and in some instances, vendors have elected to cease selling mass broadcast emails (e-blasts) completely, rather than risk falling foul of GDPR law. But there are options and alternatives.

An issue discussed much less is the impact GDPR has had on the promotion of content marketing vehicles such as webinars and ebooks. Suddenly the email universe you can promote your upcoming webinar to is much smaller, meaning you have to look at alternative promotional methods to ensure successful delivery and ensure your webinar host isn’t broadcasting to twelve uninterested scientists.

But GDPR isn't the end of email marketing.


The new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has changed the entire landscape for digital marketers and publishers. The notable effect from an email marketing perspective is:

  • Those who send out marketing messages to their databases are breaking the regulation if those database contacts have not previously given consent.

So, marketers (if not already) should audit their database to determine how those contacts were acquired. If organisations are unable to demonstrate if consent was given (in the form of a sign-up, subscription, opt-in etc.) then those contacts cannot receive an e-blast and it would be breaking the GDPR.

The business world, however, has received a lifeline as such in the form of “legitimate interest.” The legitimate interest implication means:

  • The processing of personal data for direct marketing purposes may be regarded as carried out for a legitimate interest between the email sender and the receiver.

So, if holding someone’s data for marketing communication is “relevant” and “appropriate” for the relationship between the buyer and seller, under GDPR law, you may not be breaking the law. But this does not mean that all processing for marketing purposes is lawful and it's better to be safe than sorry.

More on the legitimate interest lawful processing can be found on the ICO website.


Regardless of the apparent lifeline GDPR gives to B2B marketers, if you have no relationship with a contact then sales-based personal approaches that are not intrusive are the only way to reach that contact via email.

For marketers, avoid mass marketing and direct broadcasting tactics, and divert your focus towards these five alternatives:


Google AdWords is essentially a paid-for search result that appears at the top of search engine listings when a user searches keywords that have been bid on by the advertiser. AdWords is a particularly good method for promoting content solutions such as e-books, blogs and webinars in the industries we operate as our clients can sponsor niche, long-tail keywords fairly inexpensively.

Ensuring that when a user searches for help in ‘overcoming solubility challenges’, the ebook you produced which may hold the answers appears at the top of the search results. Search companies are stringent on GDPR, and there is no risk of breaking regulation when utilising PPC such as Google AdWords. Yahoo and Bing etc. also offer paid advertising services within search results that are worth investigating.


LinkedIn and Twitter are prime channels for connecting with B2B customers and prospects and promoting your content to a relevant and engaged audience. If a prospect is following you on Twitter or is part of your LinkedIn network, there is a high likelihood they are interested in hearing what you have to say and engaging with your content.

LinkedIn also provides an opportunity for personal engagement missing from email marketing campaigns; everyone likes to be made to feel special. Facebook also provides this level of personal engagement and is also a channel worthy of consideration, but tread with caution: Facebook is a personal platform and users might not appreciate B2B marketing messages on a platform that might not be used for professional use.


Social Media gives you access to a range of profiles, but your posts’ organic reach is limited to the size of your network. Paid advertising on social media, however, opens up a whole new audience for your content that is already there. Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn (as well as other social platforms) offer advertising services, but the B2B marketer will find LinkedIn as the most effective, if the most costly.

LinkedIn Ads offers a range of ad formats – sponsored content, InMail and text ads – that allows you to target audiences based on a range of criteria, with the potential reach determined by your daily budget and bids. Paid ads via social media are a great addition for your marketing campaigns instead of e-blasts and this is certainly the case if you’re promoting content designed for the browsing stage of the buyer’s journey.


This is a slow burner, but the entire principle of inbound marketing is providing targeted, relevant content to prospects tailored to where they are in the buyer’s journey. A structured lead nurture campaign may only reach a fraction of the audience size a traditional email campaign would have, but conversion will be much higher.

Content is king, now and forever. Depending on the current level of content your organisation creates, you may already have a stable foundation to begin with inbound but may not have the systems and process in place for effective lead generation through content. If you already produce great content, inbound will take that content to the next level. Find out more about the state of inbound marketing in 2019.


The sciences industries are still heavily influenced by print magazines and publications. Eblasts came after print magazines were established, but after GDPR, they have lost their ground and magazines and communications are being distributed via physical marketing vehicles once again.

Options to communicate via print are much broader than they used to be, and with many vendors offering collaborative content/sponsored content opportunities on the page, you can control the topic of conversation to a greater degree than ever before, especially if you target particular issues based on event distribution, or special features/topics.

If direct mail marketing isn’t quite the appropriate avenue for your organisation, then it may be time to look at your media plan and the publications which you are/have been advertising in as there may be some new opportunities ahead.