Marketing Automation & Data Protection: How to Reconcile Both

Nils Knäpper 3/28/2023

Data privacy made easy: Here you will learn about the aspects you need to consider in your marketing automation.

Table of contents
  1. Marketing Automation & Data protection – do they even go together?
  2. How to make marketing automation GDPR-compliant
  3. 5 tools for GDPR-compliant marketing automation
  4. Conclusion

Automating marketing processes is a fine thing: Not only does it save you a lot of time. It also helps you to address your target group more personally and with more relevant content. The problem is: To set up really efficient marketing automation, you need a lot of data – which can in turn mean problems with the legal requirements of the GDPR. To prevent you from falling into the data protection trap, we explain in the following what aspects you should consider and how to align your marketing automation and data protection.

As always in legal matters, the following applies: This article does not constitute legal advice, but serves as a thematic overview. If you want to be 100% legally secure, consult a lawyer in case of doubt.

Marketing Automation & Data protection – do they even go together?

Marketing automation refers to measures where you automate certain business processes using various tools and techniques. This way, you can send personalized marketing messages to your target group based on their behavior and interactions with your company. Common applications of marketing automation include, for example, email marketing, social media marketing or customer analysis. By automating such processes, you can improve your lead generation, increase customer retention or speed up the sales process.

So far so good. But to spread personalized marketing messages, you need one thing above all: customer data. And these are subject to various protection regulations that regulate in what way you are allowed to process them. In Germany, in addition to the Federal Data Protection Act (Bundesdatenschutzgesetz, BDSG), the General Data Protection Regulation (Datenschutz-Grundverordnung, DSGVO) is primarily responsible.

What does the GDPR regulate?

The GDPR formulates, in a way, the 'minimum level' of data protection that EU countries must observe when dealing with personal data. In other words: individual countries can have stricter requirements, but must never fall below the regulations of the GDPR.

Personal data includes information that relates to an identified or identifiable natural person. This includes, for example, name, address, email address, phone number, date of birth, IP address or location data. Also, information about a person's behavior, such as their preferences or interests, can be considered personal data if they can be used to identify the person.

The GDPR states that the processing of this data must be lawful, transparent, purpose-bound, data-minimizing, correct, time-limited and secure and confidential:

  • Lawfulness: A key aspect of the GDPR is the lawfulness of processing. So you are only allowed to process personal data if you have a legal basis for it. Such a basis can, for example, be consent from the person concerned or a legitimate interest of the company.

  • Transparency: Another important aspect of the GDPR is transparency. You must transparently inform your users about what personal data you process, for what purpose you do so and to whom you may pass on the data. This information must be provided in understandable language, so that the affected persons can exercise their rights with regard to the processing of their data.

  • Purpose-bound: The purpose-bound is also a central principle of the GDPR. Personal data may only be processed for the purpose for which it was collected. If the data is to be used for another purpose, a new consent from the person concerned is required.

  • Data minimization: Equally important is data minimization. You must ensure that you only collect personal data that is necessary for the respective purpose. Additional data may only be stored if this is necessary for the purpose or if there is a legal basis for it.

  • Correctness: The correctness of the data is no less important. This means that the data you store from customers must be correct and up-to-date.

  • Time limitation: The GDPR also regulates the time limitation of data collection. It states that your company can only retain data as long as it is necessary for the stated purpose. Once the data is no longer needed, it must be deleted.

  • Confidentiality: Last but not least, confidentiality also plays a major role in the GDPR. For you, this means that you process personal data in a way that ensures adequate security – including protection against unauthorized or unlawful processing and against accidental loss, destruction or damage through technical and organizational measures.

How to make marketing automation GDPR-compliant

You've probably noticed by now: there's a lot to consider when it comes to data protection. That's why you should handle your customers' data with care. In the worst case, you could face high fines if you violate your clients' data protection rights. To prevent this from happening, we've listed the most important points for you in the following, which you should consider in the context of marketing automation and data protection:

Understanding the legal requirements

Before using marketing automation tools, you need to make sure you understand the legal requirements. This of course includes compliance with the GDPR and the BDSG. But it also means that you are aware of what personal data you even want to collect from your customers and for what purposes you use this data.

Transparency and duty to inform

Transparency is paramount in the context of data protection laws. For this reason, you need to make sure that you inform your users about the processing of personal data. This is done by providing a privacy policy.

The privacy policy itself must be understandable and easily accessible. In it, you inform for example about the use of cookies and the creation of user profiles. The policy must also contain information about the rights of your users. This concerns the rights to information, correction, deletion and restriction of the processing of personal data.

Your privacy policy should be updated regularly to ensure that it complies with legal requirements. If something changes in your policy, you must inform your users about it and possibly obtain their consent again.

In the context of marketing automation tools, you also need to inform about which data you process within these softwares. This includes the use of cookies and the creation of user profiles, for example, as well as use for email marketing.

Consent by your users

In addition to the privacy policy, consent to data processing is of great importance. This means for you that you have to obtain the agreement of your users before you can collect and process their personal data. This applies in particular to the use of cookies and the creation of user profiles.

The way this happens is legally regulated: The consent must be voluntary, informed and unambiguous. You must tell your customers that you are collecting data, what kind of data you are collecting and for what purpose. The consent is also purpose-bound and cannot be used for other intentions.

Formally, the consent can be given in writing or electronically. In any case, you need to implement a process that documents your users' consent. You also need to give them the option to revoke this consent at any time.

It's important to note that the consent of the users is not the only legal basis for data processing. Companies can also process personal data if this is necessary for the fulfillment of a contract or to protect legitimate interests.

Order processing

Order processing is a special form of data processing, in which you forward your customers' data to a third party for use. But be careful: You are still responsible and liable for how this provider handles the data. This means that you have to pay close attention to how data protection is handled in this process – especially when the third party is not based in the EU and may therefore not be familiar with the GDPR. Also, you have to inform your users if you plan to pass on your data.

5 tools for GDPR-compliant marketing automation

You are probably now looking for a tool with which you can comply with data protection for your marketing automation. On OMR Reviews you will find dozens of providers with verified reviews from real users. We have brought along five software solutions for GDPR-compliant marketing automation:

HubSpot Marketing Hub

HubSpot Marketing Hub is one of the most popular providers for marketing automation. To ensure GDPR compliance, the company has made numerous adjustments to its products since the EU regulation came into effect. For example, you can track the lawfulness of the data processing of your contacts and have different templates for consent forms.


Brevo (ehemals Sendinblue) is a provider that helps you send targeted marketing messages to your target group. The company places particular emphasis on compliance with the GDPR, for example by having the servers in Germany. In addition, Sendinblue offers guides and guides in which you receive tips on how to carry out GDPR-compliant email marketing yourself.


Also Mailchimp is a provider for automated solutions that specializes in the field of email marketing. In fact, the tool is probably one of the most widely used newsletter software. To make the mailings comply with common data protection, Mailchimp offers different features: These include, for example, contact profiles, with which you can prove the consent of your users at any time and can change or delete personal data.


Similar to Mailchimp and Sendinbliue, Mailingwork is a provider for automated solutions in the area of email marketing. The German-based company offers various features for this purpose, which should guarantee that you comply with the GDPR – for example through a function for a double opt-in. In addition, there are comprehensive guides on the provider's website that should simplify the handling of customer data in accordance with data protection law.


Last but not least, CleverReach is a newsletter tool that enables the automation of marketing processes. To secure this under data protection law, the solution offers, among other things, GDPR-compliant server locations in the EU and SSL encryption. In addition, CleverReach provides a comprehensive checklist on its website on how to implement the GDPR in mailings.


Admittedly: From a data protection perspective, a lot needs to be considered when it comes to marketing automation. Therefore, it is important that you take the time to familiarize yourself with the requirements of the GDPR and the BDSG. This way, you can ensure that the personal data of your customers is protected and that you are legally covered.

Nils Knäpper
Nils Knäpper

Nils ist SEO-Texter bei OMR Reviews und darüber hinaus ein echter Content-Suchti. Egal, ob Grafik, Foto, Video oder Audio – wenn es um digitale Medien geht, ist Nils immer ganz vorne mit dabei. Vor seinem Wechsel zu OMR war er fast 5 Jahre lang als Content-Manager und -Creator in einem Immobilienunternehmen tätig und hat zudem eine klassische Ausbildung als Werbetexter.

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