Growing your database under the POPI Act

Database growth is something that every digital marketer is going to strive for. It stands to reason, the more fish in your sea, the more likely you are to hook a conversion. That being said, as much as we’d all love to grow our audiences overnight, there are right and wrong ways to get this done.

With POPIA coming into effect on the 1st of July, now more than ever, you need to be cautious of how you grow your database. There are various legal requirements that need to be considered, but it’s more than that. As the legalities around sound digital marketing are evolving, so are the members of your audience.

Your database values their privacy, they expect relevant communication and they have no patience for unsolicited or frankly, uninteresting content. Think of your own email inbox, and how you would react to a marketing campaign that you had no interest in, or even worse, haven’t even signed up for? Chances are you won’t be engaging with that brand moving forward. In a nutshell, first impressions matter.

When you approach database growth with the needs and wants of your audience front and centre, your journey to POPIA compliance is halfway done. With that in mind, let’s look at how to grow your database the right way.

Make It Easy

One of the most important things to remember is that you need to make the process of joining your mailing list as simple as possible for your audience. Consider the fact that your audience is made up of people that engage with your brand in different and/or multiple ways. You need to make sure that no matter how they engage with you, there’s an opportunity to funnel them into your mailing list.

We all know by now that having a signup form on your website is best practice, but you need to take it a step further. Implement links on your social channels that lead to sign up forms. Promote your mailing list across all of your channels and actually incentivize your audience to subscribe.

The right ways and specific avenues to pursue are going to depend on your business and industry, but the idea here is that no matter where or how someone engages with your brand, they have an opportunity to have a more personal conversation with your brand in the form of joining that mailing list.

It’s more likely than not that most of the supporters of your brand already want to be a part of your email journey, they just need a little push in the right direction. Just make sure that you’re clear around what kind of content they can expect and stick to those promises.


Now let’s talk about that little push. Even though joining your database should be a straightforward decision for anyone that already engages with your brand, more often than not it’s going to take some work to actually get them to commit their inboxes.

That’s where incentives come into play. Most of us are pretty protective of who we give our personal email addresses to, we don’t want an inbox full of uninteresting and irrelevant content. The most effective way to leap over this hurdle is to incentivize your audience.

This can be done by offering a discount on future services or products, a free resource such as a whitepaper or guide, you could even offer exclusive content or previews that most of their audience wouldn’t have access to until a later date.

Again, the specifics of these incentives and what would make the most sense for you is going to vary but the most important thing is that you’re offering your audience something of tangible value in order to get their permission to have a further conversation with them via email.

Lastly, you need to follow through on this promise. Give your audience exactly what was offered, and make sure that you deliver.

The sign up form below from Nike is a fantastic example that clearly states the benefits of joining their mailing list, while also offering a way to do so via Facebook so that a potential customer can save some time.

TouchBasePro Nike Signup

Consent is Paramount

Gone are the days of buying databases and boosting your audience by adding any email address you come across to your mailing list. Aside from the clear legal infringements presented, here, it’s also going to annoy your audience to no end and lead to more harm than good when it comes to your brand.

Growing your database the right way and treating your audience’s right to privacy needs to become second nature at this point. A small but highly engaged list is always going to give you better results than a massive database or people that don’t really care about what you have to say.

Make sure that you deliver on the content you promise your mailing list. If they’re expecting exclusive news and timed offers on products, get that content to their inboxes. When someone agrees to join your mailing list, chances are it’s for a specific reason so make sure that you satisfy that.

A great way to make sure that your database only contains engaged members is to utilize double opt-in signup practices. Not only will this keep the database full of highly engaged audience members, but it can also eliminate any attempts at spam registrations or people just trying to register for the incentive you promised and nothing more.

As an added benefit, double opt-in practices are a highly proactive approach to compliance and can’t be overlooked on your POPIA journey.

The below example from Global Home Goods shows a great approach to a double opt-in signup process by clearly incentivizing the signup, thanking the subscriber and re-affirming the incentive while asking for the confirmation.

TouchBasePro Global Homegoods signup


Trust me we get it, as an ESP we know that organically growing a database is no small feat. Couple that with all of the legalities you need to be aware of as well and it can be a pretty daunting task.

You’re going to have to balance a sound database growth strategy with a fairly comprehensive understanding of all of the impending requirements of POPIA as well. It’s a bit of a tight rope and a tough line to walk.

The good news is you don’t have to walk it alone. Give us a call and let TouchBasePro help you on the journey to compliance and a larger, more engaged database!