Five ways to make a case for an e-mail preference center.
At the DMA Annual conference last week, a B2B (define) marketer for a mid-sized software firm said to me, "I want to offer options for our e-mail subscribers, but my CMO is afraid that people will choose to get fewer messages and restrict our ability to promote widely."
Alas, another e-mail preference center project dies on the vine.
This is part of the yin-yang of e-mail marketing. Marketers want to do the right thing by subscribers, but we also have a number to hit each month. Management wants us to keep the list large and growing, and to send more messages rather than fewer. Of course, there are penalties. High frequency with low relevance will depress inbox placement due to higher complaints (clicks on the "report spam" button in Gmail, Yahoo, or Outlook). An untargeted approach also churns the file, reduces response rates, and lowers lifetime value.
Those penalties are real, but so is the pressure to accept the long-term hit for a short-term gain. Plus, let's face it, marketers are ever hopeful. We continue to e-mail subscribers who haven't opened, clicked, or converted for a year or more. Tomorrow, we hope, will be the day that they respond!
Hope isn't a strategy. A preference center is a great way for marketers to improve response rates by sending the kinds of messages subscribers actually want. Preference center data is also very helpful to convince management and internal brand owners about the optimal content and frequency for key segments of subscribers.
Despite those benefits, selling a preference center internally often fails because, fundamentally, most companies don't want to give up control. We want to keep our marketing options wide open. If we respect subscriber preferences, we may not be able to e-mail anything we want at any time.
That is dangerous thinking in today's socially connected world. Marketing is not about campaigns, it's about relationships. Marketers must shed the idea that we control access to information about our own products and services. We're here to engage and nurture, not broadcast. We don't own the messaging as it gets passed along, but we can influence it. Preferences strengthen the relationship and help keep our messaging pure as it flows through subscribers' networks.
Here's how to make a strong case for a preference center -- in terms that management understands.
Do you have a preference center that works? What engagement strategies have you employed? Let me know what you think, and please share any ideas or comments below.
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Stephanie Miller is a relentless customer advocate and a champion for marketers creating memorable online experiences. A digital marketing expert, she helps responsible data-driven marketers connect with the people, resources, and ideas they need to optimize response and revenue. She speaks and writes regularly and leads many industry initiatives as VP, Member Relations and Chief Listening Officer at the Direct Marketing Association (www.the-dma.org). Feedback and column ideas most welcome, to smiller AT the-dma DOT org or @stephanieSAM.
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