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Isn't It Time You Had a World-Class Preference Center?

  |  April 6, 2011   |  Comments

Five tips to help you build a preference center that offers your subscribers the control they want and helps you deliver relevant, value-filled messages.

B2B email marketers in the U.S. don't have to ask permission to send an email message to a business contact as long as they allow that contact to unsubscribe. As a result, many marketers seem to bend over backwards rather than encourage someone to opt in to their email list.

However, those B2B marketers with opt-in lists have less attrition, stronger sender reputations, and better response rates.

Encouraging your contacts to opt in may seem counterintuitive if you are trying to build your list, but your goal is to focus on the quality of your subscribers rather than the quantity. Quality subscribers who want to receive your messages generate more high-quality leads.

The secret is to offer subscribers a preference center that allows them to control which of your messages they would like to receive. This week, I'll focus on what it takes to create an effective preference center and the potential repercussions of not offering this benefit.

5 Tips to Get You Started

A preference center puts your subscribers in the driver's seat when they are signing up to receive your communications or when they are deciding if they want to unsubscribe. But how do you know what information to ask for and what choices to offer to your subscribers?

The following tips will help you build a world-class preference center that offers your subscribers the control they want and gives you the information you need to deliver relevant, value-filled messages.

  1. Don't require too much information upfront. Start the relationship with just the basic details – name and email address, for example - and then offer subscribers the opportunity to set optional detailed preferences when they feel comfortable.

    Asking for too much information before you have built a sufficient level of trust can result in a lost opportunity to obtain an email address. Let subscribers decide how much information they want to offer and when. You can always follow up later and request more details.
  2. Clearly describe your email program options. Make it easy for your subscribers to choose the type of messages that they'd like to receive by including detailed descriptions of the types of emails you offer. Explain how providing data benefits the subscriber. Include up-to-date examples of each type of message so that recipients can see what they will receive.
  3. Focus on subscriber-centric information. Make sure the data you ask for in your preference center benefits both you and the subscriber. The subscriber knows what information is valuable to you and will abandon the process if you are using the preference center to gather massive amounts of data that don't affect email segmentation.

    Collect only the information that helps you effectively deliver relevant content.
  4. Don't give away control over frequency. Resist the urge to offer frequency as an option on your communication preferences page. My philosophy is simple: if the message is relevant, send it. If it isn't, don't send it.

    As you look at your email engagement metrics, you will often find that subscribers underestimate how often they find your messages valuable. That is, they might say they want to hear from you once a month, but they end up responding once a week.

    Frequency caps often hem you in and can prevent you from sending a highly relevant massage that is triggered based on some click or browse behavior. Continually track your engagement metrics, and adjust your cadence accordingly, but don't put this in your subscribers' hands.
  5. Optimize the sign-up experience. Focus time and attention on your preference center to make sure it is easy to use. Keep it clear and concise with the options to subscribe to, modify, and unsubscribe from the various categories of email messages front and center.

Don't Fail to Act

Not building a preference center can have several possible implications for your program. The most crucial are these:

  • Unsubscribes will continue to mount because your subscribers can choose only to receive all of your emails or none of them.
  • You won't know what your prospects want. Subscribers will naturally choose content that relates to their roles and responsibilities. If you don't give them the chance to speak with their preferences, you'll never know what is relevant and what isn't.

The Last Word

Make it easy for your subscribers to opt in and out through your email preference center, from your sales collateral, on your website, and through your email messages. Offer multiple category-based message choices for opt-in, and include prominent links to managing email preferences in all email communications.

Successfully building a world-class preference center that lets your subscribers choose their own content will lead to a quality list that, in turn, will yield higher-quality leads.


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Mike Hotz

Mike Hotz is a senior strategic consultant for Responsys, working with clients to design, develop, and execute cross-channel digital marketing strategies that contribute to their cross-channel digital marketing success. As an industry veteran, Mike has worked in e-mail marketing since 1998, designing, building, and executing e-mail and multichannel direct marketing strategies focusing on increasing customer engagement, nurturing leads, supporting sales organizations, and driving revenue for companies such as CDW, OfficeMax, Grant Thornton, and Digitalwork.com.

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