6 Steps to a Successful Subscriber Preference Center

Joseph Jaffe, author of “Flip the Funnel,” says that service has become “the new currency of customer retention,” and email has become the most effective tool for serving customers. Jaffe’s observation reinforces one of the cardinal rules of effective email marketing: Serve subscribers by providing relevant and timely information that aids their buying processes and enhances their product usage experiences.

To serve your email subscribers effectively, you must become a good listener. And one of the smartest things you can do to meet their needs is create a “subscriber preference center,” or a landing page where each new subscriber can identify their needs and interests by telling you what offers and invitations they’d like to receive. Armed with this knowledge and equipped with the right email communications software, you’re now prepared to “serve” your subscribers by delivering personalized email content.

What makes a good preference center?
Just as there is good and bad design for websites, the same applies to preference centers. Here are six recommendations that’ll help ensure preference center success:

1. Keep your information requests to a minimum. Don’t be greedy; ask only for the information that’ll be used to deliver content and offers relevant to subscribers’ needs. The more you ask for, the greater the likelihood subscribers will not respond.

2. Explain why you’re asking for this information. Most consumers and business professionals are very sensitive when it comes to providing information about themselves or their companies. Explain how their information will be used.

3. Guarantee confidentiality and privacy. Subscribers want to know that the information they provide you will be kept private. They need to know they can trust you to keep their information confidential and not share it or sell it to a third party. State your data privacy policy clearly.

4. Simplify the data capture form. Design your data collection form for ease of use. Take time to determine what data you need, then design a form that uses check boxes to make it easy for subscribers to identify their needs and interests.

5. Promote the subscriber preference center in your welcome email. The welcome email is the most important email you’ll send because it sets the tone for your relationship with subscribers. When you send it, invite subscribers to link through to the preference center where they can identify their information needs.

6. Keep up to date with your subscribers’ needs.
Over time, consumers’ information needs to be updated. At least once a year, send an email specifically to invite subscribers to update their preferences. This lets subscribers know you care — and keeps them engaged.

Joel Book is director of eMarketing education for ExactTarget, an Indianapolis-based provider of on-demand software for permission-based email and mobile marketing. Reach Joel at jbook@exacttarget.com.