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Are you honoring your email preference center?

By Andy Theimer | August 11, 2021

I’ve been working with Pardot users to optimize their email content for years. One of the most common challenges I see for any team is honoring email preferences. 

Every team I work with aims to provide users with relevant content. The preference center is a tool to help marketing teams send the right message at the right time to the right person. 

Unfortunately, many of my clients realize that they quickly get in over their heads once they start letting the user give feedback on the type of content or frequency of content that they wish to receive.

To meet everyone’s needs, clients usually end up sending several versions of their emails to different audiences. Doing this is not sustainable, and these teams are then left with a serious issue. In response, they often stop sending to large segments of their audience or they send the same email to everyone and hope for the best. 

Not respecting the preferences that your subscribers have indicated can be damaging to your brand’s reputation. However, not giving users any options can push them towards brands that do and unsubscribing from your emails. 

This article walks through the importance of email preference centers, best practices, encouraging subscribers to your preference center, and tips for honoring the choices your subscribers have made. 

Benefits of Email Preference Centers

There are many benefits to email preference centers, including:

  • Personalization for your subscribers and better segmentation for you

It almost goes without saying that your subscribers will appreciate their ability to customize the content and/or frequency of your messages.

But allowing for this can also benefit your business. By allowing your subscribers to choose what topics they are interested in, you can better determine what content or information they might need to make a purchasing decision. 

  • Showcase your email offerings

Through an email preference center, you can also showcase all of the different content that your brand provides. 

For example, if someone registers for your webinar and you add them to your webinar list, they may not realize that your brand also produces valuable industry reports and full-day trainings. By including these lists on your email preference center, you can encourage subscribers to request additional content that will interest them. 

  • Increase engagement with your emails

When subscribers know exactly what you’re sending and how often you send it, they will be more likely to engage with your email when it arrives. More opens and clicks only mean good things for your email engagement metrics. 

  • Reduce unsubscribes/spam complaints

One of the most important ways that email preference centers benefit your business is by reducing unsubscribes and spam complaints. To fully understand why an email preference center helps, it is important to understand why people unsubscribe in the first place. 

Why do people unsubscribe?

  • Too many emails
  • Irrelevant content
  • Situation changed
  • Leaving for a competitor

An email preference center allows your subscribers to choose content or a frequency that works best for them. This means that folks who are concerned about getting too many emails or irrelevant content will have control over those factors, making them less likely to unsubscribe. 

Best practices for Email Preference Centers

1. Give a universal unsubscribe option

If your subscribers want to unsubscribe, don’t be sneaky and don’t make it difficult. This will only increase your spam complaints which can damage your ability to send. One of the options on any email preference center should be a universal unsubscribe. 

2. Don’t overwhelm your subscribers

Avoid giving too many options. If you have too many options, it is more likely that your audience may become overwhelmed and won’t make any decisions. They might also sign up for content that isn’t relevant to them, and unsubscribe later because they’re receiving content that they don’t want. 

Keep it as simple as you can. If you do have multiple content streams, you may consider creating multiple preference centers and then preliminarily segment your audience based on which preference center makes the most sense for them.

For example, if your company produces content for both B2B and B2C audiences, you might initially bucket your subscribers into whether they are B2B or B2C. From there, you can offer them the appropriate email preference center with the right content types.

3. Only offer what you can deliver

Before creating an email preference center, make sure your team strategizes on what you can realistically deliver to your subscribers. You don’t want to give them multiple options when your team can only realistically create one or two. As mentioned, some ideas for segmenting your audience include by topic or by frequency of emails. 

In my experience, it is better to sort your content by type or topic instead of frequency. When people complain about getting too many emails, what they are really complaining about is getting too many irrelevant emails. If your emails are highly relevant, your subscribers won’t mind getting them regularly. 

Getting subscribers to use your email preference center

Once you’ve developed your email preference center, it is time to put it in place. Obviously you should include it in the footer of all of your emails – but how else can you encourage subscribers to utilize it? How should you introduce it to existing subscribers?

  • Include it in your onboarding process

Make sure your subscription confirmation email includes a link to your email preference center. 

  • Offer it when subscribers stop engaging

Email preference centers can be very valuable when it comes to re-engaging subscribers who have stopped opening content. Perhaps they are no longer interested in their current preferences, but you might have another content stream they are interested in. 

  • Prompt your subscribers to revisit when you make changes 

Anytime you make changes to your email preference center, or once you’ve created one, let your current subscribers know. Send a dedicated email and encourage your audience to explore the new options and take more control over the content in their inboxes. 

Customizing your emails according to subscriber preferences

Once you’ve developed a preference center and have created plans to introduce it to your audience, you also need to determine how you will deliver on the content streams you’ve promised. 

Multiple emails

Many businesses plan to send a different email for each subscriber type. This can be achievable, especially if your team was previously sending emails about each topic already – and now you’re just letting subscribers choose whether or not they want to receive certain ones.

However, if your team was only sending 1 newsletter before, and now you’re splitting it into 2 or 3, your team may not have the capacity to continue to produce these emails. 

Dynamic content

If you’re using a more advanced marketing automation system, you may be able to set up dynamic content blocks that show if a subscriber meets certain criteria and hide if they don’t. Using this type of capability may allow you to send everyone 1 email that dynamically populates with the right content. However, this can be difficult to set up and may be prone to errors.

Third-party tools

Another option may be third-party tools. For example, FeedOtter allows you to automatically create emails based on your blog content. You can filter the content that pulls into the email based on criteria like tags. This can allow you to send the right content to the right people.

If you’re a Pardot user, we’ll be covering all of these methods in more detail in our webinar on August 19. You can register here.

The Golden Rule on Email Preference Centers

The Golden Rule is this: Don’t ask about subscriber preferences if you don’t intend to honor them. 

You’ll need to find a way for your team to realistically deliver on the various content streams you’ve promised. You can’t bombard your subscribers with all of your content.

Engagement and retention don’t come from forcing your contacts to receive your emails. These benefits come from reaching your subscribers in ways that resonate with them – and email preference centers make that easier for your brand to accomplish.

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