The Case for an E-Mail Preference Center Program

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As the busy online shopping season approaches, savvy marketers are toiling to develop e-mail campaigns that are timely and relevant. Key to relevance is a solid, robust preference center program.
Preferences allow you to personalize communications for the specific needs of your customers. Using preferences as a key component of your e-mail campaigns will move your e-mail program from the old, marketer-centric system to the more effective customer-centric approach, yielding greater results over the long term.
The preference page should consist of two components: administrative and content options. On the administrative side, marketers often include: 
A clear and easy way to unsubscribe (or subscribe) from all mailings;
Password change (if appropriate) ;
E-mail change of address.
On the content side, you need to figure out how much control you can give recipients without offering an unmanageable number of preferences.
The No. 1 mistake marketers make is providing too many content choices on the preference page. If you include more than eight to 12 options, you might bewilder your customers and drive them to just opt-out of everything by default.
When you list your message choices, be sure to include a description of each option and, wherever possible, a link to an example of the type of e-mail the customer could expect to receive.
You should also include a box that "selects all" and "unselects all" so the customer won't have to manually click a bunch of boxes. Anything that makes the experience easier for the user, the better.

Options Preferred
Another benefit of the preference page is the ability to catch customers before they opt themselves out of all communications.
By driving a customer to a preference page to opt-out of communications, you provide an additional opportunity to remind or inform a customer of all your communication offerings.
In a world without preferences, the only option for recipients is to opt out of all communications, resulting in an unfortunate end-of-the-line for your e-mail relationship.
Preferences bring individual choice back to e-mail communications. They make the customer an equal partner in the transaction with a stake and an interest in the outcome.
When the customer is involved in the communications, the messages become more relevant and the sender's brand value soars. And that is the power of preferences.

Elaine O'Gorman is vice president of strategy at Silverpop, Atlanta. Reach her at elaineogorman@silverpop.com <mailto:elaineogorman@silverpop.com>.

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