Why subscription management centers make sense

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There's an unmistakable change in the air: customers and subscribers are taking greater control over their e-mail subscriptions.

Enhanced Internet service provider tools and software applications make it possible for individuals to control almost all of what goes into their inboxes. In an era of rigorous spam control, trust remains a key issue.

One easy, often overlooked, e-mail marketing best practice involves development of a subscription management center, also known as an administration center.

Typically located at the bottom of the page in a footer, the administration center provides a standardized set of parameters that enable subscribers to quickly update information, view privacy policies and delivery preferences, opt-out of future mailings and retrieve the company's contact information.

Why use an administration center?

EmailLabs' 2006 Audit of Best Practices found that of some 203 commercial e-mail messages, just 18 percent of marketers had deployed an e-mail administration center. So why include it?

CAN-SPAM Act: The law requires it, to a degree. CAN-SPAM mandates that commercial e-mails contain a working unsubscribe function (reply-to or link) and a postal mailing address. That's why companies that previously did not have a centralized administration center are now consolidating this and other information in a single location.

Retention: E-mail address churn is a huge challenge for e-mail marketers. To make it easy for subscribers to change their e-mail address, experienced marketers include a link to a "profile update" page on their Web site. The update form also enables subscribers to change preferences and add or update demographic information.

Permission best practices: There is a growing acceptance of the need for permission best practices, such as providing clear privacy and e-mail policies. The administration center enables marketers to present this information (or links to it) in an easy-to-find location within the e-mail.

Trust: While CAN-SPAM sets a baseline for e-mail marketing practices, sophisticated e-mail marketers understand that building trust, not just legal compliance, is critical. An administration center provides quick information linking a subscriber to the company sending the e-mail, increasing the chance of addressing issues in a timely manner.

Subscriber acceptance: As companies deploy administration centers, consumers become increasingly familiar with the concept. The appearance of these centers in the commercial e-mails they receive will be a key differentiator for subscribers when determining what is and isn't spam.

Inclusion of a subscription management center should be an important part of all e-mail campaigns. By including these key parameters in a location at the bottom of the e-mail, thereby creating a de facto industry standard, savvy marketers will prevent a decline in subscribers.

They can also increase trust in the brand and ultimately in revenue, and lend credibility to the e-mail marketing industry as a viable channel to reach valued customers.

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