Email Preference Center and Unsubscribe Pages: Using Roles vs. Publications

Segments, Campaigns, and Lists

For the last year, we’ve been working with a national firm on a complex Salesforce and Marketing Cloud migration and implementation. Early on in our discovery, we pointed out some key issues with respect to their preferences – which were very operations-based.

When the company designed a campaign, they would create a list of recipients outside their email marketing platform, upload the list as a new list, design the email, and send to that list. The problem with this was that set in motion a few problems:

  • The unsubscribe page was a myriad of lists with unfriendly publication names that a subscriber couldn’t understand.
  • If the recipient clicked unsubscribe in the email, it only unsubscribed them from the list that was newly uploaded, not from the type of communication that the subscriber thought they were unsubscribing from. That’s a frustrating experience for your subscribers if they continue to receive other emails of that type.
  • With so many lists on the unsubscribe page, recipients would opt into a master unsubscribe instead of the type of communication. So, you’re losing subscribers that may have stuck around if you didn’t frustrate them with preferences that were designed for your operations rather than by their motivation and interests.

Organizing Your Email Service Provider

While advanced CRM and email service providers offer the opportunity to build and design custom preference centers that are amazing experiences… smaller services will just use lists to organize your subscriber’s preference page or unsubscribe page.

If you can’t design your own preference page, create your lists from the subscriber’s viewpoint by the type of communication that you’re sending. Lists could be offers, advocacy, news, tips & tricks, how-to’s, alerts, support, etc. This way, if a subscriber doesn’t want to get more offers – they can still be subscribed to other areas of interest while unsubscribing themselves specifically from the offers list.

In other words, use the features of the email platform appropriately:

  • Lists – are topical in nature and offer the subscriber to unsubscribe from specific types of communications. Example: Offers
  • Segments – are filtered subsegments of lists that you would want to use for improved targeting. Example: Top 100 Customers
  • Campaigns – are an actual send to one or more segment and/or lists. Example: Thanksgiving Offer to Top Customers

In other words, if I wished to send an offer to people that had spent more than $100 on my ecommerce platform this year, I would:

  1. Add a data field, 2020_Spent, to my Offers List.
  2. Import the money spent by each subscriber to your email platform.
  3. Create a segment, Spent over 100 in 2020.
  4. Create my messaging for the offer into a campaign.
  5. Send my campaign to the specific segment.

Now, if the contact wishes to unsubscribe, they’re going to be unsubscribed from the Offers List… exactly the functionality we wish to have.

Building A Role-Based Preference Center

If you can design and build your own integrated preference center that offers an optimal experience:

  • Identify the roles and motivations of your subscribers and then build those flags or selections into your customer relationship management platform. There should be alignment with personas within your organization.
  • Design a preference page that is personalized to your subscriber with the benefits and expectations that opting into that topic or area of interest will provide. Integrate your preference page with your CRM so that you have a 360-degree view of your customer’s interests.
  • Ask your subscriber how often they wish to be communicated to. You can use daily, weekly, bi-weekly, and quarterly frequency options to improve your list retention and avoid subscribers getting upset that they’re receiving too many messages.
  • Integrate your marketing platform so that those topics are designed into specific lists that you can segment and send campaigns to them, while better managing your contacts and aligning the metrics to the motivation of the subscriber.
  • Ensure you have the data elements integrated with your CRM and synchronized to your marketing platform to create, personalize, and send to targeted segments within your list.
  • Offer a master unsubscribe at the account level as well in the event that a subscriber wishes to opt-out of all marketing-related communications.
  • Add a statement that the recipient still will be sent transactional communications (purchase confirmation, shipping confirmation, etc.).
  • Incorporate your privacy policy along with any data usage information on your preference page.
  • Incorporate additional channels of communication, like community forums, SMS alerts, and social media pages to follow.

By planning and utilizing lists, segments, and campaigns appropriately, you’ll not only keep your email service provider user interface clean and organized, you can also dramatically improve the customer experience for your subscribers.

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