I was inspired by ExactTarget’s recently published whitepaper, Subscribers Rule. “Subscribers Rule” is—in ExactTarget’s words—”acknowledgement that we, as marketers, bear a responsibility to deploy one-to-one marketing technologies in ways that put subscriber needs first.”
I went for a jog yesterday in my “Subscribers Rule” t-shirt and contemplated great ways for marketers to begin empowering individual subscribers. My starting-point pick: the Communications Preferences Center. This is the landing page on your website that allows your subscribers to control what, when, and how you communicate with them.
FIVE WAYS TO MAKE YOUR COMMUNICATION PREFERENCE CENTER POP!:
(1) Let subscribers decide what information they want to offer.
Tommy Bahama asks only the most basic details upfront, then layers in the opportunity to identify optional detailed preferences. This allows subscribers to decide how much information they want to disclose—and how much time they want to invest in the sign-up process. Asking for too much upfront can result in a lost email address.
(2) Provide clear descriptions of your content options.
BabyCenter publishes a variety of personalized email newsletters. They make it easy for subscribers to choose which they’d like to recieve by posting descriptions and examples of each publication. Content selection happens at step three of their simple, three-step registration process. BabyCenter includes an explanation around each step to help subscribers understand how providing data is to their benefit.
(3) Allow subscribers to select their preferred message format.
As more subscribers view email on mobile devices, it becomes important to ask them how they prefer to receive their emails—in HTML or Text format. The New York Times follows a three-step registration process similar to BabyCenter’s; however, because they reach out to more business customers using mobile devices, they include a format preference option. I like that they include a “What’s this?” link to explain the difference between HTML and Text; it’s silly to assume that the general public understands the difference.
(4) Give subscribers control over frequency.
While your biggest fans might want to hear from you every day, your sunny-day subscribers might prefer to receive email from you only once a month. If you have the capability to deliver on the promise, offer frequency as an option on your communication preferences page… and, as a way to retain over-mailed subscribers, on your opt-down page, like in this Saks example.
(5) Make the experience pleasant and easy.
I like Louis Vuitton’s Communication Preferences Center for its transparency and conciseness. Options to subscibe, modify and unsubscribe appear within a left-land menu bar, and each page lives succinctly above the fold. As we’d hope for a luxury brand, the pages are well-produced and attractive; the newsletter sample screenshot is a nice touch.
Tommy Bahama also presents a well-branded experience, from the design to the copy. Rather than just picking up default verbiage, they make the text paradise-appropriate: “Tell us what inspires you, and we’ll create an email experience that’s as perfect as a well-planned vacation.”
Lisa Harmon of Smith-Harmon