What is this “preference center” thing about?

Simply put, the preference center is a kind of membership page where your subscribers can update their information and subscription preferences.  This gives them the convenience of making changes to their subscription when they want.  For example, one of your subscribers (let’s call him John) is switching to a new email provider and would like your newsletter to be sent to his new address.  Without the preference center, what he has to do is to unsubscribe his old email address and then resubscribe using his new one.  If John is like most subscribers out there, he will most probably not bother jumping through these hoops.  When this happens, you lose out.

With a preference center, you make it less tedious for John to change his email address.  He can simply access his preference center and make the update, and voila!  Your next newsletter will reach him in his new inbox.  No more unnecessary unsubscribes!  Of course, we can’t promise that all your subscribers will do this, but having the convenience of the preference center means that you can dramatically cut down the loss of these subscribers to unsubscribes.

Want more? Here’s more.

With some creative thinking, preference centers can be put to other uses.  It is conventional wisdom that nobody likes to fill in long forms, so we always say “keep your subscription form short and simple” and leave the rest of the questions for later.  The rationale behind this is that the actual act of signing up to your list is good indication that this subscriber is interested to know more and is more likely to give more.  That’s when you can ask them to fill out a longer questionnaire about themselves.

OK, so just how can preference centers be used to do this? Here’s how:

First, you need to customize your preference center.  Log in to your account and choose the list that you want and click on the Preference Center tab.  If this is your first time accessing your preference center, you will see some information that tells you that you are currently using a default preference center.  (Every list that you create gets a default preference center automatically set up.) Click on the Customize Now button to start customizing your preference center.

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You can see that by default your preference center only requests for Email Address and Name.  The form builder here works the same way as your form builder for Subscription Form, so if you have tried your hand at building your subscription form, you already know how to customize your preference center.  That’s what we always do here at eConnect Email – trying to reduce the learning curve for our customers as much as possible.

You can add more information if you like by clicking on the Add Field button.  Say, you might want to add a field asking for their preferred email format or their gender.  If there is information that you would like to ask for but is not available in the list (like what are their interests, or what is their favorite coffee brand), just go and create a new custom field and come back to the preference center and it will appear in the list for you to choose.

Once you are done setting up your preference center, you can save it and preview what the actual page looks like.

OK, with the preference center now customized, you need to let your subscribers know where to go to update their details.  Click on the Messages tab under your list and choose Welcome Message.  If you have opted not to send your new subscribers any welcome messages, now’s a good time to change that.  Select the option to send a welcome message, and in the visual editor that appears, choose an area where you want the preference center link to appear (tip: you may want to pick a spot that can make the link pretty prominent).  Then click on the Personalize drop down menu, choose Personalized Links and select the Preference Center Link option.  A link will be inserted for you, and you can customize the text of the link to your heart’s desire.  Remember to save your changes once you are all done.

So, what happens now?  Well, each time a new subscriber signs up and confirm his/her subscription, he/she will receive this welcome message which invites him/her to visit the preference center and provide additional information.  You can also create interest groups from the preference center, but I will talk about this in another post.

Go ahead, start exploring your preference center.  If you find any other cool ways of doing something with your preference center, share it with us here.

About James Trumbly:
Director of Business Development for eConnect Email, an email marketing software company. James enjoys spending time at the beach and traveling in his free time. Follow him on twitter @eConnectEmail