Email Preference Centers for More Effective Email Marketing

Email marketing is an essential part of any business, especially today. Acquiring subscribers is stressful enough in a digital world and, email is how you maintain an ongoing relationship with them. Email keeps subscribers updated on the latest changes in an organization, incents supporters to donate and thanks them in real-time. In a way, it’s one face of your organization.

Statistics show that some email marketers get up to a 3,800% ROI (return on investment) through their email list. According to recent statistics, in the last year, about 78% of online marketers have experienced an improvement in engagement with email newsletters.

Consistent monitoring of your email list is critical. Why? It’s easy to lose subscribers to quick unsubscribes and its also easy to fall victim to email deliverability issues is your emails are not performing well. Proper list management includes monitoring for bounced and inactive emails, keeping an eye on unsubscribes, and taking a closer look at the actual engagement subscribers have with your email.

Here we’ll focus on unsubscribes and how you can mitigate attrition and provide a good experience for your supporters.

Many marketers find that email preference centers can significantly increase engagement with their newsletters and provide better retention rates.

If you’re not sure whether an email preference center is a good option for you, consider these primary advantages:

  • Email preference centers effectively reduce your unsubscribe rate, giving you a better retention rate for subscribers – and potentially more donations
  • Spam reports and complaints about your newsletters will be significantly reduced
  • You increase opportunities to provide a more personalized approach for your subscribers
  • Email preference centers also help you segment more strategically

In this guide, you’ll discover what an email preference center is and how it can help your email marketing. We’ll also share a few important tips to help maximize your email preference center’s efficiency – with the goal of improving your results.

What Are Email Preference Centers?

We should start by taking a closer look at what exactly an email preference center is. It’s pretty straight-forward. An email preference center is a place your supporters can go to adjust their email preferences – and more.

Many email marketers tend to develop a basic email marketing campaign without considering the finer details – and these small details are often what can make or break strategy.

If you’re subscribed to newsletters yourself, then chances are you’ve already come across an email preference center in the past – you might not have even realized it. Some marketers have already implemented these strategies to help with the development of segmentation lists and to assist in delivering more relevant content to their subscribers.

An email preference center is essentially a management console that gives subscribers more control over their presence on your email list. Several settings can be provided to the subscriber when they visit the email preference center. Additionally, different strategies can be used to improve the visibility of the preference center making it more efficient at reducing the rate of email unsubscribed.

Some settings in your email preference center could include:

  • Frequency: The frequency at which the subscriber receives emails from your list. This can be set to daily, weekly, or monthly, for example. It ensures the subscriber does not receive too many emails in their inbox. It helps to reduce the risk of unsubscribing due to a high or low frequency of emails send to the subscriber.
  • Format: The preference center can ask the subscriber what type of email messages they wish to receive. Traditionally this is text or HTML based email messages. That said, this is becoming somewhat dated as the majority of supporters viewing on smartphones now prefer HTML. Another format to consider is SMS. In which case, you may need to add a data collection point for mobile number to the preference center if they select that option.
  • Interests: You can also ask the subscriber the content they want to receive – in terms of interests, topics and categories. This is an excellent way to enhance the relevancy of every email you send. Sending email to supporters based on their interests boosts response and your overall sender reputation as well. It’s a win-win.

In Engaging Networks, many of our clients use our HUB tool to easily build a central experience for supporters to manage their information, including email preferences. Check it out in this short video.

Keep reading for more ideas and a beautiful client example at the end.

Maximize Your Email Preference Center

If you’re not already using an email preference center, now is a great time to add this to your overall email marketing strategy. There are several advantages that come with the implementation of a preference center that will be maximized if you approach them strategically.

In this section, we want to include a few crucial tips to help you get better results from an email preference center. Use one or two as you can but utilizing as many of these strategies as possible will help lower unsubscribes and deepen engagement.

Easy Access to the Email Preference Center

Ensure your subscribers can easily access the email preference center. This is important. If they can’t find your email preference center, they won’t know about all the ways they can configure their settings and your work will be for naught.

A good idea is to include a link to the preference center in every newsletter you submit to your subscribers. This is tricky because you have to (by law in many cases) include an unsubscribe link in your emails – and it can’t link to a preference center, it has to link to an unsubscribe page. So, near the unsubscribe link, add a link for “Email Preferences” or “Manage My Email Preferences.” When the subscriber clicks on this link, take them to the preference center.

Also, make sure the preference center is easy to use and provides a user-friendly interface. All settings should be clearly labeled and avoid confusion. The subscriber should be able to easily adjust the frequency at which they receive emails from your newsletter campaign – and the specific type of content they want to get in their inbox.
By making the preference center easily accessible and providing good user experience, the subscriber will be able to tell you what they want to receive – reducing irrelevant emails landing in their inbox.

Preference Center Option on the Unsubscribe Page

Don’t just add the links to the preference center to your email template. An effective strategy is to include the preference center link on the unsubscribe page as well. And make it fun, ‘Are you sure you want to leave? We can send you less email if you click here.’

When the subscriber clicks on the unsubscribe link, they should be taken to a page that gives them two options. The first option should be to confirm that they wish to unsubscribe (never force a subscriber to remain subscribed to your email list). The second option should be to change their email settings.

Ask the subscriber if the content is irrelevant or if they’re receiving too many emails, then make a suggestion for changing the frequency and providing more targeted content. The subscriber might switch over to the configuration panel instead of confirming that they wish to unsubscribe.

In Engaging Networks, you can build a beautiful experience using our form dependencies. In this example, if the supporter selected ‘too many emails’ as the problem, you could then reveal options for less email.

Ask About Email Frequency

Let’s set reasonable expectations about email quantity. Don’t just ask about the type of content the subscriber wants to receive, ask about the frequency of emails as well. And then, comply with the frequency of email the subscriber expects from you.

So, when setting up an email preference center, make sure you also ask the subscriber how frequently they wish to hear from you. Add multiple options for selection. This not only helps to reduce the risk of the subscriber leaving the list, it also gives you additional data to look at when monitoring the results and performance of your campaign.

Here are a few email frequency options you might want to consider adding to your preference center:

  • Daily emails
  • Weekly emails
  • Monthly emails
  • Seasonal emails

Don’t list anything you can’t stick to. Not every organization sends daily emails!

Hone in on Interests

Relevancy in an email marketing campaign is critical – yet it’s something that a lot of marketers tend to fail at providing. When emails you send out to subscribers are not relevant to what they’re interested in, or what they expect from your brand, then the risk of unsubscribes increases.

This is why the integration of interests in your email preference center is so important. You should add multiple categories that your subscriber can select. The more divided the categories, the more targeted and relevant the emails become when you send them out.

An example would be, you’re an animal welfare organization. On your preference center you ask if supporters are most interested in:

  • Animal rescue
  • Animal protection
  • Wildlife
  • Pets

Or you could focus on species to address particular interests and speak to supporter passions and connections.

  • Cats
  • Dogs
  • Livestock
  • Wildlife

Expose the Email Preference Center at Signup

Consider presenting the preference center to subscribers when they first join your list. If you’re doing double opt-in, you can do this on the opt-in confirmation screen and ask for them to tell you a little about themselves. If you’re not doing double opt-in, you can add it to the confirmation email they receive after signing up.

This is an excellent opportunity to set expectations and customize communications with supporters and donors right out of the gate.

Follow Through On Configurations

Don’t take chances. A high email unsubscribe rate, high bounce rate, or a lot of people reporting your emails as spam pose a risk to email deliverability.

Never take chances, but instead comply with what your subscriber expects from you. When a subscriber tells you what they want, make sure uphold your end of the bargain. After they’ve set preferences, their email should only be added to the appropriate segmentation lists. By maintaining compliance with the subscriber’s preferences, you reduce the risk of unsubscribes and increase the relevancy of your email campaigns.

Maximize the Data from Your Email Preference Center

When you use an email preference center, you’re collecting information. Anytime you gather data, you can use it for multiple purposes.

Allow supporters to select multiple interests in the preference center – they can be on more than one list and receive different messages. Combine data from your preference center with other actions to create an even deeper experience.

Curious about ways you can segment your list? Try the Segmentation Generator for ideas.

For example:

  • A supporter gave on an elephant focused donation form
  • The same supporter indicated in the preference center that they want information about wildlife
  • You can put them into the ‘Wild Elephant Protection’ list based on what you know about them

Follow Up With Subscribers

People will still unsubscribe despite your best efforts. Use that moment as a last opportunity to gain some insight. Add a field to unsubscribe forms to ask supporters why they are leaving. The comments provided by the subscriber should be used to improve the future campaigns you develop – with the ultimate goal of providing a more satisfactory experience to every subscriber on your list.

Wrapping it up

When your email unsubscribe rate is high, it means you’re doing something wrong. A common issue found by email marketing experts is the fact that emails are not relevant, or the frequency is not right. Utilizing an email preference center gives your subscribers more control over the content they receive, as well as the frequency of email newsletters. This is an excellent strategy to help improve the retention rate and even improve overall results.

We hope these tips on building and utilizing an email preference center were helpful. This can be easily done in Engaging Networks using pagebuilder and you can roll it into the HUB for more options. The HUB allows you to create an experience for supporters that enables them to update preferences, manage payments, update personal information and visualize their impact with your cause.

Take a look at how Mery for Animals uses the HUB to create a preference center and more.

Get in Touch

Did you see something interesting? Or have questions about how Engaging Networks can help you build a Supporter HUB and email preference center to better retain and engage your supporters? Give us a shout and we’ll be in touch to answer your questions. Request a demo today.

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Chloe Green is a copywriter and digital campaigner with almost a decade of experience in the charity and political sectors. She’s delivered campaigns, copy and consultancy for a raft of good eggs including Anthony Nolan, the National Union of Students, St Mungo’s, and Hillary for America. She was Social Media Manager at the Labour Party between 2016–2019 and now she’s Head of Creative with the lovely team at Forward Action. She leads on fundraising emails, UX copy, and all creative facilitation. She’s an expert in email list growth, digital strategy, organic and paid-for social media, and digital mobilisation.

Rachel founded the specialist charity web agency, Rechord, in 1999. Between 1999 and 2012 they created hundreds of different web applications for organisations in the UK and internationally.
In 2013 she became the 'Donor Whisperer' and focused on helping small to medium-sized non-profits to reach new donors and activists and from there increase their income. She uses a unique process that combines the benefits of consultancy with capacity building.
Her clients include Traidcraft Exchange, the Overseas Development Institute, Jubilee Debt Coalition, the Leprosy Mission of England and Wales, Tax Justice UK, The Canary, Humanity and Inclusion, the Anti-Tribalism Movement, BRACE, New Family Social, Arseh Sevom - and that's just the last year.
She also feels weird writing about herself in the third person.

Ellen is Campaigns Manager overseeing national and local campaigning at the MS Society. She has worked at the MS Society for 2 and a half years, with roles at Scope and Guide Dogs prior to this.

Hannah is Senior Campaigns Officer at the MS Society, working on their local campaigning programme, Local Action for MS and also on social care and carers. She’s worked at the MS Society for a year and a half, and was previously at the MND Association and National Voices.

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Emily has worked at Guide Dogs for the Blind Association since 2019, working on a range of campaign areas to empower people with vision impairments to live the life they choose. Prior to this, Emily working in parliament and severed as a borough councillor.

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I joined the Woodland Trust in 2018 and now lead on policy and engagement campaigns working to improve protection, restoration and high quality creation of woods and trees. Prior to campaigning for trees, I worked in Peterborough, tackling fuel poverty in the community. I care deeply about the climate and nature crises and the many, intersectional impacts and solutions. Endlessly inspired and energised by the dedication and passion of our supporters and the public who take action time and time again.

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I am a campaigner in the Woods Under Threat team at the Woodland Trust. My role is to help protect ancient woods and trees from damaging developments across the UK. Ancient woods and trees are irreplaceable, so we work hard to stop any further loss of these precious habitats and ensure they are protected for the benefit of people and wildlife.

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Claire Warner is a former charity Fundraising Director & Senior Leader, turned Culture & Wellbeing consultant.

It was in trying to throw herself back into her beloved Fundraising Director role after 12 months' treatment for aggressive breast cancer, that Claire realised the focus & memory loss and heart condition side effects she'd been left with after her treatment, plus the life-changing experience of the illness itself, meant (guttingly!) a 300% commitment, 50+hours a week Fundraising Director role was no longer an option.

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In 2018, Claire created her own piece of research into the wellbeing of fundraisers and when it concluded in 2019, over 700 fundraisers had taken part. The results of the research were used to further inform and refine the work Claire does with organisations and individuals in the charity sector.

In 2020 Claire won the Best Digital Leader Award at the Social CEO Awards and in 2021 curated the first Charity Wellbeing Summit.

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Rebecca is a Digital Project Manager, who recently led the redesign and redevelopment of The Children's Society's website.

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I have worked as a web developer for about 20 years and for Which? since 2015, primarily on their WordPress sites. This has involved integration with a variety of different APIs, most recently the Engaging Networks API, along with the creation of APIs to allow sites to talk to one another.

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Having gotten his start organizing with anti-war veterans and working as Sala Labs, Sales Engineer, and Partner Manager, Bryan now brings his expertise to non-profit and mission-driven clients as 4Site Studios Director of Digital Strategy. Specializing in challenging and complex projects, Bryan works with each client to craft holistic approaches tailored to goals, budget, and outcomes.

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Joe Derry Hall is a freelancer working on creative digital and communications. His interests include tech innovation, upending power and reimagining different futures. Joe has been the winner of a Mozilla Creative Media Award and the joint winner of a BAFTA digital award. He was previously in-house in campaigning and communications roles at Amnesty International, the Climate Coalition, the Ecocide campaign, Save the Children, Scope and others. He is one of the initiators of Right Way Up, an experiment to create a radical, practical new vision for the social change sector.

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