No matter what your company sells, every email marketer has one thing in common: your contact list is your greatest asset. If you lose your list, you’re dead in the water. A message preferences center will help you protect your list against unsubscribes so you can focus on growing it and increasing engagement.

A preference center offers your contacts the ability to choose the types of messages they receive from you, as well as how frequently they receive them. While it may seem counterintuitive to make it easy for your contacts to opt-out of some communications or reduce how often they hear from you, it’s absolutely critical to guard against list shrinkage.

Additionally, great preference centers will:

A practical example of how this works.

Let’s say every month you send emails that promote free educational webinars, an industry newsletter and products you’ve got on sale. Since it’s unlikely the lists you use for each of those messages are completely independent of each other, some of your contacts may end up receiving all or most of your communications. That’s a lot of email. A preference center would work well in this example to help ensure you’re not over-mailing your contacts and driving unsubscribes. You’d simply create a list of all the different categories of communications you send regularly with toggle buttons for contacts to opt in or out of each one.

What a preference center looks like.

Here’s an example of a preference center created by a Sugar Market, previously Salesfusion, client, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.


Post Gazette

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette offers a very clear and easy way for contacts to adjust their engagement without leaving altogether.

A reminder about why all of this matters.

If you don’t offer contacts the option to choose which emails they’d like to receive, you risk losing them altogether. A preference center gives your contacts the feeling of control and increases overall satisfaction with your brand. If they opt-out of product promotions but want to receive webinar promotions, you can still continue a dialogue with them. Maybe you plug a related product or service at the end of your webinars, or include a cross-promotional blurb in the educational content they receive. It doesn’t kill your ability to market to them, it just means you’re targeting them with content and in a way that’s more relevant to their interests.

How send frequency can come into play.

Sometimes your contacts will like the content you send but they get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of it. Consider that when you’re planning your promotions, but also provide over-mailed contacts the option to opt-down in a preference center. This essentially gives them the option to remain on your list but reduce the frequency of the communications they receive. This strategy will help you retain contacts who are interested in continuing a relationship with you but want to engage less frequently.

Keep things as simple as possible.

While you need to give your contacts options, you also need to keep things as simple as possible. It’s a balance. If you make the preference center too confusing for them to navigate, you may turn away eager contacts who actually want to hear from you. Keep your unsubscribe choices simple. Show your contacts what they’re already subscribed to and make it easy to uncheck a box or toggle the subscription on or off for a particular type of message. Also be sure to include a global opt-out for those who really don’t want to hear anything from you at all. This is required by law but is also important to maintain your list quality and inbox placement.

Unsubscribes will happen. It’s the reality of email marketing. However, you can reduce the number of people who walk away from you entirely. This is an important component to any successful email marketing strategy – maintaining your list so you can grow engagement over time.