What is the best way to honor my e-mail recipients’ preferences?

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Here is how the story often goes: An excited marketer begins an e-mail marketing program anticipating a large list of engaged subscribers. She sends off e-mail after e-mail. Then reality hits. Her unsubscribe rates skyrocket and she is left bewildered and asking why.

The answer is simple: She forgot the subscriber.

It’s important at the beginning of each subscriber relationship that marketers are honest and upfront about expectations. Lay out in detail what the subscriber can expect from you. Include a PDF of your communication as an example, if possible. This gives subscribers the ability to make an informed decision about whether the content you are offering is really what they want to receive.

Will your list be smaller? You bet. But your subscribers will be more engaged because they will know exactly what to expect from you.

Once subscribers opt in, send them an e-mail asking for their preferences. Ask what topics they want to get information about and how often they want to hear from you. This information will allow you to segment your lists so you can tailor your communications to abide by subscribers’ preferences.

An e-mail preference center is a good way to allow subscribers to subsequently update those preferences. It gives subscribers control over their e-mail, enabling them to unsubscribe or change their e-mail address, as well as indicate their preferences about the content and timing of e-mails. One benefit is that customers who go to the center intending to unsubscribe might decide to stay on the list once they realize they can tweak the topic or frequency of the e-mails they receive.

When creating an e-mail preference center, remember to keep options to a minimum to avoid overwhelming subscribers. Be upfront with subscribers about how long it may take to implement changes.

These best practices will be worth the effort. Our statistics show that open and click-through rates jump to the 50%-to-80% range when these best practices are followed.

Carissa Newton is director of marketing for Delivra (, an e-mail marketing software and services company.

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