Sunday, April 18, 2010

5 Lessons in Subscription Management

The #1 reason people unsubscribe is because they receive irrelevant emails. So assuming you have your segmentation in place, the next step is to focus on subscription management. Rather than just having subscribers globally opt out, providing the option to edit their own communication preferences is considered a best practice.

But what categories should you offer? Preferences by industry, by product type, by type of offer (newsletters, events, product updates, etc)?

Lesson 1:
I’ve seen subscription preference pages that first ask for Job Role, Industry, # of employees, etc. Understand that “Manage Your Preferences” is different than “Update Your Profile”. And while trying to combine both on the same page is very tempting, it usually results in a very busy and often overwhelming form. If it takes longer than 15-20 seconds for someone to update their preferences, you run the risk of subscribers simply checking the “Unsubscribe from All” checkbox instead.

Lesson 2:
Offer an easy way to manage their preferences AND/OR update their profile, but not on the same page. Here’s an example of helping subscribers understand the options:

The one suggestion I might make to the screenshot above is to consider changing the label: “Update Your Profile” to something like “Update Your Career Profile”. This reduces potential confusion as to the difference between Update Your Profile and Update Your Preferences, which could easily be construed to mean the same thing.

Lesson 3:
Make it easy to update both. Avoid the back button. Include a link on the Preference page to also update their career profile. Add a link on their career profile page to also update their subscription management preferences. Back button = bad. Same page link =good.

Lesson 4:
Deciding which subscription preferences to offer depends on the types of content you actually send. If you sell very few products/services you might break it down simply by type; Newsletters, Events, Webinars, Product Promotions, etc.

For those with multiple products or solutions or verticals, you’ll need to identify which core segments you typically send different content to and break it down that way. Is your content geo based? Industry based? Solution based? Product based? A good rule of thumb is to mirror the main menu options you have on your website. Is your site broken down by Geo? Solution? Product Type? Industry? Managing preferences in parallel with website navigation helps keep things in parallel.

Lesson 5:
Don’t use “Update Your Career Profile” as your primary driver to obtain/update explicit information. Keep in mind most people will never see this page unless they are about to unsubscribe and stumble upon this as they update their preferences. Better to gather this type of information through progressive profiling.

This doesn’t mean you can’t ask for additional information on this page. But make it optional, pre-populate as many fields as you can and wherever possible make the fields picklists. Finally make it clear why filling in the fields will benefit them. Try using a headline such as: “Updating your career profile helps us deliver more relevant and timely information.”

Apple’s new iPad is the latest device your customers can now use to receive your emails. Together with iPhones and other smart phones, these devices have become so personalized that “invading their space” takes on a whole new meaning. People are becoming much less tolerant of non-relevant emails.

Making it easy for them to establish their preferences reduces the dreaded global unsubscribe. And since they’re already in “updating” mode, making it easy for them to also update their career profile is often an easier sell, as long it’s crystal clear what’s in it for them.

Updated 5-8-12
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Steve Kellogg
-Demand Generation/Marketing Automation Consultant, Astadia
-Eloqua Certified Marketing Best Practices Consultant

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  1. Steve, I love the metaphor! Treat carnivores differently from vegetarians differently from fungi...

    Whether to treat leopards and panthers and polar bears all as "hunters" or separately geo-segmented...depends. :)

    All best,

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