In our last post, we spoke about the value of using email preference centers to ensure subscriber-centric relevance in messages and frequency. But another important issue to consider when setting up email preference centers is the kind of data you’re gathering from your subscribers. A well-designed email preference center isn’t just an opportunity to listen to your subscribers tell you what they want, but also a good opportunity for you to gather information about them (within reason, or more accurately, within relevance).
What do we mean by this? Email marketing best practices require respect in the amount and type of information you gather from your subscribers. The natural tendency of marketers and data-hungry sales teams is to gather as much information as possible about their users. Obviously, most marketers would like to know everything possible about their subscribers including buying interests, budget, online purchase history, title, name, demographic data including age, gender, household income, location, email address, etc. But it’s not really good email marketing best practices to demand that much data in exchange for what is essentially the right to market to them.
Ultimately, in this, as in many things around email marketing best practices, parsimony is best: only ask a user to provide the information that you need to fulfill their request. For example, if you’re providing a basic email newsletter, email address is obviously a necessity, but do you need financial stats on your users? Probably not, and they won’t understand why it’s being asked of them.
But if you’re segmenting the content options you’re providing by industry, expertise, or technology category, it’s relevant to gather that kind of information from your users. And if you’re offering other options like printed catalogs and mailed coupons, or something unique like a special “birthday” discount during a subscriber’s birthday month, it’s a perfect reason to ask for full contact information including mailing address and birth date.
And to tap into the world of email engagement even more, consider offering a comments or questions section: if your user actively seeks out help, technical assistance, or for more information, you can legitimately request a detailed description of their situation or problem. Just make sure to reply in a timely fashion, to emphasize your commitment to increased engagement with your subscribers.
Limiting the amount and kinds of information that you ask from your users will reinforce their feeling that they are being respected, and their privacy protected. When you consider the goals of your email marketing program, determine the user data points you need to gather that will best enhance your user’s experience. And, as with email marketing best practices in general, the best way to this is through asking: “Is this information relevant?”
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