Getting your Communication Preferences Right

by Jack Bailey-Grundy - June 11, 2020
Getting your Communication Preferences Right

Back at the start of 2020, when we could still get out and visit clients, one of the hottest topics of conversation was email communication preferences. In preparation for 2018’s GDPR Directive, companies scrambled to put in place a strategy to manage an “opt in” process. Often with little thought to longer term consequences. Or to the wealth of engaged data built up over the preceding years.

So if this year you are struggling with separating consent from preference, or opt-in from opt-out, you are not alone.

Key factors that can raise the alarm are dwindling numbers of mailable prospects, lower engagement figures and even a reduced pipeline. Often, our audits have raised queries over the process in place. Gaps where prospects slip through the net, or questions that no-one knows the answer to. Is this prospect opted in/out/unknown? Or why have they been emailed/not been emailed?

It’s clear that in the race to implement a structure for GDPR, many companies focused on the “opt-in” nature of the regulations. And bypassed the “data protection by design and default” aspect.

What has also become apparent is that a standardised, one-size fits all process isn’t a viable long-term approach. Over time, some areas of data protection seem to become greyer. Whilst other aspects are clearer than ever. And what works for one company, one industry, one legal firm is often interpreted differently elsewhere.

So to help you restart your journey, here are a few tips to consider:

Understand your legal standpoint

It sounds obvious, but knowing what your legal team deem to be acceptable for your customer is a critical first step. Different industries have different interpretations of customers, legitimate interest and the like. So knowing where you stand is important. Equally, lawyers may not be marketing experts. And will likely give you an overarching viewpoint. But the specific cases and applications may require a bit of back and forth as you build out your process.

Know your customer

Often people spend a long time working with the legal team. Devising clever wording on forms and landing pages to cover themselves as new prospects sign up. But little thought is then given to prospects already in the database. A detailed plan to opt-in new prospects to various preferences, without a consideration of the existing data, will lead to inconsistencies. Even though a lot of it is more valuable than a new sign up.

Design your best process

It sounds obvious, but design a process that works for you. It needs to meet the requirements from the legal team, and the expectations of a prospect. But ultimately it should be clear and manageable for your team. Working out all angles – are you choosing an opt in/opt out approach? Do you require confirmed (double) opt in? Will this be presented in multiple languages – or are there specific regions or territories where different rules need to apply? Do you have multiple products which require nuanced preferences – perhaps some of the communications don’t even need a preference centre?

Each of these take time and they deserve consideration when designing your process.It goes without saying that the simpler the design of the process, the better. You may even look at your email sending volumes and decide a preference centre isn’t warranted. But communication preferences just can’t always be the simplest. So taking the time to map out a customer journey can be the difference between finding out valuable information about a prospect, and losing their consent – or at least the ability to market to them – altogether.

Structure your testing

As always, this is a key step and as much as we’d all like it to be, it can’t be rushed. You’ve spent the time discussing and got agreement on the model, built out your process to match, and you think you have a plan in place for every scenario. But until you carefully test each aspect, you can’t be confident that the plan works. Build out test scripts for different scenarios – testing the best case and worst case scenarios and as many in between as you can think of.

Get the reporting you need

Once your new process goes live, the job isn’t done. Monitoring the process, the unsubscribes, the completion of any forms is a crucial step. Detecting and resolving any issues as quickly as possible – whether that’s an unexpected drop in mailable prospects on lists, higher unsubscribes on certain types of email – can make a huge long term impact. Failure to monitor the situation can create major issues over time that become harder to untangle. But in these cases, don’t panic and make snap decisions, and take time to investigate issues and repeat the process above to make sure you get it right.

Don’t be afraid of a high usage of a preference centre – that’s a good thing – but if global unsubscribe rates remain constant, that could be a cause for concern. Make sure you have the right reporting in place. Whether that’s B2B Marketing Analytics, Campaign Engagement Metrics in Salesforce, or Pardot reports. The right tool at the right time is important.



Fortunately, Nebula has you covered. We have a lot of experience designing these journeys and can guide you through this process step-by-step. Whilst each project has its own unique set of requirements, we have an underlying process to help you get to the bottom of yours. Get in touch to start your journey today.

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