I work as a strategist with the world’s most recognized brands to advise them on the implementation and use of marketing technology, and I often find that they are working under one or more myths about what it takes to implement a preference management solution. As a result, budgets--and C-level patience--are drained, marketing ROI sags, and the hard work doesn’t pay off. In several cases, the company I am working with has attempted to implement a preference management solution multiple times without success.
Here are five of the most common myths I encounter as I counsel companies on implementing preference management:
Myth #1: It will be easy to build.
Truth: Companies often think enterprise preference management involves simply creating a page on the corporate Web site or within the e-mail service provider’s workflow to collect customer preferences. They assume the hard part is deciding how to display the preferences and what preferences should be collected.
The truth is that preference management is a cross-departmental initiative that requires resources and participation from almost every part of the company and demands a central repository where information is stored and easily accessible by the varied systems and frameworks used by marketing, sales, customer support, retail locations, and more.
Enterprise preference management relies on technologies that can be outside the realm of your IT department’s expertise. No specific vendor within your current ecosystem has a business incentive to connect with all the other systems to share this important customer data.
It is possible to solve preference management in-house, but it is a serious undertaking that requires thorough research on investment, timetable, internal resources, and a complete understanding of the requirements that must be covered in the solution.
Myth #2: A centralized, fully developed preference center is the first step of a preference management initiative.
Truth: Providing an opt-down page is often the best way to start. While a sophisticated preference center can be a terrific tool, a simple opt-down page can encourage targeted opt-ins and prevent a complete opt-out.
We have seen greater than 65 percent adoption following a plan that starts by simply providing customers with alternatives when they choose to unsubscribe. This early win with a measurable outcome can garner additional budget and resources for a broader effort.
Myth #3: The best place to collect preferences is within the account page or on a preference page.
Truth: Effective preference management and compliance is most effective and complete when collection occurs at every touchpoint where it can be applied.
Enterprise-level businesses engage in complex interactions that feature an expanding set of personal and automated interactions. It’s essential to collect and react to information from all touchpoints, such as call centers, social media, and mobile devices, not just the easy or inexpensive ones like e-mail.
Myth #4: Preference management is largely automated and doesn’t require full-time attention.
Truth: Proper preference management is made possible through governance teams that inform compliance. Moreover, preference collection is an evolving process. It is never really complete and requires ongoing administration.
The underlying framework and functionality for collecting customers’ permissions and responding to their preferences should be relatively stable; however the content and context of preference collection mechanisms must be structured to quickly change.
Who will manage that? How will it evolve? Is the system constructed to dynamically change as marketing approaches, content, and campaigns dictate?
Myth #5: We should collect as much as possible as soon as possible from our customers.
Truth: You should collect as little as possible and build interactions along the way that build trust with your customers. Ask only for key data points that will clearly aid in delivering a better experience for the customer. Lengthy forms and fields that don’t seem to relate to the task at hand are aggravating and create suspicion about how the company plans to use the information.
Just a few years ago, I spent almost all my time explaining the importance of preference collection and personalized communication. Now preference management is part of the marketing vernacular, embraced as a priority and implemented by many innovative companies. To get it right, it requires a measured eyes-wide-open approach.
About Eric V. Holtzclaw
Eric Holtzclaw is chief strategist at PossibleNOW and the author of "Laddering: Unlocking the Potential of Consumer Behavior."