Email Preferences Make Readers Happy

The easiest and least time consuming way to learn what information subscribers want to receive is to simply ask.

email preferencesEmail marketing blogs are constantly buzzing with talk of value; they go on and on about all of the different ways you can add it to your campaign.

But how can they possibly know exactly what readers find valuable? As Mark Brownlow attests, “value is defined by the reader and not by you.” It doesn’t matter how valuable you think your messages are. If a reader doesn’t find your content to be of interest, they’re going to stop opening your emails.

In fact, a recent survey found that 85% of consumers prefer that companies ask about their e-mail preferences at sign up. So instead of playing the value guessing game, read on to learn how to use email preferences to let your subscribers decide what they deem to be valuable.

Give Them What They Want

The easiest and least time consuming way to learn what information subscribers want to receive is to simply ask. Hershey’s Chocolate does this exceptionally well on their email subscription page.

They require only the most basic information…

Hershey's Newsletter Sign Up

and then leave the important choices of which emails to sign up for up to the subscriber:

Hershey's Sign Up

You Can Do This With Your Web Form, Too!

Your potential subscribers are accustomed to making choices both on and offline, and they’re used to having things their way. After all, they can customize everything from their cars and coffee drinks down to the sneakers on their feet online with Mini, Volkswagen, Starbucks and NikeiD.

Since they are used to the convention of customizing the things they are most interested in, your prospective readers will be way more likely to fill out your form when you offer preferences because they’ll feel like they are in control.

Decide What Messages You Want to Send

This might be as simple as breaking up your content into a monthly newsletter, a weekly special and a daily deal. Or, your content could be entirely different for each choice, but that will depend on your business offering.

Regardless, you have to commit to sending these messages, so don’t give yourself an impossible workload. Choose a manageable number of messages that you can easily keep up with without becoming overwhelmed.

Create a Web Form with Checkboxes for Each Message

email sign up form

Each field on your form will represent a different email. This way, when the selection comes in with a new email sign up, their preferences are saved in your account and you know exactly which emails they want to receive from you.

Save a Segment for Each Email

With the choices saved as fields in your account, you’ll then create segments that automatically update whenever someone is added to your list.

email preferences
When searching for fields that were added via checkbox, you must enter “yes” to indicate that the box was checked.

Send Specific Messages

As sign-ups start rolling in, you’ll send your separate messages only to those subscribers who checked certain boxes when signing up.

Send to Segment

This way, readers will get what they asked for, and your content will be right on target and true to what they requested from you.

Will You Try This Tactic?

By offering a few simple preferences, your email campaign will be more professional and customizable and your website visitors will be happy to subscribe to it because they can control what they’ll be receiving.

Let us know if you’ve tried this before, or what kind of response you get when testing it out!


  1. Jack Liang

    8/11/2010 8:19 am

    It is a good way to segment your list. But sometimes I don’t want to provide too many options. I always get this feeling that if I put too much on there, people wouldn’t read it or just ignore my web form and move on completely.

    but this looks interesting. Definitely worth a try.

    thanks for the great post

  2. Ryan

    8/15/2010 2:38 pm

    We are blowing up with sign-ups and now need a good way to market. We have the people, but I would like to see more information on exactly how to form a newsletter that doesn’t get a lot of unsubscribes. Maybe success stories from those that are doing it.

  3. michele carr

    8/17/2010 10:08 am

    I belong to quite a few newsletters. I buy often. What turns me off in a newsletter and makes me unsubscribe are links that don’t work, ‘free’ offers that are suddenly not free, long links – i always think they are unprofessional. Links to other peoples products without any review in the newsletter.

    And of course newsletters that are really sales letters, time after time without any information that I find useful.

    I forgive once and then the second time I usually unsubscribe, I know I know but there are SO many newsletters out there.

    Web Marketing Today is a newsletter that I look forward to getting every couple of weeks and will wait and buy from them just because their newsletter is so jam packed with info. And another newsletter that I even have to PAY for is boogie jacks.

    If you followed either of those newsletters you would build a loyal client base that would follow you anywhere and even pay for the privledge.

  4. Jon Benson

    8/17/2010 10:38 am

    Question: Does your Analytic Package allow for auto responders to use this tool? It’s great for broadcasts, but it would be much more powerful if you could manage your auto responders via this method… or even better an if/then.

    For example, we’re wanting to send a general fitness newsletter to our list. They have told us what their number one challenge is…

    Belly fat

    So we want to send an auto responder out with ‘general’ information and then include a paragraph based on this custom field:

    If (Challenge="Belly Fat"; Content="Here’s today’s belly fat tip…")
    And so-forth.
    Any chance of this happening or do you have another idea to help us with our needs?

    Thanks for a great blog guys!

  5. Jayne

    8/19/2010 7:04 pm

    Great post for customization.
    I want to segment those who want to sign up for our newsletter, and those who want a free ebook and those who want a free ecourse. I guess this would work in the same way?

  6. Bill (LoneWolf) Nickerson

    12/14/2011 6:57 pm

    I have a similar question to Jon Benson. Can an followup sequence be defined for each segment individually? Or, can a single form allow the user to select from multiple lists?

    Currently, I have people sign up to different lists based on what their interest (i.e. the landing page they come from). Then I include other lists for broadcasts as appropriate and have a separate followup sequence for each.

    I’d like to have a form that allows the user to select multiple interests. That would mean one form for several lists, or one list with segmented followups. The latter would be preferable since they would only require one confirmation for the double opt-in.

  7. Crystal Gouldey

    12/15/2011 10:01 am

    There is not currently a way to segment follow ups, only broadcasts. You can set up a list selection field on your web form, but only one of the fields can be for list selection. Click here for instructions.

    I will pass along your suggestions! Thanks for your comments.

  8. Bill (LoneWolf) Nickerson

    12/15/2011 12:24 pm

    Thanks Crystal. That’s what I suspected, but it is good to know that I’m not missing something 8=)

    Thanks for passing the suggestion on. It would be a nice feature.