002 Email: Gavin Laugenie explains why Preference Centres will take you to the next level

by April Buencamino-dy

Gavin Laugenie Head of Strategy and Insight from dotdigital, one of the leading email service providers in the world. Gavin has over 10 years experience helping business of all shapes and sizes build their email marketing programs to increase customer lifetime value, loyalty and ultimately return on investment

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About Gavin

Like a lot of people in email marketing, Gavin says he ‘totally fell into it.’ He was selling ads for magazines when he was recruited by one of his potential customers. He took the leap and is still going strong.

Gavin studied politics at University and jokes that even though he does have some occasion to use those skills with select customers, he would have never expected his career would be in email marketing. 

Preference Centers

Technology has finally made it easy for businesses to set up and use preference centers and Gavin is a huge fan. He says, “Why not ask people what they want to see?” When they actually tell you,

Gavin says, it’s great because then you can give them what they want. Even though we often assume we know what people want, that’s not necessarily reality. The only thing that doesn’t lie is data and Gavin says that this helps get to that point faster.

Instead of inferring information, preference centers allow businesses to better understand what people are looking for. He likens it to walking in to a shop where you are a regular and people remember what you like. Getting that kind of personalized, high street feel in a digital world is possible. 

Implicit vs. Explicit Information

Getting people to tell you what they want is much more powerful than guessing. Gavin makes the distinction between different types of data and says it is eithers implicit or explicit.

Just looking at implicit data,—ie what your customers are looking at is only really seeing one side of the story. Getting them to tell you what they actually want and then fusing that information together with their behavior will give you a digital body language that allows you to meet your customer with what they really want. 

What should you ask?

Start by asking yourself: “What am I willing to offer?” Gavin says that if you ask the answer to a question that makes it difficult to offer what people really want, you’ve put yourself in a bind.

For instance, if you ask someone how many emails they want monthly versus what kind of emails they’d like to get,  you might find yourself with a conundrum—perhaps you have more offers that would be great for them if only you could send them!

Ultimately, you have more control with the latter, because you can deliver the nuance they are looking for in as many or as few emails as it takes.

Test it First

Like all things, a successful preference center requires lots of testing. Gavin says it can be developed and tweaked over time, but it’s best to start simple. He recommends asking for just a few preferences that will actually help both parties to get started.

Getting someone to your preference center is better done sooner than later. Once someone has signed up, try to get them to demarcate their preferences in that welcome set. With that said, Gavin says people should always have access to the center.

Best of all is to embed it into every email campaign.  Making it compulsory is really up to individuals and Gavin reiterates that this is when testing becomes so crucial. If you see an adverse reaction, you can try something different. 

An example of someone who is doing a great preference center is Short List Media which offers themed content by day of the week. Their preference center then simply asks which day of the week they’d like to be filled in on. 

Gavin says the easy to use format makes it a great success. However you do it, it’s important to pay attention to how people are reacting to the information you’re giving them. It’s always important to  give people the ability to amend their preferences when they go to unsubscribe.

Insider Tips

If we’ve inspired someone to take their first step with Email Marketing – what do they need to know to give themselves the best chance of success?

Fill the funnel. Make sure it’s easy to sign up to receive emails in the first place. If you don’t make it easy for people to sign up, you’re missing an opportunity.

Once you’ve started of course you’ve got to ‘keep optimising’! So what’s your favourite way to improve Email Marketing performance?

Split testing is an easy way to improve email performance. People always assume that they know best, but that’s not necessarily true. By testing your assumptions you can bring real data to play. Test for at least 3 or 4 hours before you make any change and Gavin reiterates, KEEP TESTING. Just running a few tests is great, but you’ve got to keep doing it. Make sure you are on a system that offers the technology to run split tests easily.

It’s impossible to improve our marketing unless we’re monitoring the performance – but the list of stuff we could monitor can be overwhelming. So what, for you is the number one Email Marketing KPI?

ROI. Make sure you are tracking your ROI for your emails. Gavin says that people focus on open rates and don’t even know how to track their ROI. Simply start finding ROI by looking at revenue generated to the number of people sent to. Then, Gavin says you can begin to refine that data set.

Crystal ball time – what’s coming up in the next 6-12 months that we should be getting ready for in Email Marketing?

There are changes coming in terms of tracking. It looks as though there will be increased transparency in email tracking. It could mean removing tracking completely from email or just increased transparency. The trend in GDPR, cookie laws etc. are reaching email reporting.

DotDigital is an engagement cloud that offers omnichannel services allowing people to connect with their customers on whatever platform they need and empowers them with AI, automation, preference centers that allows them to segment their data. DotDigital allows people to connect with their customers through email, but also offers connection on SMS social, mobile whatsapp, chat and live chat.

Interview Links

Gavin on Social media:

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