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Offer Preferences; Honor Them; They'll Pay Off

By Daniel Flamberg
In a world filled with endless consumer choices, too many marketers still push out one-size-fits-all messages. Very few CRM cadences are self-directed by consumers, which might account for generally low response and engagement rates.
At a time when everybody is a gamer used to picking characters or avatars, setting game play levels and making choices of all kinds, marketers rarely give their customers and prospects the option to set preferences for content, channels or cadence. 
Too many acquisition, lead generation, usage stimulation, loyalty or adherence programs are serial fulfillment exercises rather than genuine expressions of customer relationships. They are one-way streets masquerading as two-way relationships. And while it’s much easier for marketers to decide what to say and when to carpet bomb their lists, it is counterproductive.
The “R” in CRM needs to be more prominent in the thinking, programming and infrastructure of marketers. When consumers set preferences and brands execute on them, research suggests that engagement, purchases and customer satisfaction soar. The trick is incorporating preference as a highly desired element with a CRM architecture or environment. A brand without a preference center is partially faking CRM.
Ideally, customers should be steered to a preference center early in the relationship; when their interest and intentions are high. They should be asked for basic contact data and the requisite opt-ins and then be given some choices about what kind of information or incentives they want, how frequently they want them and which communication channel is best to reach them without annoying them. 
Setting up a preference center requires a modest amount of database preparation and an infrastructure to securely capture and transmit the data provided. In some cases, this data can be stored in ESP tools and used to inform triggers and business rules for email. You can’t really create a preference center unless you have the database architecture in place.
The challenge is the investment. Too many clients see even modest infrastructure costs as “non productive” since there is no immediate ROI. That view is myopic. Giving customers choices and in so doing binding them to their favorite brands pays off again and again over time. When it comes to preference, brands need to step up to honor and accommodate customer preferences.
Daniel Flamberg is executive vice president, managing director digital & CRM Publicis Kaplan Thaler. He is also a long-time email marketing veteran.

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