Marketo doesn’t have a built-in preference center like other marketing automation platforms such as HubSpot. This means that you need to create one from scratch, which can seem daunting at first if you’ve never done it before. We’ve laid out all the steps below to make this process as easy as possible for you.

Why Create an Email Preference Center?

In email marketing you want to retain as many of your subscribers as possible, which is why it’s important to ensure you are sending relevant content. If people feel that the content isn’t interesting to them, or that they are receiving emails too frequently, they are sure to unsubscribe – or worse, report you as spam. While a preference center won’t completely prevent unsubscribes, it can help to reduce the number of people who unsubscribe by putting them in control of what they receive. Rather than presenting people with only the option to unsubscribe from all emails, offering options in the form of a preference center can help you maintain relationships with leads by giving them the content they are looking for. 

Building a Marketo Email Preference Center

Step 1: Create Subscription Type Fields

Whether you are migrating from an existing marketing automation platform or starting fresh in Marketo, the first task is to create new fields for each subscription type. To do this, click Admin at the top of the page and select Field Management under Database Management

Next, select New Custom Field. The Object is Person, the Type is Boolean, and then you need to give it a name. For example, use the name “Subscribed to Marketing Emails” or “Subscribed to Sales Emails” so the field can be easily identified on the person record under Info. Complete this step for as many subscription types you have. 

Step 2: Create a Subscription Management Program

Using a program to house all of your Marketo email preference center assets keeps everything together so you don’t need to look for them across Marketing Activities and Design Studio. 

In Marketing Activities, right click on the Operational folder and select New Program. Name the program and leave the Program Type as Default.

Right click on the program and create three new folders: Pages, Forms, and Flows. It should look like the image below.

Step 3: Create the Preference Center Pages

You’ll need to create two landing pages: the preference center page and the confirmation page. Right click the Pages folder you created and select New local asset, then Landing Page. If you need information about building Marketo landing pages, check out their support documentation, or download our free email preference center landing page templates.

When creating these landing pages, please note that the preference center page needs to have a spot for a form in it, whereas the confirmation page does not. 

Step 4: Create the Preference Center Form

The form is the base of your preference center. This is where people can select the types of emails they want to receive, or unsubscribe all together. 

  1. The first field on the form should be the lead email address. You can add the token {{lead.Email Address}} as the default value in the Properties section on the right. This way the email address will dynamically populate when a person accesses the preference center from an email. (Image 1 below.)
  2. Add your subscription type fields using the +. You can update the way the field names appear in the Label property on the right. (Image 2 below.)
  3. The last field in the form should be the Unsubscribed field. Change the label for this to Unsubscribe from All
  4. Click Next and select your theme. This is also where you would edit the CSS if you want to further customize how the form appears on your email preference center landing page. 
  5. Click Next again and customize your settings. Make sure to scroll down and under Thank You Page select the newly created confirmation page from the drop menu next to “Follow Up With.”
  6. Click Next once more and then Approve and Close

Image 1 – Email address token.

Image 2 – Updating field labels.

Step 5: Add the Form to the Landing Page

You have created the form and the preference center page, now it’s time to put them together. Navigate back to the landing page in your Pages folder and add the form you just created, making sure to approve and close when you are done. 

Step 6: Set Up the “Unsubscribe from All” Smart Campaign

When someone selected “Unsubscribe from All” on your email preference center form they need to be removed from all other subscription type fields. To do that we need to create a Smart Campaign in the Flow folder you set up. 

  1. Right click the Flow folder and select New Smart Campaign
  2. Name the Smart Campaign “Unsubscribe From All” and click Create
  3. In the search bar on the right, type in “forms” and drag the trigger Fills Out Form to the list. Select your form name from the drop menu. Click Add Constraint and choose Web Page. Select your preference center page from the drop menu. (Image 3 below.)
  4. Use the search bar again to find the trigger Data Value Changes and drag that over as well. Attribute will be Unsubscribed, New Value is true
  5. Click on Flow at the top of the page and drag Change Data Value to the center. The logic is as follows:
    If: Unsubscribed is true
    Attribute: [subscription type field] New Value: false
    Repeat this step for every subscription type field you created in Step 1. (Image 4 below.)
  6. Click Schedule at the top, then Edit and select Run each person through the campaign flow: every time. Click Save. (Image 5 below.)
  7. Click the Activate button and it’s ready to go.

Image 3 – “Unsubscribe from All” Smart List.


Image 4 – “Unsubscribe from All” Flow.


Image 5 – Schedule Smart Campaign.

Step 7: Add Your Preference Center to Emails

Now that everything is set up you need to replace Marketo’s default Unsubscribe page with your new preference center in the global email template. Navigate to Design Studio and open the Global Landing Pages folder. Select Unsubscribe Page and click on Landing Page Actions, hover over URL Tools and select Edit URL Settings. Change the URL to “UnsubscribePage-oldversion.” 

Now you can navigate back to your preference center page and change that URL to “UnsubscribePage.” This way you don’t have to make any changes to the email defaults in Admin, other than customizing the unsubscribe text or updating the font type or colour in the HTML. For more information on this, we recommend this article from Adobe Experience League

Step 8: Test the Marketo Email Preference Center

Congratulations! You’ve set everything up and all you need to do is test that it’s working as expected. 

In a new Marketo window, open up Database, expand the System Smart Lists folder and click All People. Find yourself in People using the search box at the bottom of the page. Click your Id to open up the person record and scroll down the Info page to find the subscription type fields you created in Step 1. If none are already checked, check at least one. 

Send yourself an email and click the unsubscribe link at the bottom. This will open up your new Marketo email preference center and you’ll see that the checked fields on the person record match those on the landing page. From here you can either subscribe to a new list or check “Unsubscribe from All.” Refresh your Marketo person record window, scroll down to the subscription type fields and confirm that they match. If they don’t match on the first refresh, try refreshing the page once more. 

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If you are looking for more tips to make your transition to Marketo go more smoothly our certified Marketo experts would love to help. Reach out today for a free 30-minute consultation

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