Email unsubscribe tips

Email unsubscribes are like death and taxes. You can’t avoid any of them, but some smart moves now can help you improve your situation with each one.

You can’t stop people from unsubscribing. It’s against the law, for one thing, and it annoys your subscribers to the extent that they either report your messages as spam or disengage from your brands and company.

You can, however, make unsubscribing easy and trustworthy for those who really want to go; then, tune up your email program to reduce the causes that prompt most subscribers to bail out.

We covered the basics of a good email unsubscribe experience in an earlier post. Next, we’ll look at some easy tune-ups aimed at stemming your tide of unsubscribes below.

1. Know your email unsubscribe rate

Look for your email unsubscribe rate (the percentage of subscribers who opted out in that delivery) in the delivery report generated after each send. Don’t just glance at this statistic, though, when you scan your delivery reports. Instead, track it over time.

  • Is it trending up or down?
  • Does it spike at certain times of the year?
  • Do some campaigns generate higher-than-usual rates?

Compare acquisition sources and email unsubscribe rates. See how opt-ins from your website form compare with co-registration sites, your social channels, print media, and transactional messages.

Why care about your email unsubscribe rate?

In reality, relatively few subscribers will opt out per campaign. A 2015 study by Silverpop/IBM Marketing Cloud found the average email unsubscribe rate was well under 1 percent across all industries and global regions.

Aside from the insight you get into your email program’s health, reducing unsubscribes helps you retain more subscribers and waste less money on acquisition.

Reducing your email unsubscribe rate by just 0.1 percent would save 1,000 subscribers every time you send to a database of 1 million people. That’s more than 100,000 contacts retained over a year if you send four emails per week.

2. Head off email unsubscribes at opt-in

Captain obvious

As Captain Obvious might say, list growth happens when you attract a steady supply of new addresses while reducing unsubscribes. What is less obvious, however, is that your opt-in program is the place to start working on reducing unsubscribes.

Begin with a welcome email

  • Always state your email value proposition and frequency in your opt-in invitation.
  • Then, send at least one welcome message ASAP after opt-in.

These start the subscriber experience on the right foot. Restate your email’s value proposition and reaffirm what you’ll send and how often. Offer reasons to send new subscribers back to your website to browse, download, get information, and use new accounts.

Preference center?

If yours is lightly traveled, promote it more actively with emails asking customers to set or manage their preferences. Also, add alternatives to opting out such as changing lists, updating preferences or changing frequency. Then, use that data to set up segmentation.

3. Make your messages more relevant and valuable

Everybody talks about relevance, but how do you deliver on it?

Engaging content

Use whatever data you have to segment your database and create messages that reflect your customers’ interests and behavior. Be sure your content matches what you promised at opt-in!

Beyond this basic guidance, however, consider what kinds of offers you send out regularly. Is it the same “Buy Now/20% off” message? Or do you mix in informational content with sales offers? Be sure you aren’t boring your subscribers into unsubscribing.

  • Track click, open, and conversion behavior to see how your content resonates among your subscribers.
  • In addition, test different copy and image combinations, subject lines, CTAs, and other elements.

Break down your one-size-fits-all email program into a cafeteria plan that lets subscribers choose among several options: daily deals, weekly summaries, specific product lines, company news, and other special-interest content.

4. Find the right frequencies

There’s no such thing as a single “right” frequency. What works for some subscribers will be overkill to others if they aren’t engaged in your emails the same way. What you sell dictates frequency to some extent. For retailers, flash sales on frequent-purchase items lend themselves to higher frequency messages than luxury goods.

Use testing and segmentation to create customer segments that respond to different frequencies: higher for the most engaged customers and lower for those who open, purchase, or otherwise interact less often.

Many unsubscribers really just want to change their addresses. Make this easier by adding an email change-of-address link to all of your email templates, and call it to subscribers’ attention in the link text or a button.

6. Survey unsubscribers

As a last step, add a short survey to the email unsubscribe process. Offer several possible reasons like address changes, no longer needing the information, frequency, and quality of content.

Again, don’t assume that no comments mean all is well. As with email unsubscribe rates, watch for trends and what reasons people cite most often.

The takeaway

Minimizing unsubscribes takes work, but it delivers a double benefit! You reduce the load on your acquisition efforts by not having to replace as many lost subscribers, and you also tune up your email program to make it more engaging and compelling. In the end, everyone wins.