Why customers are unsubscribing and how to stop them

Breaking up is hard. Especially when you’ve put in so much work to keep someone interested and invested in your relationship. When someone unsubscribes from your email list, it hurts. Kind of similar to when Josh from ninth grade asked you to prom only to stand you up on the day because Kim from tenth grade wanted to go with him.

Oh, the drama!

Let’s be honest – You can hunt down Josh and hound him to answer you. You can’t do that for every customer who unsubscribes from your mailing list. All you can do is hunker down and figure what you did wrong.

Understanding the problem

GetData surveyed over 500 internet users to learn the most common reasons why they’d unsubscribe from email newsletters, and mostly everyone said they received too many emails and a lot of emails looked like spam.

Let’s take a deeper look at the why, and what you can do to stop them and others from unsubscribing in the future.

1. Readers lose interest

Let’s start off with an easy one – Your readers are losing interest in the content you’re sending, and this could probably be because your content isn’t relevant to them. Or maybe it was once upon a time, but their tastes and preferences have changed and they’re looking for something else.

Your readers could also be unsubscribing because you’re sending them too much content in your emails. A newsletter that’s 6000 words long = bad. Sending a two-line newsletter = also bad. But this discussion of ‘too much’ or ‘too little’ hinges mainly on the quality of content you’re sending.

2. You’re sending too many emails

Last year we asked 1400 readers why they unsubscribe, and 69% of them said they receive too many emails from a business.

Any email inbox is a coveted space, with far too many brands fighting for attention. Sending multiple emails a week can be noble, but there’s a fine line between reaching out and spamming your readers. No one likes to look at their inbox and think, “That’s the third time you’ve emailed me this week!” Don’t be that brand.

Find a frequency that works for you – Whether it be a monthly newsletter rounding up your top blogs or a giveaway announcement. Save your impromptu emails for when you’ve got something exciting to announce or an upcoming sale. Readers will be more likely to engage with those emails.

3. You’ve got your segmentation all wrong

This happens more often than you think. You ended up adding the wrong readers to a list that is not relevant to them at all. It’s like sending a dog owner details on where to buy fish food.

Wrong segmentation has a high risk of making customers unsubscribe from your emails. Use your knowledge of your customers to talk with them one-on-one, taking your personalization to the next level.

Even established brands make mistakes. Shutterfly once sent an email to its entire list congratulating them on their newborn children – including people that didn’t have any kids. Due to the sensitive nature of this topic, it was picked up by media and discussed at length on Twitter and Facebook.

Shutterfly swiftly followed up on this mistake with a formal apology email from their chief marketing officer, who explained what happened and invited concerned subscribers to email the company.

We have a helpful email marketing checklist that will allow you to avoid mistakes like these.

4. Your emails look and sound spammy

Spammy emails either get weeded out by email spam filters or don’t get opened by the reader because they look fishy. It all begins with your subject line. In fact, 33% of email recipients open emails (or don’t) based on subject lines.

Here’s an actual screenshot from my personal Gmail:

Spammy email example

While the nerd in me is interested in everything IBM does or says, I really don’t remember even signing up to receive their emails and turns out, the email isn’t even from them!

Spammy email example

You can’t make this up. This reeks of spam.

The best subject line or email content all depends on your audience. For some audiences, an emoji will make them click and be happy. For other audiences, the same subject line might make them go hunting for the unsubscribe link.

You need to tailor your content according to what your readers want. Knowing your readers’ interests and needs, and not sensationalizing your subject lines, will make sure your emails stay out of the spam folder and your readers will open your emails.

How to avoid losing subscribers

First and foremost, create a permission-based email list. Include a checkbox that encourages users to opt-in to your mailing list. You could also implement an email sign up form that allows users who don’t want to make a purchase right away to give you their email addresses. You can add this form on your website or blog and even in your bios on social media.

Offering incentives to people who sign up for your list can be a great way to get their emails. You could add the new folks to a previously created drip email campaign that will send them relevant content in a timely manner. This could be anything from free resources to a three-email long course they can view and download via your emails.

Use your personal experience to guide you

Chances are you have been on the “unsubscribing” end before, so you know what that feels like. No matter what you decide to do, don’t sweat too much. If someone is bent on unsubscribing, they will. Just make sure to provide adequate value to readers and let them know the kind of content they will be receiving from you, preferably before they sign up, so they know what they’re setting themselves up for. Avoid spammy-looking content and words and check to make sure you’re sending the right content to the right people.

Remember: People unsubscribe for a reason. But it’s always best to be safe than sorry. Check, re-check and re-re-check your email campaigns to make sure you’re not giving people a reason to unsubscribe. Because once they’ve clicked that link, like Josh, they’re gone. Forever.

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