Was it something you said?

There are lots of reasons why people want to unsubscribe and I say If you have inactive, unhappy subscribers that want to leave. Let them go.

For the rest, think of the times you’ve unsubscribed from a list that you once liked. Over time their emails felt too frequent, became less valuable or didn’t apply to you anymore.

The following list is about helping you hang on to your high-quality subscribers.


Prevent Unsubscribers

1. Make sure they wanted to be on your list

24.8% of women and 26.8% of men are auto-subscribed to newsletters even though they never signed up. 

While the jury is still out on double opt-in, it is one way to ensure that people actually wanted to be on your list.

If you are using single opt-in, you can monitor those new subscribers and if they never interact you’ll want to move them another list.

2. Monitor engagement

Users that go inactive are high risk to unsubscribe.

Pick a time period, say no activity in past 90 days and move these people to a once per month drip campaign.

If they continue to be inactive after 6 months you can move them to a dead list. You can keep these leads around for once a year announcements or wake the dead type campaigns. However, make sure you use an email verification tool before emailing a stale list since bounce rates on it will go up every month.

3. personalize your content

Unlike other forms of mass marketing email is still one-to-one.

More than half of subscribers want you to know their product and communication preferences so you can tailor messages to them. This means you can group like-minded individuals and give them what feels like a very personalized experience. 

Your email marketing flows should be aligned closely with the personal preferences of the people you are messaging. Identifying the content and timing for every email is not easy but if it’s worth working on for lists of all sizes.

4. Perform Email Testing

This should go without saying but so many email marketers feel like they don’t have time to test.

You are working harder when you could be working smarter.

Take subject lines as an example. Best practices say you should:

  • Write out multiple subject lines
  • Pick your two favorites
  • A/B test those subjects with 10% of the list (each subject gets 5%)
  • The winner goes to the remaining 90%

Testing is the only way to understand what works. A few experiments each month adds up over time where you have an arsenal of proven wins to be so much more effective.

5. learn from others

Its near “Marketing 101” to monitor your competitors, but few of us remember to take the time. But those who do, benefit.

Review and sign up for your competitor newsletters. Review and sign up to websites of companies that have greater market share. Learn from their communications to their customers and learn more about your own.


Reducing Unsubscribes

6. Email Preference Center

More than 50% of people want to unsubscribe because emails are too frequent.

Try to save these people by using an “unsubscribe” or “preference” center. This is where you hope users will go to reduce or alter the number, types, and topics of messages you send instead of complete unsubscribing. If used and monitored correctly, this can be a powerful tool in changing potential opting-out users to opting-down users.

Value this as a key marketing asset and be prepared to alter its preferences and design as you learn more about your customer’s behaviors and preferences. Don’t let it become a flat, “customer will click anything” just to unsubscribe portal.

Consider: Can you add preference options that are not offered by your competitors? How about asking the user what hour or what time of week they would prefer their messages

7. Offer social as an alternative

Don’t like our emails? Maybe you like our pictures. 🙂

If someone really is going to leave your email list that doesn’t mean they never want to hear from you.

Offering other communication channels could save a chunk of people who would have been completely lost.

Maintaining some connection to these people will let them know what’s going on with the company and could pull them back in the future.

8. Learn From Your Unsubscribers

You can’t prevent people from unsubscribing, but you can learn from them.

Having a list of reasons for leaving doesn’t mean they are guaranteed to stay but it can let you know if you are sending too many emails or if the content isn’t relevant.

Few will make the effort which is why their feedback is so valuable. Remember, for every one person who complains actively and loudly, more will complain passively and anonymously.

9. Crunch The Data

You will likely never get the whole picture from unsubscribers who are prompted to take additional time to check your list of reasons why they are leaving. This, in of itself, will never lead to enough insight into your subscriber loss.

So, crunch your data, look for behavioral cues and patterns. This will take a little more digging, but will likely reveal some valuable new insights. (Of course, if your company doesn’t collect enough customer segmentation and profile data, review these following questions to help guide your data capturing strategies.)

Consider questions like these:

  • Which email types lead to the most frequent unsubscribing? Once you identify this data, try amending the message, changing the time of day or time of the week that it is sent, and perhaps reduce the number of subscriber segments that receive that type of email in the future.
  • Is there a particular time of day or week that unsubscribes occur the most? Maybe people see your messages during the work week and move on to other things. But on the weekend they have more time and, as a result, sort their email more thoroughly and act on unsubscribing more.
  • On average, how many emails have your unsubscribers received before leaving?
  • On average, how many purchases have they made before leaving?


What to do if they still want to unsubscribe

Let them go.

If someone doesn’t want your emails, you don’t want them on your list.

I’m not a fan of making it hard to unsubscribe for a few reasons:

  • You don’t learn anything. Their responses to your emails tell you what’s working and what’s not.
  • They will report you as spam or junk in their email platform meaning emails still get delivered but that user will forever be zero engagement. You can and should use Google’s postmaster tools to routinely download “marked as spam” subscribers so you can clean them from your list but ideally just let them go if they want to leave.