Pursuing the Emotionally Unsubscribed

Chris Scavo

“The most destructive criticism is indifference.”

–  E.W. Howe

When you really think about it, email marketing is a one-way conversation. You have something important to say, your content is incredibly valuable and your constituents would benefit tremendously from what you have to offer. It is kind of like talking on the phone without knowing if anyone is on the other end. It can be frustrating, and sometimes feel downright lonely, not knowing if your messages are being well received.

Fortunately, there are a number of wonderful resources at your disposal, such as our 2016 Association Benchmark Report, that helps you understand not only your subscriber engagement, but what others in the industry are experiencing. Metrics like these are remarkably valuable and can help you shape how you market to your audience; however, their focus is on those subscribers that have engaged with your messages. What about those that haven’t? Are you doing all you can to gain their trust and pull them into the conversation?

One group of subscribers that often get overlooked are those that are emotionally unsubscribed. These are people that receive your messages but never engage or take any actions. When evaluating these records, there are a few questions that I will often hear:

How do I know who to evaluate?

There are two ways you can look at these records, the number of times that they have been mailed or how long you have been mailing them and the time since they last engaged. For me, this is dependent on your organizational marketing plan. If you mail frequently, for example 3 times a week, then looking at people mailed 3 or more times with no opens may not be as relevant. Conversely, if you only send 1-2 emails per month then looking at engagement over the past 30 days may not accurately reflect audience involvement.

Are these records really harmful as long as my message is being delivered?

The short answer is that yes, they can be. ISP’s continually monitor engagement with emails. Actions like opening, replying to a message, marking a message as span/not spam, even moving emails between folders are taken into account when determining if you are a safe sender. If your subscribers are simply ignoring your messages, you could find your messages marked as spam by an ISP.

In addition, subscribers that have emotionally unsubscribed can skew your metrics. When evaluating the effectiveness of your marketing plan, while these messages were delivered, if they were not opened they can bring your metrics down resulting in a perceived lack in ROI.

What should I do to get them to engage?

First, you should analyze the records and see if they have ever engaged with you. If someone had previously interacted with your messages then suddenly stopped, identifying why they stopped could go a long way towards winning them back. Look into what may have happened since that point. Did you change anything with your strategy, such as a new template or a new friendly from? Perhaps evaluate your data and confirm whether they left their organization.

Next, you should research and see if they are engaging with you in any other manner. Do they follow you on Facebook or Twitter? Are they visiting your website somewhat regularly? In today’s multi-channel world there are lots of ways that someone can engage with a brand outside of email. The last thing you want is to send an email saying we miss you when that person was just on your website.

Once you have isolated the records that you have determined as emotionally unsubscribed, these records are prime targets for a re-engagement campaign. Create a custom campaign specifically for those records with content focused on topics such as:

  • New initiatives you have launched like a revamped website or a new online community
  • Other ways to get the most out of their membership
  • Ways to maximize exclusive member benefits
  • Solicit their feedback on the topics they would like to hear about

As subscribers re-engage you can choose to continue nurturing the relationship with a dedicated nurture campaign or can simply add these subscribers back into your normal email communications and monitor results. For those that still have not engaged once the campaign completes, you can opt to remove them from future emails completely or drop their cadence down to only include them in major communications such as membership renewal, annual conference announcements, and so on.

The relationship between an organization and its members can be a very emotional one. Be sure that you are maximizing your constituents needs by paying attention to how they are, or are not, engaging with you. Being proactive and recognizing those who may have become emotionally unsubscribed, and acting on this knowledge, can help you increase not only your email engagement but the overall strength of your membership.

Would you like to learn more about creating re-engagement and nurture campaigns? Check out our guide, How to Create Effective Automated Campaigns to get started.

About the Author
Chris Scavo

As a Product Marketer at Informz, Chris provides thought leadership through content generation, market analysis, and research. Outside of work, Chris participates in a number of dart leagues, enjoys golfing, and spending time with his wife and dogs.