What Unsubscribers Can Teach an Email Marketer

Amie Perrott

I’m sitting at my desk creating another masterpiece (email/landing page/automated email campaign) and I see my “Darn, Another Unsubscriber” folder jump one more. This means someone unsubscribed.

What?! Why?!

Informz automatically unsubscribes non-delivered emails (and I hold that feature near and dear to my heart in the name of sender reputation), but there’s a person and intention behind this act of eliminating our emails FOREVER.

In 2016, 3,709 people hit that unsubscribe button (and of course I cried).

Did these people not see my sad puppy face (on our unsubscribe form below) offering an option to manage preferences (customizing what emails to receive) instead of unsubscribing entirely?

informz unsubscribe page

So this is it.

After regaining my composure (with a little music therapy), my next moves are:

  1. Check unsubscribes from emails. I check 2 hours, 24 hours, and 48 hours after an email is sent to gauge email performance and spot check any possible issues overall.
  2. Review cumulative unsubscribe reports. Obsessive? Maybe. But these reports provide valuable insight, especially when a reason is provided for the unsubscribe act, which can range from switching jobs, too many emails, not relevant to me, or worse – no reason at all.
  3. Review the mailing history of a few unsubscribers (or as I like to call them, my lost digital friends) to see frequency and type of email that sent them over the edge (always check for possible data issues such as wrong personalization).

I can’t lie though, unsubscribers make me so sad.

Time and thought is invested into every word, linked resource, and esthetic element of an email (the color/spacing/wording of my alt tags). For someone to basically tell me that it’s not valuable… I ugly cry.

sad robot

OK, so seriously unsubscribes make me glum. (Did I mention this already?)

Here’s how I calm my worried mind and attempt to appreciate the act of unsubscribing.

The inbox is crowded. Know your audience.

Email marketers are fighting for that tiny second of attention in the inbox. Simply put, relevancy is how you win.

If you’re like me, you feel like everything you send is relevant. But review your metrics (opens, clicks, forwards, pageviews) including unsubscribes and you might get a different story. Did you lose that love and feeling (or relevancy) by not personalizing and targeting the email?

What’s one way we personalize and target?

  • Identify. Just like a lot of sales and marketing departments, we live and die by our sales funnel, which tells us what stage/status our prospects and clients are at.
  • Customize. We create custom messaging and automated campaigns for each stage/status of the sales funnel – you know this as Top of Funnel (TOFU), Middle of Funnel (MOFU), and Bottom of Funnel (BOFU). Yep, we have that.

Quick idea: identify your inactive subscribers (or as we call  them emotionally unsubscribed) and come up with an action plan. I’ve seen a few options such as a re-engagement campaign or an email confirming automatic removal (the individual can opt back into your emails and manage preferences).

How much is too much (or too little)?

Email frequency is kind of a big deal.

What’s the answer? How much is too much? The answer is, it really depends on your audience. The results of our most recent benchmarks might surprise you.

Our team places a lot of value on funnel location and engagement score to dictate frequency. For instance, if someone is at the top of the funnel, we don’t need to send them every webinar invitation and company announcement to cast a wide net and move them down the funnel – we only send high-value content once a month to this group. If one of our clients (AKA superfans) is opening and engaging with our event invites, then we keep on inviting (unless they’ve already registered).

If your subscribers only hear from you when you want to ask for something, it might be too little.

Quick tip: triggered/transactional emails shouldn’t be factored into your frequency analysis (but make sure to look at their metrics, you’ll love the higher performance rates of these gems).

Give options.

With CAN-SPAM regulations,  email marketers are required to provide an unsubscribe mechanism, but don’t forget you could possibly keep your relationship going if you provide options.

Who doesn’t love options? This is what we do:

  • When someone reaches our unsubscribe form, we tell them that we would hate to see them go and that there are options (and link to our opt-out form).
  • Our opt-out form categorizes our email by: Industry Trends and Best Practice Information, Monthly Newsletter, Biweekly Blog Update, Webinar Invitations, Event Information, Product Features and Enhancements.
  • I hold up my end of the bargain by suppressing the opt-out groups.

Test the waters.

A/B or multivariant testing will get you some of the answers you so desire.

I test a lot and make small tweaks based on the results. And then test again. If you’re new to the wonderful world of testing (it’s easier than you think), check out some of my favorite elements to test:

  • Subject lines. Easiest to perform and to analyze if you’re consistent.
  • Pre-headers. An extension of your subject line. Try including links here.
  • Buttons. Tweak color, language, or placement in email.
  • Friendly from. We’ve tried things like “Informz Webinars” and “Informz Resources.”
  • Send time. Timing is everything, so play around with different days and times. You might be surprised what works for the different segments of your list.

In the end, as painful as unsubcribes can be, be thankful the person unsubscribed and didn’t mark you as spam.

Am I the only one bummed out by unsubscribes (because I know the efforts behind prohibiting such an act)? Please tell me I’m not alone and strategies you’ve used to decrease unsubscribes!

About the Author
Amie Perrott

As a Marketing Specialist at Informz, Amie plans, executes and analyzes email marketing campaigns for the marketing department. She loves the hunt of finding just the right subject line, CTA or preheader (and secretly takes unsubscribes to heart). Outside of work, she's enjoying (or fighting) the battle of raising a very assertive toddler.