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Undermining the Unsubscribes: How to Keep Access to your Contact’s Inbox

 by zack on 21 Oct 2013 |
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Business is booming. Sales are up, revenues are high, and life is good. Yep, it looks like another day in paradise, but what’s this? An ominous report crosses your desk: customers are unsubscribing to your email list in massive numbers! It’s like quicksand, your contact list is quickly approaching zero and you can’t figure out why. Panic sets in, chaos reigns, the building is on fire, and the devil himself laughs at your feeble attempts to douse the blaze with a squirt gun.

It’s a scary scenario, albeit highly dramatized and not all that likely. Still, it’s an important point, and one that isn’t brought up nearly enough. What can you do to keep your email subscribers happy? How can you keep them interested? And above all, what can be done to minimize the number of people who click the “unsubscribe” button?

Death, Taxes, and Unsubscribes

First of all, it’s important to realize that no matter what you do, you are inevitably going to lose a few stragglers here and there. It’s like death and taxes. People just lose interest, and it’s nobody’s fault. You must simply accept this nihilistic axiom and move on.

The real thing you have to worry about is if you see a big trend of people subscribing and immediately unsubscribing. This is indicative of subscriber considering their choice to receive your emails to be a mistake on their part. That simply will not do. You’ve got to get people to open up your emails and expose them to the content you’re providing. Otherwise you’re wasting a lot of time, effort, and resources on a completely ineffective distribution channel. That’s especially disappointing, because email marketing is supposed to be one of your biggest converters.  

So what can you do to keep folks interested in what you have to say?

Well, to do that you’ve got to know where you’re losing their interest. Let’s take a look at some of the most common problems with email marketing campaigns and some possible solutions.

Email Marketing Problems and Solutions:

We mentioned above that an immediate unsubscribe is a very negative trend, and a signal that something needs to change immediately. The first thing you need to implement, if you haven’t already, is a Welcome message. It’s very important to inform your subscribers of the major benefits of their subscription right off the bat. So after sending the confirmation message upon their initial signup, you also need to have a welcome message in place that will walk them through the value that you’ll provide them with in their subscription.
Assuming that you have this email marketing mainstay in place already and you subscriptions are still dropping off, you might have to get a bit more creative in your efforts. There are two major impetuses for unsubscribing, and both have to do with the frequency of your emails.  You can either flood an inbox with too many emails sent in short intervals, or you can lose subscriber interest by not sending out enough emails. Luckily, the answer to both of these problems lies in integrating a few extra options onto your unsubscribe page.

Rather than having an unsubscribe button that immediately boots you from a customer’s inbox like an angry bouncer might toss an unruly nightclub patron, you should have the button redirect the clicker to an unsubscribe page where you present them with a few options before they decide to give you the final kiss goodbye. A lot of highly successful campaigns employ a well-known tactic referred to as Opting-down rather than opting-out.


There are a couple of types of opt-downs. The first is a frequency opt-down. These let your customers decide how often they want to receive your emails. This way you address the two major reasons a potential customer would unsubscribe from your emails at once. It also shows the user that you’re making an effort to help them feel in control of the content they receive. People appreciate this level of control, and it can often be enough to change their minds about receiving your messages.

However, it might be that you simply aren’t sending out enough emails to meet your reader’s needs. They can’t increase the frequency of your messages beyond the maximum now can they? If this is the problem, then consider sending your messages out on a schedule. Consistency is very important. You need to let your subscribers know that you can dependably stick to a routine.

The second type of opt-down is categorization. This can apply when you bundle too many types of content together in your emails. Maybe certain people are only interested in your newsletter, and don’t want to be bothered with your marketing videos. Or perhaps they only want to open messages carrying promises of special offers or promotions. You can add the category opt-down right below the frequency on your unsubscribe page, and segment your subscribers by content that way.

Preventative Measures


Speaking of segmentation, that’s an excellent preventative measure to keep your subscribers from ever considering an opt-out. Proper targeting of your customers takes a lot of work, (examining metrics and studying browsing habits) but in the end it can boost conversion rates through the roof for specific campaigns. Even more importantly, it can keep your email content relevant in the eyes of the receiver.

In fact, another of the biggest reasons people unsubscribe from marketing emails is because of irrelevant, boring, or repetitive content. Targeted emails tailored specifically to a consumer’s preferences will increase your value in that consumer’s eyes. Beyond targeting, you also need to be sure that you aren’t repeating yourself in your marketing messages. If people keep on getting the same messages from you on a consistent basis, it will quickly lower their opinion of you and your brand. So do try to keep it fresh.

One final misstep that’s sure to drop a lot of email subscribers is readability. More specifically, readability on mobile devices. If your emails aren’t optimized for mobile, you’re automatically alienating a gigantic section of your perspective consumers. A great deal of people do the majority of their web surfing from either their smartphones or tablets, so you need to be certain that your emails appear clearly, cleanly, and without error in mobile format.

Acquisition of a giant list of email contacts is no doubt important, but it should never overshadow the retention of those contacts. Keeping loyal customers is more likely to lead your brand to higher profits in the future than any other single ecommerce activity in which you can engage. So follow these guidelines, keep that unsubscribe rate to a minimum, and as always: keep checking the Ashop blog for updates on the best practices for your online store.


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