It’s the end of the year and my annual “unsubscribe from emails” project is underway. I put on some holiday music, make myself a pot of spicy hot cocoa, and sit at my laptop to remove myself from email lists that are no longer relevant to me. The results are often mixed—a better, more pertinent inbox for me, peppered with frustration over the various poor unsubscribe experiences I have to slog through to complete this simple task.
Your brand’s unsubscribe experience will impact how consumers feel about your brand
As a consumer, I’m here to tell you that your brand’s unsubscribe experience will impact how consumers feel about your brand. As an email marketer, I’ll add that what you do (and don’t do) to help folks unsubscribe from your emails will impact your email deliverability and ISP reputation, the goodwill of your customers and prospects, the health of your email list, your bottom line, and more.
It’s OK for Them to Leave
Many brands do their best to prevent users from unsubscribing. They engage in questionable, and sometimes illegal, practices to keep their list as large as possible. This is completely misguided. Email marketing is the ultimate permission marketing. When someone gives you their email address, they are inviting you into their online homes. Overstaying your welcome in someone’s inbox is akin to you plopping yourself on someone’s couch, and refusing to leave.
Overstaying your welcome in someone’s inbox is akin to you plopping yourself on someone’s couch, and refusing to leave
When you have a consumer’s permission, you have their attention, time, and trust. Practices like making the unsubscribe link all but invisible, trying to guilt people into staying on your list, and making them jump through hoops in order to unsubscribe simply erode that trust.
Consumers may love your brand and still not want your emails. If people keep getting unwanted emails from you, your messages will start to work against you. They become “regular reminders that [recipients are] annoyed with your company,” said Kim Flaherty, user experience specialist. Making it hard for subscribers to kick you out of their inbox is a great way to turn customers away—for good.
Talk To People Who Are Actually Listening
Having an email list that includes only people who actually want to hear from you has many benefits including:
- Better open and click-through rates—up to 10 times better than sending emails to unwilling recipients
Better return on investment from your email campaigns—up to 40 times higher than emailing to people who’ve not given you permission to email them
Less spam risk—if people want to get your emails, they are unlikely to mark them as spam
Letting Go—The Right Way
How can you make the unsubscribe experience as easy and painless as possible? Here are a few best practices:
Consumers may love your brand and still not want your emails
Keep mobile in mind. Many people read email messages on their phones. Make sure your mobile email footer is readable and the unsubscribe link is large enough to tap.
Make the unsubscribe link easy to find. That means use the word people expect to find: unsubscribe. Also, the word “unsubscribe” should be easily found and should look like a link. Consider adding a second unsubscribe link at the top of your email. Yes, this may seem sacrilegious to some, but remember, if they want to leave, they will do so. Why not make it as easy as possible?
Have a separate “preferences management” link. Give your subscribers what they want! Make sure the “unsubscribe” link takes users to the unsubscribe page. And, if you have multiple email offerings, add a second link in the footer that takes users to the page where they can manage their email preferences, change their email address, etc. Also, make sure this preference center is simple and easy to use.
Don’t make them jump through hoops. Don’t make your users have to type in their email address to unsubscribe, fill out a captcha, or prove they are “not a robot.” And, for the sake of all that is good in the world, don’t make users fill out a survey or give you feedback as a condition for unsubscribing! One of these is reason enough for someone to get frustrated, go back to their inbox, and opt for the ultimate one-click unsubscribe option—marking your email as spam.
Confirm the unsubscribe on your website. Regardless of the reason people might unsubscribe, they are doing so because they don’t want any more emails from you. So don’t send them an email telling them that you won’t be sending them any more email. Instead, use your website to confirm to users that they are now unsubscribed.
Once a user is unsubscribed from your email list, make sure you remove them from your email sends immediately. Say goodbye, wish them well, and focus on the folks in your list who really do want to hear from you.