eMail Unsubscribes: Is it all bad?

eMail Unsubscribes: Is it all bad?

Alli Campofranco

Four reasons to accept — and even embrace — unsubscribes.

There’s an age-old fear of unsubscribes in the email marketing world. Marketers dread a decrease in list size, and some take it personally when a reader loses interest. But the question is: Are unsubscribes really a bad thing? Here are four reasons to accept — and even embrace — unsubscribes.

Reason 1: It’s a natural part of email marketing

On average, email lists churn 20-30% every year. In other words, around a quarter of your subscribers will either opt out (or unsubscribe) or stop opening your emails.

It’s completely natural for subscribers to change jobs, interests and even email addresses. If your main point of contact at a prospective company leaves, can you really blame him or her for opting out? What if a lead goes in a different direction or with a different provider? Do you still want that subscriber on your list? Probably not.

Reason 2: Opt-outs can lead to better engagement rates

Other factors aside, as your list of unengaged subscribers grows, your open rate shrinks. What’s worse? A low open rate can eventually lead to a low inbox placement rate. In other words, your chance of going to the junk folder increases.

If every disinterested subscriber opted out instead of continually not opening your emails, you’d see much higher open rates. So, while an opt out isn’t your favorite result, your subscriber — in a way, is doing you a favor.

Here’s a pro tip: If you have a direct relationship with a subscriber who has low engagement, try ringing the customer and asking for feedback. Making an effort to keep contacts in the fold is more effective than reaching out when they are long gone.

Reason 3: You can gain valuable feedback.

When a subscriber unsubscribes or becomes unengaged, it’s often because your messages aren’t relevant to the reader.

This is your opportunity to fine-tune your content. You can determine what works best for your audience through the old-fashioned (yet personal) route: Pick up the phone and call a subscriber who opted out. This won’t work for every member of your audience — if you’ve never spoken to the subscriber directly, it could be viewed as an invasion of privacy. However, many B2B companies know their subscribers on an individual basis. If this is the case, and a call feels appropriate, use this as an opportunity to talk directly with your subscribers.

Below are a few questions you can ask:

  1. What emails or content did you like receiving?
  2. What emails or content did you not like receiving?
  3. What products or services interest you?
  4. What would make you want to stay on our email marketing list?

Asking these types of questions will help you determine what is truly valuable to your subscribers. You won’t be able to please everyone — and you shouldn’t aim to please everyone — but if you can find a common thread among subscribers, you have a better idea of what content to deliver to your subscribers. This, in turn, helps you focus on the most popular and profitable aspects of your business.

We’ve found that providing genuine help to subscribers is a natural segue to increasing sales and profitability. So if you happen to sell something in the process of ringing an opted-out subscriber? Well, it’s a win-win.

Reason 4: Unsubscribes save you money and time

If the other three reasons didn’t change your mind, maybe this reason will get your attention: Unsubscribes can save you money. Most email providers charge you based on the size of your list. This means that if your open rate is 20%, you are still paying for the other 80% of subscribers who do not interact with your emails.

Unsubscribes help you get rid of the dead weight. If a prospect is unlikely to convert, it’s better to remove that person from your list than to keep chasing a cold lead.

All in all, unsubscribes are not a bad thing. If your opt-out rate stays at or below 1%, you are on par with the average email marketer. When it comes to email marketing, quality is always more important than quantity.