Don't Fear the Unsubscribe

One of the things that every email marketer fears is the dreaded “unsubscribe” notifications. We work hard to build our email lists and so much effort goes into gaining every email subscriber you have.

So, when someone opts out of receiving email campaigns and newsletters that you’ve worked hard to develop, it can be disappointing. It can even feel a little personal.

Therefore, it’s almost instinctual to want to make the unsubscribe process more difficult. We have hopes that if the unsubscribe link is a little buried or requires multiple steps to complete, consumers will abandon the attempt and stay on your list.

There have been countless tactics used over the years to make unsubscribing as difficult as possible while still adhering to FTC regulations. Even some of the largest brands out there are using intentionally confusing, multi-step requirements to successfully opt-out of mailings and notifications.

This is a huge mistake – being shady in this regard not only jeopardizes your relationship with your consumer, but can have long-standing, damaging consequences to your ability to reach future customers.

Consider these two major consequences of a poor opt-out setup:

1. There are much worse things than an opt-out

A recent study by MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute showed that close to half of people that unsubscribe from emails cite email volume as the reason they opt-out. We live in a time in which inbox anxiety is at an all time high. Consumers are literally stressed out by the amount of email in their inbox. Eliminating the unnecessary emails is among the first steps to resolving this. 

When a person has made the decision to unsubscribe due to volume, this is goal-oriented and probably bigger than you. Sure, you can make the unsubscribe process difficult for them I      n hopes that they’ll abandon the process and stay on your mailing list, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they won’t pursue the next option to stop your emails – blocking or marking your email as spam.

When this happens, you’ve lost much more than just a potential customer. You’ve put your reputation at risk.

A spam complaint in most mailbox providers  takes just one click. If it’s an easier path than your unsubscribe option, it’s a no-brainer for someone who just wants to stop getting your newsletter. Just like that, your consumer has now told your mailbox provider that emails from your brand are not wanted. Enough spam complaints (as in less than 1%) can seriously hurt your reputation with inbox providers. 

In other words, your attempt to keep a subscriber has now jeopardized the deliverability of your emails to a potentially large number of your subscribers. Risk is higher than reward.

2. You’re losing trust with your customer

“Annoying” and “desperate” are probably the last things you want your consumer to associate with your brand. Brand trust, like your brand reputation, takes a long time to build. A poor customer experience – especially one that screams of deceptiveness – is toxic for your relationship with your customer. 

While the need for sales and large subscriber lists creates a sense of urgency, it’s so important to remember that marketing is a long game. It’s about knowing your audience and building for them. Unsubscribes can be a blessing – they are indicative of something. Of course there are always outliers, but often there are important trends and learnings to derive from them. There is no place for complacency in marketing. Fearing the unsubscribe is as natural as fearing failure, but we know that failure is required to take us from good to great. 

Pro tip: 

There is obvious reasoning for a multi-click unsubscribe process, most notably, the ability to capture feedback on why they’ve unsubscribed. You don’t necessarily have to lose this with a one-click option. A one click unsubscribe that takes you to an optional “tell us why” form still allows for a feedback capture without standing between a consumer and their desire to unsubscribe.  


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