Most marketers I know just hate “unsubscribes”. They take it all very personally … “So, what did I do to piss you off?” “Have I offended you?”
Then there is the implication that bad marketing leads to “unsubscribes”. The shame of it all! Hey, nobody likes rejection!
After a bout of higher-than-usual unsubscribe levels, marketers usually dust themselves off and just continue the same old practices that led to the unsubscribes in the first place. It reminds me of John Cleese’s great line as Black Night in Monty Python and the Holy Grail: “Just a flesh wound”.
Here are three things I like about unsubscribes:
- Unsubscribes are better than the alternatives. Subscribers could just delete your emails every time they see them. You’d never really learn anything and it would depress your results, or they could tap the “spam” button. This might lead to some serious email blacklisting. Nasty stuff!
- An opportunity to improve performance. A jump in unsubscribes is a signal that something is not working. There is learning to be done. Proper analysis of unsubscribe patterns identifies problems that can be corrected: Was the content irrelevant? Was the subject line too spammy? Are we sending too frequently and this email was the “tipping point”? Is the recipient not a real prospect for our message?
- You can change how you communicate with the prospect. Sometimes, a recipient is just saying that they don’t want to receive email from you. Maybe they are open to Twitter, Facebook, a blog or web feed. One thing I saw one CMO do … she personally called several unsubscribers herself to better understand why they unsubscribed. They appreciated the call, she learned a few things, and a couple of high-value prospects re-upped.
I have often seen marketers panic at the first sign of a creeping unsubscribe rate. Sometimes a message that triggers an unsubscribe in one person boosts response in others. Don’t leap to conclusions without the analysis.
One valuable analysis is to look at unsubscribe rate by segment. In one company, the sales team was getting a high level of “unsubscribe alerts”. But when the Marketing team looked into it, the unsubscribe rate was at the “acceptable” level of 0.20%. When they looked at the unsubscribes by job title, a shocking result emerged: senior execs (the most valuable names in the database) were unsubscribing at 5% –25X the average! They realized that the content they were delivering was not relevant to senior executives and stopped the program immediately.
Learn from your unsubscribes!