The Dreaded Unsubscribe: What You Can Learn from Your Email Opt-Outs
by Ellen Williams, Regional Development Director, Constant Contact
When someone unsubscribes from your email list, it's hard not to take it personally. Opt-outs are inevitable, though, and the more you learn from them the fewer subscribers you're likely to lose in the future.
It can feel a bit painful when someone decides to unsubscribe to your email list. With all the work you put into growing your list and the time you spend designing, creating, and sending emails—it can be hard to not take it personally when someone decides to say thanks but no thanks. Losing contacts is something we all dread, but it’s also a reality we all must accept as part of doing business.
While you certainly cannot (and should not) expect people to stay on your list forever, you can certainly learn a lot when they decide to walk away.
It doesn’t mean the relationship is over.
In most cases, having someone unsubscribe from your emails does not mean that it is the end of your relationship with that customer or client either. Customer relationships don’t begin and end with an email signup or unsubscribe. For your customers, signing up for your email list is an added bonus. Their reasons for signing up will be different based on their particular needs and interests but overall, joining your list is about making life easier for them. Just because they opt out doesn’t necessarily mean they’re done being a customer.
Learn from their decision.
Stop and take the time to better understand the factors that lead to their decision to opt-out from your email lists. That doesn’t mean you should confront them in your store or call them to ask them to explain themselves.
But there is information readily available to you today, that you can use to develop a better understanding of why people decide to opt-out: Your email reporting.
Looking at your email reporting is the easiest way to track the effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns. The most popular measurements are “positive” metrics like opens and click-through rates, which allow you to see the type of interest your emails are generating and the type of engagement that’s actually taking place. However the “negative” metrics like opt-outs and spam reports have a lot to teach you about your email marketing as well.
Your opt-out rate shows how many people received an email from your business and made the decision to unsubscribe. Having a few opt-outs per email, shouldn’t trigger any red flags. In fact, by giving those readers the opportunity to opt-out you’ll likely be improving other metrics because you’ll be removing less engaged contacts from your list.
A spike in opt-outs, on the other hand, should be more closely examined. This is typically the result of a change that did not go over well with your readers. Remember that the top reasons people unsubscribe are related to frequency, content, and subscriber expectations. In addition to looking at the content and frequency of your emails, you should consider how your list changed over that particular time period. If each time you add a new group of contacts, your opt-out rates for the next email go through the roof, you may need to take a fresh look at the signup process you’re offering consumers. It may indicate readers were expecting something different when they decided to join your list.
Want to find out why they unsubscribed? Just ask.
This is something business owners often have mixed feelings about. After all, they’ve already unsubscribed, will knowing why really make a difference? But by giving people the opportunity to provide a reason for opting-out, you’ll not only collect valuable feedback, you’ll also be giving customers the chance to better explain their decision. They’ll value that you care about their feedback, and you’ll gain important insight.
Little changes can add up to big impact.
In most cases, the changes you make from keeping tabs on your opt-outs and collecting feedback from readers who decide to unsubscribe, will be small. It could mean trying different types of content, revamping the signup experience you’re offering new contacts, or scaling back on the frequency of emails you’re sending your list. While these changes may be small, the impact can make a big difference when it comes to maintaining email relationships and driving more results from your email marketing.
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Ellen Williams, Constant Contact Regional Development Director, New York and Southern Connecticut
Ellen has over 20 years of technology and marketing experience and has presented to over 4,000 small businesses, nonprofits, and associations. Her advice on best practices help organizations understand how to build great customer relationships that inevitable grow their businesses.