4 Reasons to Learn to Love Unsubscribes

In our bigger-is-better world, where email marketers tend to focus on building quantity lists over quality ones, the unsubscribe is sometimes viewed as a very bad thing. But is it really?

Actually, no it’s not…or not necessarily, I should say. You can learn a lot from those people who opt out of your list, and end up with a stronger, better email marketing program in the end. You only have to learn to see the benefits in people leaving your list, and how you can use those unsubscribes to your advantage.

In fact, you should go beyond seeing the benefits to actually embracing the whole leaving-your-list ordeal, for what you gain from it. Don’t believe me? Then see below, where I give you four reasons why you should learn to love the unsubscribe, because it will improve the quality of your email list, and make you a better email marketer.

Reason 1: Unsubscribes can improve deliverability
Unsubscribes are akin to weeding your garden; only in this case, the weeds yank themselves from the ground rather than you doing the work.

And what is a weed but an unwanted plant that takes away nutrients and sunshine from the plants you do want? People who don’t want to hear from you just drag your deliverability down by not engaging with your email, just like weeds can crowd out the plants you do want. Plus if your pricing with your ESP is based on send volume, those disengaged subscribers are costing you money. And—as with weeds—you’re better off without them. So let them go gladly!

Think of it this way: Someone who unsubscribes from your list is essentially helping you with your list hygiene. And it’s a clean, healthy list that’s going to increase your inbox engagement and therefore your deliverability.

Reason 2: Unsubscribes save you from spam reports
Unsubscribes are also good for you because they are a much better option over a spam complaint! An unsubscribe is a just-between-you-and-me kind of way to leave a list. A spam complaint drags in the ISP, advertises the dissatisfaction of the subscriber to the ISP, and reflects poorly on you.

That’s why you should make it easy for people to unsubscribe, by having the link easy to find, and the process easy to do. (Note: Don’t ask someone to log in to unsubscribe. That’s not easy. Besides, if they can’t remember a username and password in order to log in, they will start using the spam button instead.)

Reason 3: An increase in unsubscribes might increase ROI
Many email marketers are wary of increasing the frequency of their email sends for fear of increasing unsubscribes as a result (because they still see unsubscribes as undesirable). However, a study by Alchemy Worx showed that there is a cost vs. benefit when sending frequency goes up, and marketers need to find out which offers the bigger payoff: increasing frequency or not. While the study did find that increasing email frequency increased unsubscribes, it also found that sending more emails increased revenue enough to more than cover for the lost email subscribers.

You’d need to test this at your own organization to know your cost vs. benefit for sure, but to me, it’s another indicator that the people who are likely to unsubscribe if you send more email don’t really belong on your lists anyway.

Reason 4: Unsubscribes can improve your marketing
Finally, unsubscribes are educational. They are a way for subscribers to vote for or against content, frequency or something else about your email. They can spike, letting you know a sudden change didn’t go over so well. Or they can regularly be higher than acceptable in number, causing you to re-evaluate your email marketing program overall. Maybe your promises made at the point of signup aren’t delivered on. Maybe your product doesn’t live up to expectations. Or perhaps your subject lines are trickery, getting people to open emails but then not delivering the promised goods to them. If your unsubcribe rate is consistently too high, it might be time to call in an outside consultant to evaluate your program and suggest improvements.  

If you have the choice between a list of 10,000 subscribers who regularly engage with your emails and buy from you, or a list of 100,000 subscribers who don’t, which one would you rather have? If it’s the ROI you’re after and not the ego boost, you’ll want the smaller, active list that’s happy with your emails. And unsubscribes can help you get there. 

About the Author

Marco Marini has been at the forefront of email marketing since its inception as a channel. Prior to co-founding ClickMail, Marco developed pioneering email campaigns for CyberSource, eHealthInsurance, DoveBid and IBM Canada while holding key marketing roles in those organizations. Clickmail is a part of the Salesforce Marketing Cloud Partner Community in both the Channel and HubExchange programs. You can download their eMVision ExactTarget-Tableau Integration app today!


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