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Avoiding heart-break with unsubscribes

Valentine’s day may have only just been and gone, but when it comes to emails it seems that there is little love in the air – all too often we’re reaching for the unsubscribe link before we’ve even really got to know each other. So here’s my advice on how to deal with an email break-up, and how to leave it on good terms.

“Dear Adestra,
A customer has said that our products no longer excite them but we really want to keep emailing them. They feel that our relationship has reached its natural end, but we don’t want to lose them – can we just keep our unsubscribe link hidden?”

I so often get emails with unsubscribe links being tucked away in odd places, in tiny writing, or even with the text written in the same colour as the background. This might seem like a good idea as it makes unsubscribing a much more difficult process, and as a result you hang on to that data for a little bit longer. However, more and more email clients (especially webmail clients) now offer to block emails for you from particular senders or to mark the email as spam. This means the recipient still won’t receive emails from you and potentially could be damaging your sender reputation. Unsubscribing from emails is something that is going to happen, so instead of making people complete the 12 labours of Hercules before you can stop contacting them, keep the unsubscribe link clear.

“Dear Adestra,
One of our supporters has said that they really like us, and that we are sending them some really great emails, but at other times they are just not interested in what we have to say – what can we do?”

If you want to reduce the number of people leaving your mailing lists completely, why not add a preference centre? These give people the option to reduce the number or frequency of emails they are receiving from you, or to choose which emails they receive (e.g. newsletters rather than marketing emails). This is also a good opportunity to sell the benefits of receiving communications from you as well, making sure that this is clear before people unsubscribe rather than afterwards. You can find out more about preference centres here.

“Dear Adestra,
A client has said that they are starting to feel a little stifled by all their emails and that they need a break from us. They are going on holiday for a couple of weeks and said that they just need some space. What can we offer them to help with this?”

More and more companies are now offering the chance to suspend emails for e.g. 30, 60, or 90 days, before resuming emails after this time. A great way of letting people get a break from emails without losing them completely, or even just to allow them to manage their inbox better while they’re on holiday. This can be incorporated into a preference centre, and gives you the opportunity to send them more targeted emails once they are ready to start hearing from you again (‘Welcome back, here’s a quick summary of what you’ve missed’).

“Dear Adestra,
One of our readers has let us know what their interests are, and we tried to target our emails a bit better, but they are still ignoring us – is it time to end it?”

If people are going to leave, at least make it memorable experience for all the right reasons. Some companies take the opportunity to get some feedback on why someone is leaving, while others go for the comedy approach (some nice examples can be seen here and here). I recently unsubscribed from an email and not only got confirmation of unsubscribing via an automated email, but also a link that I could use if I ever I wanted to re-subscribe. Avoid the Rom-Com style screaming/crying/setting possessions on fire, and instead leave unsubscribers with a lasting impression of a great company.

In any set of data there will always be a certain amount of turnover – new subscribers and unsubscribers keep mailing lists fresh and up to date, and this allows you to email those who are most interested in your company. So, don’t be afraid of unsubscribes – accept that they will happen, and make sure the experience is easy, friendly and ensures that you leave on a good note.

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