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It’s official: July is Bad Ideas Month.

The good thing about Bad Ideas Month is it gives me a chance to nip a bad idea in the bud and let you know, in no uncertain terms, why it’s a Bad Idea and why you should stop doing it immediately.

Today’s Bad Idea comes from a marketer who wanted to know if he should send a confirmation email to people who had unsubscribed from his program. He thought it would let people know that they had unsubscribed successfully, as well as giving him one more crack at the inbox.

“Whaddya think?” he said. “Good idea, right?”

“No,” I replied. “That would be a bad idea. In fact, that’s a Very Bad Idea. Turn in your badge and gun.”

Okay, what I really said was more along the lines of “No, that’s probably not a good thing to do. Let’s take a couple minutes and think about why that might cause problems.”

(Caveat: Sending confirmation emails is wrong 99% of the time. Keep reading to find out what the 1% exception is.)

In case you’re drawing a blank on why I’d think this was a Bad Idea, here are the three reasons why you should not send an email confirmation of an unsubscribe request:

1. Someone has just told you they don’t want to get your emails any longer. They clicked on the unsubscribe link in your email or replied to your email saying “Don’t send me any more emails”.

So, what did you do? You sent them another email!

They just spent 10 seconds going through your unsubscribe process, and now they have to hear from you again?

What do you hope to accomplish? Are you like my conference buddy who thought it would either relieve your ex-subscriber’s mind or else give you one more email in the inbox? Or both?

Some might think that’s enlightened self-interest, but it’s just plain self-interest. You’re emailing just to email. There’s no reason to send an unsubscribe-confirmation email unless you don’t allow unsubscribing on a website (That’s also a Bad Idea).


2. You aren’t just sending another email. You’re making what looks like a desperate attempt to get your subscriber to change her mind. And, that makes your email program and your brand look bad.

You’re just hoping they’ll come back and resubscribe, right? Like your high-school sweetheart who broke up with you after prom? Keep dreaming.

People unsubscribe for all reasons. They don’t need your email anymore; you send too many emails; your content didn’t live up to their expectations; they want to get less email overall, and yours just didn’t make the cut.

I don’t know anybody who unsubscribes just to mess with your email program or see if she can work a better deal from you. Sending a confirmation email after the unsubscribe smells of desperation, and that’s not something you want your customers to associate with your email.


3. Your website is a better place to persuade your nearly-departed subscribers to give you another chance.

Giving your subscribers options before they unsubscribe is better than chasing after them after they’ve already opted out.

One option: Give them an “opt-down” page where they can choose an alternate sending schedule, like a weekly email digest instead of daily deals or headlines. Add some other email streams that they could choose if they want.

Also: Replace that soulless, unbranded page that says “Your request has been received” with an attractive, branded “thank you” page that confirms the unsubscribe but also restates your email program’s value proposition and includes a resubscribe form if they change their minds.

On either or both of these pages, include an address-change form for everybody who just wants to update an email address.


When is a confirmation email a Good Idea?

Here’s that 1% exception I mentioned earlier, when it makes sense to send a confirmation email: when someone unsubscribed from a paid email program, such as a newsletter or loyalty program. The confirmation email can be your subscriber’s proof of the request in case billing questions arise later.

(Keep watching the blog for another Bad Idea: the “do not reply” email address.)