Never Can Say Good-bye: Unsubscribe Best Practices

Your email unsubscribe process is probably not something you spend a lot of time thinking about. It's understandable. A subscriber abandoning your program is something you want to avoid, even though you know there are many good reasons why people decide to opt out. 

Unsurprisingly, many email marketers are not following best practices. After all, if marketers are going to spend time and resources optimizing their tactics, it's likely going to be focused on strategies that drive revenue and affect their relationships with active and purchasing customers, rather than preventing disengaged subscribers from leaving.

However, a marketer's unsubscribe process represents a key stage in the email subscriber's lifecycle. A smart approach can encourage email subscribers to interact with the brand through other channels, such as social media, even if email is no longer an option. A smarter approach will remind the subscriber of what they'll miss out on by unsubscribing and provide options for updating their preferences or decreasing their frequency instead of leaving the file. Regardless of the approach, it's always a best practice to make the process simple, straightforward and stress-free for subscribers.  



Here are two reasons why paying attention to your unsubscribe process makes very good business sense. 

1. Bad unsubscribe experiences lead to complaints. We've seen this time and again with clients we work with. Back in email's early years, many marketers thought that making unsubscribing a little difficult would maintain their file sizes. The invention of the "this is spam" button should have retired that practice, but some companies never caught up and still like to play "hide the unsubscribe link." In others cases, marketers have the best of intentions, but the opt-out process hasn't been tested in a while and there's a glitch in the system that no one notices. Either way, subscribers are going to become frustrated and complain to their ISPs, leading to problems with your sender reputation and your inbox placement. 

2. Opportunities abound, if you know where to look. First, let me be clear: making your opt out process easy and efficient is your number one priority. Never add friction that will cause subscribers to get frustrated andalways be complaint with the law. However, you can provide alternatives and encourage subscribers to consider other options. For example, perhaps the prospect of going on a two-week vacation and returning to an overflowing inbox is not something your subscribers want to deal with. Allow them to pause (rather than cancel) their subscription for a set period of time. Others subscribers may want different content or a decreased frequency than what they're currently getting. Allow them to manage their preferences. Or maybe they'd rather hear from you through Facebook or Twitter. Give them the option.

By following these best practices, you can expect to see both higher overall brand engagement and a reduction in spam complaints.

1 comment about "Never Can Say Good-bye: Unsubscribe Best Practices".
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  1. Rita from FreshAddress, Inc., July 27, 2011 at 12:50 p.m.

    Hear, hear! Who doesn't want to find ease in exit and's all about building and valuing your relationship. The requirement to navigate an additional landing page to ultimately effect the unsubscribe request is quite frustrating as well, especially when read on a smart phone. Make it easy and ask why...there is much to be learned from feedback.

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