The Perfect Opt-Out

Fact of life in the email marketing world: You must honor the opt-out.   How you do this is typically representative of your brand voice -- or at minimum, the freedom your CMO has given you with brand humor. 

Our research still indicates trends in annual list churn at just over 3% per month, very similar to other years.  Now don’t freak out and march into your CEO and tell him you can expect to lose 30% of your database per year. This number is offset by the growth/acquisition strategy of your company, which can be at or near 50% over this amount, and doesn’t reflect necessarily mean brand churn.  

The point of knowing this metric is to know what you can control, what you can’t -- and where, if any, there are opportunities to win back those who connected with you at one point in their brand life.  This is really important as new generations enter the “opt-in” world and begin developing spend patterns with the brands they know and love.   How you engage them when you make a mistake, or when you’ve overstimulated their inbox, is the challenge today. 



There are hundreds of basic articles on how to develop the perfect unsubscribe process, including debates on the merits of single and double opt-in or single click-opt outs.  While important reading for some, after 15 years in this industry, rereading those same approaches keeps my attention about as long as a commercial email  -- three to five seconds -- and that’s about as much attention as you need to give them as well.  Focus on being creative first!

If you want to be creative and test brand voice, the opt-out page or preference center is a great place to do it without a lot of effort.  

One of my all-time favorites is still Groupon’s Derrick opt-out, in which those who want to unsubscribe are led to a video where they’re invited to “Punish Derrick,” the “guy that thought you’d enjoy receiving the Daily Groupon email.”   It’s so simple, personifying the email marketer lurking alone in his office space late at night.   While not brilliant creative, the video itself is obviously intentionally webcam quality and brilliant in its own way.

I’ve seen versions of this idea with dog photos, begging you to let them out of the doghouse. I’ve seen versions where the idea is a breakup, with people crying on video that you are leaving.

 I’d challenge you to be creative where most aren’t.  I’d challenge you to think about future customers and how to entertain them during non-transactional interactions.  While opt-outs typically reflect less than a fraction of 1%, it is an interaction with intent, likely some emotion and requiring a few steps to complete. 

This and other functional interactions are key to creating your brand voice with a customer.  Unless you are a mainstream Power Brand with millions in media spend to create your voice, you must own the point of intermediation when a customer interacts with your brand, in the beginning, middle and end, and do your best to be creative and entertaining at all points.  

The newer generations will require this, while older ones will appreciate it and potentially share it. And those with the most disposable income will subliminally not tune you out.  

I’ve found that those brands that have paid attention to the subtle things in the permission process, are typically the ones that are buttoned-up in their program design.  Start with the simple, and infuse a personality in your brand voice.  The perfect opt-out is the last chance to leave a brand impression that sticks.

As an old Chinese proverb says, “Experience is a comb we receive just when we are going bald.”

Pay attention to the little things!

1 comment about "The Perfect Opt-Out".
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  1. Andrew Kordek from Trendline Interactive, July 15, 2014 at 1:05 a.m.

    Great article as always David. As the ex-Groupon guy who was there when the "Punish Derrick" became viral for a couple of days, it certainly drew attention to the brand as well as raising awareness about an ideal unsub process experience. I don't recall the exact numbers, but I do recall that the "punish Derrick" schtick did very little in terms of "saving" the unsubscribe. However, it does provide for a funny story: when the link went viral it was directing to the NYC list so I got a call from one of the dev's saying "we have a problem" in that we were seeing a tremendous spike in unsubs across the board because it was a live link. That said, we redirected the link to to not record the unsub and all became right with the world. However, to your point I have long been an advocate to make the unsubscribe experience just as good and/or as entertaining as the subscribe experience. For some programs, this is the last impression you have to make before they are potentially gone forever so you need to do it right. To some, "doing it right" means making it tough and I say that marketers need to embrace the unsubscriber and make it the best experience you can make it.

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