Who Was Your Last Unsubscribe?

My, we've come a long way as e-mail marketers.

Last week, Sean Muzzy reinforced the importance of quality in selecting third-party e-mail lists. In the old days of e-mail, it often felt like quite the opposite. Yet with time came the inevitable changes to the technical, regulatory, consumer, and competitive e-mail environment. Of all of the innovations, perhaps the most reflective has been the advent of user-level reporting, tracking e-mail metrics back to individual addresses and profiles. As we said, we've come a long way.So why do we still look at unsubscribes the way we did 10 years ago?

After all, with all we do now to keep prospects engaged in one-to-one e-mail dialogues, shouldn't we know more about the ones we lose than that "they were less than 1%"? Before we get too complacent with that low number, remember that if 1 million subscribers are mailed, we're talking about losing 10,000 e-mail addresses.



We wonder how many sales that was--don't you?

If our modern techniques and data-driven strategies are working towards quality e-mail lists, then we need to take a close look at churn and consider ways to save quality prospects.

We've come up with a few categories that e-mail marketers should analyze when taking a closer look at unsubscribes at a unique-user level. Considering who unsubscribed, how they wereengaging with our e-mails, and how often they were being e-mailed prior to churn can identify trends to look for in your active lists:

1. Engagement Profile. How active were users prior to unsubscribing (opens, clicks, downloads, feedback, etc.)? Was there a trend of inactivity prior to unsubscribing, or was the opt-out sudden?

2. Demographic Profile. What is the demographic make-up of people unsubscribing? How many more people that look like them are on your in-house file? Are there common characteristics in age, income, geography, or purchasing behavior?

3. Cadence. How often were they receiving e-mails? What kinds of e-mails did they receive (support, newsletters, promotional, third-party, etc.). Where in the e-mail contact stream did they unsubscribe? How many e-mail communications where they opted-in for?

Tactically responding to "attrition indicators" like these will differ from dialog to dialog. Here are a few general thoughts on what marketers can do if they feel a segment of their prospect base may be ready to leave:

1. If there is a spike in unsubcribes at a specific point in a stream, test adjustments in timing, frequency and content.

2. Create segments similar to those who have opted-out and introduce proactive messaging at points where prior unsubscribes have opted-out.

3. If previously active subscribers stop opening or clicking through, consider a cadence adjustment to them for a time. Engage them with an offer or value-based message to re-engage them in the stream. This is similar to the strategic thought behind direct marketing "save" programs.

4. Solicit feedback from segments similar to those that opt-out, and consider asking why opt-outs are leaving, when they do. You can apply these characteristics to optimize your "churn profiles."

As modern e-mail marketing strategies and tactics evolve to focus on quality over quantity, isn't it about time we improve the way we think about that most decisive and personal moment of a customer's journey--the moment when they decide to leave?

To keep up with these advances and other marketers' approaches to e-mail, check out the E-mail Experience Council, which today has a 1 p.m. EST Webinar: "Benchmark Your E-mail Program."

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