Unsubscribe – an Opportunity

Sitting clearing out my inbox tonight, I realised something about marketing emails which receives little attention when discussing the who, what, when, where and why of email marketing.

The act of a user unsubscribing from your list, far from being a loss, is a golden opportunity for the astute online marketer.

I have just said no to the weekly digests of a programming tips website which I always thought would come in handy but whose persistent and insightful muses I have not had time to read even once in the past two years. I’ve just cancelled all messages from a software company from whom I downloaded a marginally useful application a year ago and who have diligently “kept me informed” on a fortnightly basis ever since. And I’ve just pulled the slider down to “unsubscribe” from the travel offers website I signed up to on a whim last week because it was the only way to find out what the site was about.

All these messages are being sent to me because I didn’t say no. Many many articles have been written about how to convince users to subscribe to your list, and the moral dilemma of the “opt in” or “opt out” default setting.

But I’m interested in the point where a recipient finally gives in and clicks “unsubscribe”.

One particular travel website, SecretEscapes, handles the delicate task of turning off the junkmail tap in a particularly novel and, for me, trust-building fashion.

Their “lets take a break” approach shows they have analysed and considered why users might unsubscribe, and far from letting me go – they want to offer me the opportunity to rest my inbox for a while in case I’m just not in the right place to be booking a last minute trip. I almost didn’t want to unsubscribe, and this refreshingly unpatronising and thoughtful piece of user experience design made me wonder if the rest of us aren’t missing a trick.

So I thought I’d share some ideas for dealing with unsubscribes:

  • Don’t require me to sign in if I’ve clicked “unsubscribe” in the foot of a message. It’s annoying. At most – ask me to confirm my address but only if you must.
  • Don’t confuse me with options, or a bewildering and deliberately misleading array of mixed opt-in and opt-out preferences.
  • Sliders to control the level if messages are great because I can visualise the volume of email I should expect.
  • Make it easy for me to stop all messages in one click.
  • Make an effort to find out why I’m leaving – but don’t intimidate me or block my exit if I won’t tell.
  • Don’t email me to confirm my unsubscription! That’s enraging!
  • Review unsubscribes and use them to inform your future decisions. Was it one particular message? Did you send too many recently? Do I unsubscribe right after the first message – if so; did I really know what I was getting into?

Unsubscribes are vital for maintaining trust and confidence of your subscribers. Don’t neglect them.

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