Using the Unsubscribe Process to Grow Your Company

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Making sure you have a solid email unsubscribe strategy is nothing new. You know that if people want out, then that means they want out, stat, and if you try to make it difficult for them to leave, they’ll only dislike you more. (Not to mention the legal requirements…)

However, did you know that you’ve got a solid opportunity to better your company with the unsubscribe process? You can’t please everyone, so you will lose subscribers (that’s okay; you want willing recipients on your lists). It’s possible (and important) to use those who don’t like your company – to help you better your company, so this happens less often in the future. In the end, that little unsubscribe button could actually be a huge opportunity for growth. It’s not as bad as it seems.

Tips and Tricks to a Successful Unsubscribe Strategy

Below are a few tips and tricks to creating the perfect unsubscribe strategy for your company:

  • Make the unsubscribe button obvious.

It’s important that you have a clear unsubscribe button in your email that is in the same place each time. It can be small, but it needs to be obvious. There is always the chance that although that person isn’t benefiting from your content, they may know someone who will, so you want to continue to have a good reputation. Making it hard to find this button will only annoy people.

example of an unsubscribe link

In this Zappos example, the company added a little fillip of personality (we’ll miss you terribly) that helps extend the brand’s personality right to the end.

  • Give those unsubscribing alternative options before they leave.

It’s always best to prompt those unsubscribing with any other offers you have going on at the moment. If you have another email marketing campaign with a different offer, let them know in case they are unsubscribing because the content in this campaign is no longer relevant (and another one might be more worth their time). Or offer them a less-often option. Maybe it’s not you, but just your too-frequent cadence.

If you offer multiple email channels that focus on differing interests, make sure they see all those channels on the unsubscribe page. They might have an interest in one they didn’t know about. It’s a best practice to offer a one-click universal opt-out, also.

If your subscribers pay for your newsletter, you might consider offering something free as an option for those about to leave. You might lose them in one area, but if you can snatch them back up with another campaign you’re not losing at all; you’re extending brand loyalty.

  • Make sure that the person unsubscribing doesn’t get emails after they’ve unsubscribed.

man saying stop emailing meYes, I know CAN-SPAM gives you ten days to get that name off your list. Do NOT wait that long. Sometimes companies will still send emails a week or so after someone has unsubscribed, usually because that is how their system is setup … or because they hope that someone will change his/her mind. But all this does is annoy or confuse someone and make them dislike your company. It looks like you just are not listening, and are resisting their request. Not endearing! If they wanted out enough to take the time to unsubscribe, then one more week of content (which obviously they don’t find compelling) isn’t going to change anyone’s mind. And it just might irritate them enough to mark your next unwanted message a spam – which is not going to do your deliverability any good at all.

Editor’s note: I recently unsubscribed from a nonprofit that I like; I just get too much email, and something had to go. I clicked the “unsubscribe” button and got taken to a screen that insisted that I watch a three-minute video before unsubscribing. (I skipped it.) Then I had to scroll a long way to the bottom to be able to confirm the unsubscribe. The moral of this story: People unsubscribe for many reasons, and why they unsubscribe may have nothing to do with you. If you’re nice at this point, they may return when the time is right (for them). Don’t beat them up, or try to manipulate their emotions, or ask them to fill out a looooong form. They will remember, and you will have lost them forever. -slx

  • Create a survey to take right before someone unsubscribes.

This survey should be multiple choice, so that someone can answer very easily. It’s a good, and friendly, idea to have a section where they can type a response about their particular situation. It’s also important to have an option “I’d rather not say” or something along those lines for people who don’t want to answer. Create the survey in such a way that those leaving have to participate in order to move to the next screen… but make sure the survey is short and doesn’t hold them up too long from their goal of unsubscribing.

Let Your Unsubscribe Process Function as an Exit Interview

The biggest way that your unsubscribe process can help your company grow is by that very last tip—survey those who are leaving. This will help you understand why something isn’t working, so that you can work to improve it. If many unsubscribers said the content was no longer relevant, you may want to consider coming up with a new campaign that offers different content, or change the content on your existing campaign.

Furthermore, those who subscribe to your messaging are often seeing your blog posts. If this is the case, you may get valuable information about your actual website, which generally gets more traffic than the landing pages tied to an email marketing campaign.

Do you have an unsubscribe process that is working well for you? Do you have personal experiences with learning from those who unsubscribe? Let us know your story and your thoughts in the comments below.

Amanda DiSilvestro gives small business and entrepreneurs SEO advice ranging from keyword density to recovering from Panda and Penguin updates. She writes for the nationally recognized SEO agency HigherVisibility.com, which offers online marketing services to a wide range of companies across the country.

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  • bri44any

    I like these points about turning unsubscribers into great informative resources. For those trying to retain people who want to unsubscribe, beware: if you want to show them other options or get a survey, don’t let those things be obstacles in the way of unsubscribing, otherwise you will find yourself irritating people who might have been unsubscribing because they were irritated to begin with. Any alternatives to unsubscribing should be just that–alternatives. Any voluntary surveys should be just that–voluntary. If people are going to unsubscribe no matter what, don’t make them jump through hoops.

    • Amanda DiSilvestro

      That’s a really good point and I wasn’t overly clear about it in the article, so thanks for bringing it up! All of these ideas are good ways to keep people hooked, but you have to have an option to “skip” and you shouldn’t have too many different pages popping up. Very annoying. Thanks for reading!

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