6. Opt-out management
A quick, easy and reliable unsubscribe process is an essential element of your email marketing program. However, not everyone who clicks the unsubscribe link actually wants to end the relationship with your company. But if you do not give them any choice, make the options you have hard to find or create a needlessly complex unsubscribe process, you will certainly lose your subscribers. Moreover, you risk being tagged as spam and endanger all your future mailings. For recovering from a bad-sender reputation is a very long and tedious process.
Decrease the number of unsubscribes
Having fewer unsubscribes is every marketer's dream. Unlike many people might think, you do have the possibility to influence the number of unsubscribes: you only need to proactively manage and meet your subscribers' expectations.
- Manage expectations by being clear from the very beginning what types of emails you will send and how often.
- Send a welcome email to reiterate these expectations.
- Deliver relevant, targeted and timely email messages that meet expectations.
- If it is within your capabilities, offer a preference center on your website to give subscribers more control over the content and timing of your emails.
If a customer does decide to unsubscribe, you need a good opt-out strategy. A successful strategy consists of three key elements:
- Make the process easy, but not too easy.
- Provide alternatives to opting out.
- Leave on good terms.
Unsubscribing should be a one-click action according to many people. But the reality is that a lot of subscribers might simply want to change the nature of the relationship, not end it. If someone truly wants to leave your list, however, make it quick and easy. Never hide the unsubscribe link in your email and avoid misleading the subscriber by making the link not recognizable. Creating a difficult opt-out process will only result in spam complaints and ultimately potential delivery problems. Therefore, you should never put your unsubscribe process behind a login. You will only end up frustrating your customers even more.
Secondly, when users do click the unsubscribe link, direct them to a page offering alternatives to opting out. It is a good idea to set up that page as a combination of a preference center and an unsubscribe page. Again, avoid confusing the subscriber, but make it clear that they can choose to do something besides opt out.
Your subscribers' needs and interests change over time. Maybe they just want to receive fewer emails, e.g. on a weekly basis instead of on a daily basis. Perhaps they just need to change their email address or prefer a text version which they can read on their mobile. If you do not offer them a choice in how to make your emails more relevant and valuable to them, you could lose them forever.
Most subscribers might click your unsubscribe link for the following reasons:
- Email address change.
- Frequency of the emails.
- Channel of communication (email, RSS feed…).
- Changing interests and preferences.
- Email format: HTML versus plain text.
- Subscription to multiple newsletters. If you publish multiple newsletters, allow subscribers to uncheck the box next to the newsletter they no longer want to receive and check another that now fits their needs.
Lastly, it is essential to offer your subscribers a good opt-out experience. While they will no longer receive your emails, they may still continue to visit your business in the future. Thank them as they unsubscribe and tell them you regret seeing them go. Most of all, make the entire process simple and pleasant.
Also, use the opportunity to ask why they are unsubscribing. This allows them to give feedback, but it also gives you a view on the reasons why people are leaving your list. It is a good idea to provide a dropdown field or checkboxes containing the most common reasons.
Additionally, you might want to foresee a free comments field. In this way, you can more easily aggregate common reasons, yet still capture individual feedback.
Missed the first 5 tips? Go to:
- 8 tips for great email reputation and maximum deliverability - Part I
- 8 tips for great email reputation and maximum deliverability - Part II
Stay tuned for the last 2 tips and best practices to improve email reputation and deliverability!
Can't wait to read more? Download our Guidelines "Designing and sending emails".
- Allis R., "Best Practices for Email Marketing", 2009.
- Burko R., "Email Deliverability Spam Traps and Honey Pots: Definition, Prevention and Elimination", 2013.
- Campaign Monitor, "Landing in the Inbox".
- EmailMonks, "The Commandments of Email & Newsletter Design".
- Holden-Bache A., "Best Practices for Optimizing the Email Opt-In Process", 2012.
- Iverson A., "Even More on Confirmed Opt-in Best Practices", 2007.
- Lapides M., "Email Marketing Best Practices - Unsubscribing Do's and Don'ts", 2013.
- Loynes C., "5 Email Unsubscribe Best Practices", 2013.
- Marini M., "Let Go Gracefully: Unsubscribe Best Practices and Two Big Reasons to Use Them", 2012.
- Patterson M., "Design and Build Email Newsletters Without Losing Your Mind (and Soul)", 2010.