Don’t Fear Unsubscribes, Learn From Them

Too often I see businesses hit the panic button if someone unsubscribed from email. A common reaction to a couple of removed addresses is to decide to email less often.

Opt outs are healthy and a natural part of the feedback loop from your list, as long as they stay at a low rate. Not every contact should stay on your list forever.  Let’s explore when opt outs do make sense.  Then we will look at when opt out data should be a red flag and how to respond.

Let’s suppose you sell baby products.   Two months ago Amanda and Kara were added to your database after purchasing. Amanda bought $80 worth of product and Kara bought $100. Your marketing intelligence suggests you should email both several times a week to become repeat buyers.  You send three emails this week and Amanda opts out.  Do you worry you are emailing too much and cut your email frequency in half for fear of losing Kara?

What if I told you what the data doesn’t?  Amanda bought baby shower gifts for her co-worker’s daughter. She does not know any other mothers of infants or expectant mothers to buy for. Kara is Amanda’s co-worker and the grandma-to-be.

Amanda’s opt out is a good thing. Let her go!  Possibly she could adjust her preferences to receive only major sale announcements. More likely, she will not open any more emails from you and will bring down your email performance rates. Let her self-select to leave the list.

Kara, on the other hand, is happy to receive your emails. She is the kind of contact you want to see thriving. She will become a loyal customer for the next 3 years, forward your emails to relatives to buy, and write great reviews on your website. Kara is very well suited for your client base.

The more you know about your contacts, the more you can personalize, segment, and target your message. However, you can’t know everything and Amanda’s case is a perfect example.  Unsubscribe links are there for a reason. They allow someone to say, I signed up for a moment, but I’m no longer interested, rather than flagging you as a spammer. It’s healthy and natural to have a small measure of unsubscribes, as long as it is minimal.

Watching your unsubscribe rate is also important feedback to alert you when there is a problem. 

When is your opt out rate a red flag and what should you do about it?