Fighting unsubscribes

At the Atlanta Interactive Marketing Association’s February event, which focused on email marketing, “frequency” was cited most often as the reason why people unsubscribe from a company’s email marketing program. This statistic was anecdotal, but plays into the feeling a lot of people have: “This company is jamming up my inbox! Make it stop!”

So how do you fight churn? At a higher level, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Keep messages relevant. Sending people what they want to receive, or melding what you want to say with what they want to hear, will go a long way in giving readers a positive experience with your email.
  • Stick to promise you made when you asked readers to sign-up for your email. If you promised news and helpful hints, don’t beat them over the head with coupons.
  • And there’s the frequency issue I mentioned above. If you’ve committed to weekly news, that means one email a week. Weekly doesn’t mean: “Send as many messages in a week as you can.”

Tactically speaking, Dan Zarrella of Hubspot recently hosted a Science of Email Marketing webinar (slides posted here) in which he analyzed 9.5 billion emails. (That billion with a b is not a typo.) A statistic he pointed out is that more the links a message has, the lower a message’s unsubscribe rate:

Number of links chart

Effects of Number of Links on Unsub Rate

Thought to keep in mind: When your unsubscribe link is easier to find, the more likely someone is to click it and remove themselves from your list.

That said, don’t throw in links for the sake of having links. Burying your call to action is never a good idea. Do what’s right for your company’s branding and your campaign’s goals, but one link for a call to action and one to unsubscribe could lead to a higher unsubscribe rate for that campaign.

Dan’s research also found that people were less likely to unsubscribe to messages sent on a weekend. It’s not uncommon for retailers to send emails on weekends to spur online shopping, but these figures hold true for B2B senders as well.

Day of week chart

Effect of Day of Week on Unsub Rate

Thought to keep in mind: Weekends work because people spend more time perusing their email. (This could also be why the research showed a higher click-through rate on weekends as well.) They’ve either filed it away during the week to read at their leisure or are just taking more time to read a message that comes in on a weekend.

But, there’s no single right day or time of day to send a message to guarantee an open or click-through. This behavior is specific to each list and can best be learned over time by tracking the behavior of multiple campaigns.

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