Listen to your unsubscribers
When was the last time that you took a good, long listen to the people who are asking you to stop sending them email? If your ESP doesn’t provide an opportunity for your unhappy subscribers, you should ask them to create one. Your now-former subscribers have a story to tell that can help you retain others who feel the same way but haven’t left yet. It needs to be completely voluntary (and the form should say so), but give folks who are leaving an opportunity to tell that story.
There is some obvious stuff to look for, of course. How many times does someone call your company “a spammer”? If you see that often enough, then you know that there’s something amiss with your permission practices. People don’t think that they’re being signed up for your mail file. Clarify your practices and watch those numbers drop.
But, there are also things that often get overlooked. Things like “I’m getting too much email.” There is no hidden meaning there, but it is clearly a call to action for you. Obviously, you can dial back your mailing frequency. But, are there other options available?
First of all, reconsider the value of your mailings. You absolutely believe that what you are sending is valuable and important. You wouldn’t be sending it otherwise. But do your subscribers feel the same way? If they’re saying things like “All noise no signal” when they leave, then they aren’t finding any value in your email. If your mailings make them feel like you consider them nothing more than walking checkbooks or credit cards then you will almost certainly lose them quickly. That might mean that you need to reconsider your mailing frequency, but it often means that you just need to reconsider how to say what you’re saying.
Second, consider changing expectations. This comes in two parts. First, consider changing your expectations of your readers. If you are not engaging in a two-way conversation with your recipients then you are doing something wrong in today’s environment. A great example of this is found in Google’s recent announcement that they will be turning on images from some senders by default. The major criterion there: “But, if someone you’ve sent email at least twice sends you a message with images in it, you’ll see the image by default (because the people in this group are likely people you know and trust)” (Google 2009). That’s a conversation and not just one-way communication. You should be actively encouraging your readers to write back to you with their thoughts and ideas about your mailing and not just plugging at them to “Buy My Stuff.”
Second, see if you can adjust your actions to meet their expectations. Find out how often they want to receive mail from you. Then make a promise and keep your word. If your readers want to get mail from you twice a week and you are mailing them five times per week, something is going to change. You will either adjust your delivery schedule to meet their expectations or they will unsubscribe from your list.
Something else to look for is poor targeting. “I am not a ___________” in the unsubscribe message is a good sign that your targeting is a bit off. If you missed that one, chances are that you missed others. Go back and look at look at your collection and targeting practices.
Ultimately the answer to everything is reputation. But, you have to understand that subscriber engagement is the key metric in gaining the reputation you need. Looking at why people leave your list is an important, but often undervalued, tool in building engagement, and thus reputation. So let your soon-to-be former subscriber tell their story and see what you can learn from it.
- Google. 2009. “Display Images from Certain Senders.” Gmail Help. December 25, 2009. http://web.archive.org/web/20091225013513/http://mail.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=145919.