How NOT To Deal With Unsubscribers

Image courtesy Janet Galore

I provided some insight for this story for the San Jose Mercury News on “Five Tips To Get Rid Of Unwanted Email” and thought I’d expand on the topic for a blog post.

Unless you’re a straight-up spammer (in which case you don’t care), you should always respect your email subscribers and that respect should extend to when they no longer care to hear from you.

A subscriber who wants off your list is no longer valuable to you, so why anger them by making it hard to leave? They may, after all, decide to resubscribe later.

Yet, I see it happen all the time: Companies doing everything they can to keep people from leaving their email lists. Trying to hold subscribers captive will only

  1. Serve to ensure they have contempt for your company or brand, and
  2. Guarantee they click the spam button in their inbox,

thereby creating a negative signal that can harm your email deliverability rate for your remaining subscribers.

3 Email Marketing Tactics You Should Never Use

Gif: Shaq: Don't Do It!

1. Refuse To Honor Unsubscribes

In this case, companies may include an unsubscribe option in the emails and you can go through the process of submitting an unsubscribe request but they just plain don’t honor that request. You continue to get emails from them no matter how many times you unsubscribe.

The tactic is completely short-sighted because people will simply resort to marking the emails as spam out of frustration and anger.

The more people use the spam button, the more likely your emails will end up in junk folders for even those subscribers who want the emails.

2. Bury The Unsubscribe Option

In this case, companies will try and hide the unsubscribe link in their emails by including a huge block of white space after what appears to be the end of the email, after which they’ll include an unsubscribe link to comply with spam laws.

The idea is to place the unsubscribe option beyond the scroll. Out of sight, out of mind.

This tactic, too, will result in an increase in spam reports because people who don’t want your email, don’t want your email and they resent you making it hard for them to get off your list.

Or seeing no unsubscribe option, people will use the spam button to unsubscribe. Notice a theme developing, here?

3. The Multiple List Trick

In this scenario, your unsubscribe request will be honored but you’ll simply be put on a slightly different list, so it appears you’ve subscribed to multiple lists from the same company.

Ultimately, making it hard to unsubscribe from email lists is self-defeating because:

  • Treating people like that typically results in increased spam reports,
  • Email list services pay attention to those metrics and may ban you from their service,
  • Email service providers like Gmail pay attention to those metrics, will flag you as an untrustworthy sender and send your emails to junk folders, and, finally
  • People who don’t want to subscribe to your email list hold no business value and, in fact, are a burden to your efforts because they dilute positive engagement metrics like open- and click-through rates that make it more likely your emails will make it though spam filters.

C’mon, now. There are better ways at retaining unsubscribing customers.

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