Email Unsubscribes Don’t Matter

May 22, 2017
By Zack Poelwijk
A young woman is using two halves of a grapefruit as binoculars

What? Email marketing and a healthy and growing email list has long been seen as the holy grail of marketing. Email is still important. I’m definitely not denying the importance of keeping in touch with people that way. But I’m here to tell you unsubscribes aren’t something to stress over.

Your own expectations for your growing email list can make any unsubscribe–especially if it’s from someone you know–feel as bad as a romantic breakup. Marketers, and myself included, have told people to closely monitor your email unsubscribes to see if the message you’re producing is reaching people the way you hope it will. I still recommend paying attention to your statistics. But at some point you will realize that you can’t make everyone happy. And trying to make everyone happy and avoid those unsubscribes will bring you down.

You might even consider removing inactive subscribers yourself. If someone hasn’t, say, opened any of your emails for the last 4 months, you can remove them. In the “olden days” many businesses sent out print catalogs. They welcomed having their recipients call to cancel their catalogs, because it meant that they were no longer paying mailing costs to send a catalog to someone who didn’t want it.

Email marketing is so much more cost-effective than that. It may be tempting to think that you’re better off keeping anyone on the list. Not so. Trim the deadwood. Make room for people who really want to hear your message. And email those people. If you are constantly re-evaluating your content and adjusting your messages to try to reach the people who unsubscribe or don’t open your emails, you’re not focusing on the people who really do want your messages.

With all this in mind, everyone on your email list is not the same. Each person who subscribes is at a different point in the “journey” to purchasing your products and services. (Learn more about that here: “The 6 Levels in the Customer Awareness Spectrum) Treat them differently. Mail services are robust enough now that you can easily send a separate message to the people who haven’t bought in six months, or bought yesterday. If you want to try a softer approach before you manually remove someone, you might try a separate re-engagement tactic just for those unresponsive emails. Do that, and don’t sweat the unsubscribes.

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