{{ searchResult.published_at | date:'d MMMM yyyy' }}

Loading ...
Loading ...

Enter a search term such as “mobile analytics” or browse our content using the filters above.

No_results

That’s not only a poor Scrabble score but we also couldn’t find any results matching “”.
Check your spelling or try broadening your search.

Logo_distressed

Sorry about this, there is a problem with our search at the moment.
Please try again later.

Growing a high-quality mailing list can be a costly, time-consuming effort, but it's an effort countless companies make for a simple reason: email marketing can be one of the most effective ways to grow a business.

But building a mailing list is only half the battle. The other half: keeping subscribers happy.

Unfortunately, it's extremely easy to make mistakes that drive subscribers away. Here are four of the most common such mistakes.

1. Sending too many emails.

There can easily be too much of a good thing when it comes to email and many companies bombard their subscribers with far more emails than those subscribers expected. This can quickly lead to subscriber attrition.

How to Address

Remember that with email, it's possible to do more with less. Instead of worrying about communicating with subscribers more frequently, focus on making sure each communication packs a punch when it comes to value. Content should be insightful, and calls-to-action should be compelling.

2. Not respecting preferences.

If sending too many emails is one of the best ways to lose subscribers, but not respecting their preferences is one of the best ways to drive them away angry. Important preferences that should always be adhered to include list selections, frequency settings and formatting choices.

How to Address

In many cases, preference violations are a result of poorly-implemented subscriber management systems. As such, it's important to thoroughly test your system on a periodic basis to ensure that preferences are being captured properly and that the systems being used to deliver emails are aware of them.

3. Lack of perceived relevance.

Even if you're sending emails to subscribers at the right frequency and you're respecting their preferences, your emails could be falling far short of expectations if subscribers don't see the emails as being relevant. And irrelevance will eventually lead to one thing: unsubscribes.

How to Address

There are a number of ways to increasing the likelihood that you're delivering relevant emails that are more likely to be of interest to subscribers. Several are:

  • Manually soliciting feedback from subscribers to ensure you're in tune with their needs.
  • Collecting more granular explicit preference options that allow better subscriber segmentation.
  • Tracking open rates and using them to determine which subscribers should receive certain emails.

4. Inconsistency.

If your emails lack consistent branding and their source is not immediately apparent, there's a greater probability that some subscribers may not understand why they've received an email, leading to an unsubscribe.

How to Address

At a minimum, use the same sender name and email wherever possible to reduce the likelihood of confusion about the source of your emails. And, if possible, develop email templates that use consistent visual branding.

Patricio Robles

Published 26 September, 2012 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2378 more posts from this author

Comments (16)

Comment
No-profile-pic
Save or Cancel
Avatar-blank-50x50

Steve

I think it really comes down to being human and adding value. Every email you send out should be useful to the recipient and you should communicate in a way that makes you seem human. That's not to say stop leveraging software to cut down the time. You can still send bulk emails to a highly targeted list and come across very personable.

almost 4 years ago

Dean Marsden

Dean Marsden, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai Ltd

There is definitely a fine art to keeping subscribers and i think you've covered the areas well. Too many emails is a real big one for me as I'm content to receive one or two that are not well made or not completely relevant, but too many is just annoying.

Email delivery systems provide good stats and email marketers should carefully analyse these to optimise the performance of their emails.

I do feel that with email marketing especially, you can never please everyone with your messaging and frequency. There will always be unsubscribes. The trick is to know exactly what the subscriber wants to read. Email preferences are very important in this case.

almost 4 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Neale Gilhooley

Abiding to chosen prefences is vital, too often everyone gets mailed with everything even recruitment opportunities, which is so wrong. It should be considered a subscriber list not a mailing list, as junk/unsub is so easy

almost 4 years ago

Ian Brodie

Ian Brodie, Founder at The Rainmaker Academy

For me, this whole article is misguided.

Unsubscribe rates are one of the LEAST import measures of email effectiveness.

What you should really care about are how many people take the desired action as a result of your emails. How many people click, reply, sign up for a webinar, buy your stuff.

Focusing too much on unsubscribes leads to timid marketing. By and large, people who unsubscribe are those who are least in tune with your message.

If they think you're sending too many messages, then the chances are that they don't get enough value from your emails. If they got great value from each email, why would they want less of them?

So if the unsubscribers are by and large people who aren't in tune with your message, they're unlikely to become customers. So why do you care if they unsubscribe.

What's much worse is toning down your frequency and your messages to pander to people who aren't your greatest fans. You get less unsubscribes - but less people buy too.

If you want to make an omelette you've got to break a few eggs. Unsubscribes are those eggs. Don't ruin your chances of making a great omelette by pussyfooting around trying to get the egg out of the shell without hurting the shell's feelings.

Ian

almost 4 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Ben Goodwin, Email marketing manager at Personal

I'm with Ian on this one.

"Reducing unsubscribes" is a strange target to ever set. An unsubscribe is one of many arbitrary consequences of an ineffective marketing campaign. Sending more relevant emails isn't a strategy for reducing unsubscribes, it's a strategy for generating more revenue. The unsubscribe reduction is simply a consequence of that.

almost 4 years ago

Ian Brodie

Ian Brodie, Founder at The Rainmaker Academy

Good way of putting it Ben.

An additional factor is that you actively want inactive subscribers off your list. Your sender reputation and ability to avoid being marked as grey mail is influenced by open rates and whether subscribers do something positive with your email like replying or clicking.

If someone's not going to read my email anyway I'd much rather have them unsubscribe.

Ian

almost 4 years ago

Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles, Tech Reporter at Econsultancy

Ian,

Is the unsubscribe the most important email marketing metric? Of course not.

But to dismiss unsubscribes as being one of the least important metrics is misguided. A couple of points:

1. Many companies invest heavily in subscriber acquisition. Why should a company that spends $x to acquire each subscriber continue to invest at that level if subscriber attrition is high? Even if the investment produces a positive ROI, a well-managed company will see the opportunity for improvement.

2. The "people who unsubscribe are those who are least in tune with your message" notion has embedded with in it a number of huge assumptions which may not be correct. The most important is that your message is the right one, and that it's well-articulated. Another is that every lost subscriber unsubscribed due to the message.

On the second point, I would point out that I have personally unsubscribed from countless lists operated by companies I have purchased a product or service from. The primary reasons vary -- frequency of emails is a big one -- but none of the reasons had to do with the fact that I simply wasn't interested in what the company was offering. One thing you neglect to recognize is that existing customers are an extremely valuable commodity, so when they unsubscribe from your mailing list, it can be a significant loss. See http://econsultancy.com/uk/blog/10691-the-value-of-existing-customers-infographic.

At the end of the day, companies should not assume they know why subscribers are unsubscribing. You can't please everybody, but you can't convince me that a company that doesn't care to understand why it loses subscribers is at the same time competent enough to use email marketing to drive sales effectively.

almost 4 years ago

Tamsin Fox-Davies

Tamsin Fox-Davies, Small Business Marketing Mentor at Constant Contact

Of course, you don’t WANT to see people unsubscribing from your mailing list, but if they do, it’s for one of two reasons: Either they are not right for you, or you don’t appear to be right for them.

If they aren’t right for you, then you don’t really want them on your list anyway – they’re not interested in what you have to say, and so are unlikely to buy from you or refer you to their friends. These are the people that Ian is referring to, and this assumes that you’re already doing great email communications.

If they don’t think that you’re right for them (but you think that you are!), you have to look at what you’re doing with your list. This is what happens when you’re not creating really good content for your emails – content that people want to receive. So ask yourself - How can you improve your communications, and what do people actually want to get from you?

almost 4 years ago

Ian Brodie

Ian Brodie, Founder at The Rainmaker Academy

Patricio

"Misguided"? I hope not. My entire business is based on email marketing.

Why should a company that's spent $x on subscriber acquisition continue to invest if attrition is high?

They should continue to invest if they get a strong ROI. If they make a ton of money (or other positive metrics) from the emails then who cares how many subscribers leave. The net result is better than lower sales but fewer unsubscribes. Again, you're focusing on minor metrics and ignoring the big one.

It's like playing football.

Let's say I get my team playing more attacking football. Instead of drawing 0-0 or 1-1 with the odd 1-0 win we start winning 3-0, 6-2, 4-1, 5-3.

Do I worry about the fact I'm conceding more goals?

Well, I might look to see if I can concede fewer - but the chances are that tightening up the defence will weaken the attacking style that's been so successful for us.

How much more important is the result of the game vs goals conceded? Goals conceded is important, but the result is hugely more important. Same with email unsubscribes.

What you miss in your analysis (e.g. the value of an existing customer) is that not all customers are created equal. The average lifetime value of a customer may be $X - but that doesn't mean that they're all worth that much. Some are worth nothing, others are worth far more than the average.

Which ones are likely to be worth more? The really high value ones? I suggest it isn't the ones who get upset because you email them twice a week.

Your best customers, your most loyal, want more from you, not less.

Of course, we're not talking about ridiculous levels of emails. Email someone 3 times a day for a week and they're going to unsubscribe no matter how much they love you. Send a nasty, snarky message and they'll unsubscribe.

We're not talking about those extremes. Of course, if I increased email frequencies and started losing a huge number of subscribers I'd think about it. Of course if I sent a message and got a huge number of unsubscribes from that message I'd think about it.

But in the real world that just doesn't happen.

In the real world what you get are minor increases in unsubscribes. And if your sales (or clicks or replies or further optins) are going up, then you should just stop worrying about unsubscribes and keep doing what's working. Focus on matches won, on goal differences, not on goals conceded.

Ian

almost 4 years ago

Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles, Tech Reporter at Econsultancy

Ian,

"Your best customers, your most loyal, want more from you, not less."

This is simply an incorrect assumption when it comes to email marketing. Your most loyal customers -- the ones who spend the most, are the least price sensitive, wouldn't consider the competition, etc. -- are not necessarily the folks who want to hear from you every week. On the other hand, the person who does could very well be a bargain-hunter who window shops more than he buys.

Bottom line: I think you're reading too much into this post. This is not a football game between Maximum Sales and Minimum Unsubscribes.

You've made your approach clear: as long as your mailing list is producing cash right now at an arbitrarily-defined level you're happy with, subscriber attrition doesn't matter. Frankly, that's not that far off from how spammers treat their lists and I don't think it's how most companies manage theirs.

At the end of the day, companies want email to be a driver of *sustained* sales. A mailing list, properly managed, can be a valuable asset that produces dividends over time. *One* part of management of that asset involves looking at subscriber attrition. It's not the only part, of course, but making the basic assumption that everything is okay with your email marketing simply because you're pleased with last month's top line is short-sighted.

The number of individuals and companies that have used email to drive a high volume of sales over a relatively short period is large; the number of individuals and companies that have been using email to drive healthy sales from the same list consistently month after month is much smaller. I guess it depends on who you want to be.

almost 4 years ago

Ian Brodie

Ian Brodie, Founder at The Rainmaker Academy

Well thanks for comparing me and what I do to a spammer Patricio. Much appreciated.

You clearly have no clue about my approach to email. You have no idea of the hours every week I devote to personally responding to each and every email people on my email list send me. The free, personalised advice I give them. The emails I get thanking me for being so generous with my time.

Or the awards I've won for the quality of my free advice (Recently being named on of the Top 50 Global Thought Leaders in Markeing and Sales by Top Sales World Magazine for example, or Salesforce.com selecting me for their European Social Success "Dream Team").

Or that in the training I deliver on email marketing (yes, I do that) the obsessive focus is on delivering value and building relationships with your subscribers. On not trading short term gain for long term success.

But no, you go on thinking of me as a spammer.

The reason I'm making a meal of this is that you've given bad advice on a well respected website. You've then come on and defended that bad advice with more bad advice and weak logic.

If the topic isn't worthy of debate, of pointing out your mistake, then it's not worthy of an article in the first place.

You haven't even understood my football analogy. Read it again - it's not about maximum sales vs minimum unsubscribes - they're on the same team. It's about your overall strategy and where you put your focus.

You repeatedly misunderstand me. I suspect you won't understand this either.

Maybe you've got decades of email marketing experience and you've run huge campaigns yourself. Maybe you've got access to all sorts of statistics I don't have. All I have is my own personal experience with email marketing and that of the other business people I work with an know.

And I don't know how you treat the subscribers on your email list (please tell me you actually have an email list and some real experience and you're not giving all this advice second hand).

So I'm not going to make any assumptions about you. I'm not going to descend to calling you names.

I'm simply going to repeat my original words: this article is misguided. Unsubscribe rates are one of the least import measures of email effectiveness.

Ian

almost 4 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Jussi

Hi,

I must go with Ian on this whole debate. Anyone, who is putting their advice on the web needs to be able to accept challenges and different point of views. Email lists are in many ways ways like social media fans and followers. Companies seem to appreciate follower quantity over quality. Acquisition matters to these companies more than the actual engagement. That's silly. Anyone who runs their own business knows that it's mostly about ROI and not followers. To give some love to Patricio, relevancy, preferences and value are indeed important.

almost 4 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Ben Goodwin, Email marketing manager at Personal

It seems to me that Ian has been bang on the money all along here. The person Patricio is arguing against is also wrong, but it's not the same argument that Ian is making.

Nobody is suggesting that you shouldn't look after your lists, that you shouldn't be making sure that you get maximum engagement from your subscribers and that you should make sure you're sending them timely and relevant communications. That's the straw man argument you're trying to disprove, Patricio.

What Ian is saying is correct, in measuring the effectiveness of your communications, unsubscribes is not a particularly useful metric as a headline figure. Your engagement statistics, for example, are far more useful. Let's take 2 metrics, click throughs (ex-unsub link) and unsubscribes. I start a new campaign which takes my unsubscribe rate up from 0.5% to 1% for the life of the program. If I give much importance to that campaign, I'd be very worried by that and deem the campaign unsuccessful, but that figure actually tells you nothing at all.

What if the click-through on that program is up from 2.5% to 5%? I've come up with a program which yes, puts off more subscribers, but it also gets more visitors to my website. In fact, lets say I put 10,000 people through this program per month, I've got an extra 50 unsubscribes and an extra 250 click throughs. Clearly a huge success.

This is before we even begin to profile the people unsubscribing. Are they simply people who would usually sit dormant on my list, waiting for a reactivation program which converts comparatively poorly to a welcome campaign? Am I really missing out on lots of value?

almost 4 years ago

Ian Brodie

Ian Brodie, Founder at The Rainmaker Academy

Ben, you're a beacon of common sense. I shall say no more as you're summed everything up wisely.

I'm off to nurture my email subscribers!

Ian

almost 4 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

KSingh

Good quality design and formatting is equally important to ensure users do not leave your email list. Lengthy emails, spelling or grammatical errors, can all contribute to unsubscriptions.

almost 4 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Candy Smith

I agree with these! Sending too many emails is not a good idea. It is sometimes annoying and would usually end up trashed. Thanks a lot for sharing this information.

over 3 years ago

Comment
No-profile-pic
Save or Cancel
Daily_pulse_signup_wide

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Daily Pulse newsletter. Each weekday, you ll receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.