Marketers employing snail mail tactics in their email marketing campaigns would normally expect to see mass-unsubscribe rates following their sent emails.

However, some email marketers are successfully using a traditional direct mail tactic: allowing subscribers to pause their subscriptions. This works especially well for publishers who are sending large volumes of email on a daily or weekly basis.

One company employing this tactic is lifestyle publisher Daily Candy. They offer subscribers a ‘Pause Subscriptions’ option as part of their preference centre. Subscribers can choose their departure and return dates and synch up their email delivery with those dates.

Just like cancelling your newspaper delivery when you’re off on holiday, this ensures that subscribers don’t come home to a mountain of out-of-date emails that will never be read.

This feature is also offered by personal shopper website, which searches up to 200 retailers a day for the best deals on the subscriber’s preferred brands. The footer of every email message they send includes a link to ‘Take a Break’ where recipients can select from a variety of timeframes to opt out of emails, ranging from one week to nine months.

Of course, what works in direct mail doesn’t usually translate to the email channel. Most subscribers don’t have the time to read through large paragraphs of copy. Emails must be succinct and marketers need to get to the point quickly to drive an action from subscribers.

In addition, email marketing campaigns’ deliverability rates can be hindered by the large images, fancy fonts and bold graphics that may work well in print. Indeed, ‘images off’ is the default setting for the majority of email clients.

While marketers can usually control what their print mailings are going to look like, that’s not always the case for email. It’s important to pay attention to what the email message looks like without images and graphics enabled to ensure subscribers can still understand the purpose of the offer being sent, or use a campaign rendering tool that enables companies to test the content of their email marketing campaigns across a variety of email clients and environments before sending them out.

But the traditional direct mail tactic of giving subscribers control over their subscriptions is a great way to ensure relevancy and to stay out of the spam folder. Subscribers are more likely to engage with a brand when they are given the choice of what emails they receive, and when and how often they receive them. They are also much less likely to unsubscribe or complain about the emails they receive.

Margaret Farmakis

Published 23 August, 2010 by Margaret Farmakis

Margaret Farmakis is Senior Director of Strategy Consulting at Return Path and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

9 more posts from this author

You might be interested in

Comments (2)


Daniel HAYTER, Project Manager at

We've had a "pause subscriptions" feature at for few months now, it's definitely a new standard

almost 8 years ago

Andrew Hanelly

Andrew Hanelly, Director of Social Media at TMG

At the end of the day, consumers seem to want control over their relationship with you. As long as you are respectful of that (in practice, not just in theory), there are wins to be had. I like this approach because it's not an all or nothing equation. The "pause" technique gives a third option (1. continue subscription 2. cancel subscription 3. PAUSE - now I don't have to break up with you). Smart marketing. Great post!

almost 8 years ago

Save or Cancel

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 Digital Pulse newsletter. You will 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.