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“It’s not you, it’s me. Actually no, it is you. You keep sending me boring, irrelevant emails that I don’t want. Our email relationship was going really well at the beginning  but now its fizzled out and I’m unsubscribing from your emails. For one thing, you just send me way too much. It comes across a bit...desperate."

As an email marketer, does reading this make you cringe? Are you afraid this is what your email subscribers would say to you if they had the chance?

The unsubscribe process doesn’t have to be as painful as a “Dear John” break-up letter, but with the way some brands go about it, it might as well be.

Some customers may need a break from your emails and the freedom to experiment with other options, perhaps via Facebook or Twitter. Keeping in touch through social media may remind customers of what they are missing out on.

Also, you should give customers the opportunity to tell you exactly where you went wrong, and to let you know just how much all of your email communication flaws and bad habits deterred them, as Game does here: 


If you offer me a survey and let receipients give you feedback on why they have chosen to unsubscribe, you may be able to convince somer email relationship that may show me you’re willing to try to change, and at least we can stay on speaking terms.

Another option is to offer customer the option of less frequent emails, as M&S does:


How do top brands deal with the unsubscribe process?

Recently I’ve been researching the unsubscribe processes of some of Britain’s top brands and recommending some best practices for optimising this key stage in the email customer lifecycle.

Many brands are failing to embrace the marketing opportunity created by consumers unsubscribing from their marketing emails. They are dismissing consumers who fall out of love with their emails as lost causes rather than enabling them to enhance their relationship with the brand in a different way.

I found that many brands are inviting email recipients to complain about them by reporting their emails as spam, rather than simply letting them opt-out of their emails easily.

The more difficult the process, the easier it is to complain rather than opt-out. Nearly a quarter of the brands I surveyed (23%) forced subscribers to follow a multi-step unsubscribe process and nearly a fifth (17%) required consumers to log into their account to opt-out of receiving emails.

Marketers who think creatively and provide a simple, one-step process while offering subscribers different ways of engaging with their brand will reap the financial rewards of staying in touch with customers via different channels.

Failing to get the unsubscribe process right means consumers are more likely to increase complaint levels, which could lead to all of the brand’s future email communications being blocked by ISPs.

So change the relationship, don’t end it. Ask where you’re going wrong and be open to feedback, give consumers the option of going ‘on a break,offer them the chance to stay in touch in other ways such as letting them be your friend on Facebook, and make it easy for them to give you a different email address or change their email preferences.

Like any relationship, if the lines of communication aren’t kept open, there’s little hope for a long-term future.

Margaret Farmakis

Published 28 February, 2011 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

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