Breaking up is hard. Especially when you’ve put in so much work to keep someone interested and invested in your relationship.

When someone unsubscribes from your email list, it hurts too. Kind of like getting dumped in the ninth grade. Oh, the drama!

Don’t take it personally when a customer unsubscribes from your mailing list. All you can do is think about what went wrong and make sure it doesn’t happen again. Not repeating your mistakes means learning from them and finding the right customers that will stick with you for the long term in a healthy relationship that works for both parties.

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Understanding the problem

GetData surveyed over 500 internet users to learn the most common reasons for unsubscribing from an email newsletter. Mostly everyone said they received too many emails and a lot of them said the emails they’d received looked like spam.

Let’s take a deeper look at why emails fall short, and learn what to do to stop customers from unsubscribing in the future.

1. Readers lose interest

Let’s start off with an easy one: your readers are losing interest in the content you’re sending. This could be because your content isn’t relevant to them, or maybe it was relevant once upon a time, but their tastes and preferences have changed and they’re looking for something else.

If you’re sending them too much or too little content in your email, it can contribute to them losing interest as well. A newsletter that’s 6,000 words long is just as ineffective as a two-line newsletter. Make sure the quality of the content in each email remains consistently valuable, and your customers will start to become more engaged in what you’re sending.

2. You’re sending too many emails

Last year we asked 1400 readers why they unsubscribe, and 69% of them said they receive too many irrelevant emails from a business.

An email inbox is a coveted space, with far too many brands fighting for attention. Sending multiple emails a week can work when done well, but there’s a distinct line between reaching out with valuable content and spamming your readers. No one likes to look at their inbox and think, “That’s the third time I’ve had to delete an email from this brand!” 

Find a frequency and value proposition that works for your specific audience, whether that means a monthly newsletter rounding up your top blogs or a simple giveaway announcement. Save your impromptu emails for when you’ve got something exciting to announce or an upcoming sale. Readers will be more likely to engage with you when your brand is known for only sending emails that really matter to them.

3. You’ve got your segmentation all wrong

This happens more often than you think. You ended up adding the wrong readers to a list that is not relevant to them at all. It’s like sending a dog owner details on where to buy fish food. Improper segmentation has a high risk of making customers unsubscribe from your emails. Use your knowledge of your customers to talk with them one-on-one, taking your personalization to the next level.

Even established brands make mistakes. In 2014, Shutterfly sent an email to its entire list congratulating them on their ‘new arrivals’ – including people that didn’t have any kids. Their gaffe created an immediate flood of posts on their social media accounts, and Shutterfly’s chief marketing officer was forced to make a formal apology.  Keeping a helpful email marketing checklist handy will allow you to avoid mistakes like these.

4. Your emails look and sound spammy

Spammy emails either get weeded out by email spam filters or don’t get opened by the reader because they look fishy. It all begins with your subject line. In fact, 33% of email recipients open emails (or don’t) based on subject lines.

Here’s a screenshot from my personal inbox:

Spammy email example

While the nerd in me is interested in everything IBM does or says, I really don’t remember ever signing up to receive their emails and turns out, the email isn’t even from them! Take a look at this screenshot of their ‘Send From’ email address.

Spammy email example

This reeks of spam.

Follow these subject line best practices to stay out of the spam folder:

•    Stay short and sweet. Use four to seven words.

•    Avoid anything spammy.

•    Avoid ALL CAPS and excessive punctuation.

•    Ask a question. Questions can pique your reader’s interest.

•    Include a deadline. Create a sense of urgency 

Avoid losing subscribers

Create a permission-based email list that includes a checkbox for users to opt-in to your mailing list. You could also implement an email sign up form that allows users who don’t want to make a purchase right away to give you their email addresses. You can add this form on your website or blog and even in your bios on social media.

Offering incentives to people who sign up for your list can be a great way to get their email address. You could add the new folks to an automated email campaign that will send them relevant content in a timely manner. This email series could include resources such as a downloadable and educational guide.

Use your personal experience to guide you

Chances are you’ve been on both sides of the unsubscribe before. Don’t sweat it. If someone is bent on unsubscribing, they will. Just make sure to provide consistent value to readers and let them know the kind of content they will be receiving from you before they sign up. This makes it easy for people to know what they’re likely to receive, before giving up their information. Check, re-check, and re-re-check your email campaigns before hitting send so you’re not giving people a reason to leave. Once they’ve clicked that link, they’re likely gone.

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