7 Tips to Improve Your Unsubscribe Process

Too often in email marketing the unsubscribe process is overlooked.  Marketers have the attitude of, “They’re leaving anyway; why does it matter if the process is a good one?”  I think this is a huge missed opportunity, and that the unsubscribe process can actually be used to re-win over your subscribers.  Read on for my seven tips on how to improve your unsubscribe process, and feel free to comment below if you have any tips of your own!

Tip #1: Be Immediate!

While the CAN-SPAM Act says that marketers have 10 days to remove an opt-out from their list, best practice is to implement an immediate removal.  This will help to keep your recently-departed subscribers happy, and will cut down on complaints.

Think about it: if you opted out from a company’s emails, and then received another email from them the next day, wouldn’t that make you irate?  You’d probably think that your opt-out request wasn’t received, or was ignored, and you’d end up hitting the big old “This is Junk” button, thus registering a complaint.

Remember: the typical subscriber isn’t as email savvy as we may think they are, so they won’t necessarily understand that you have a 10-day leeway to remove them from your list.  Nor will they care – they’ll expect to be removed immediately!  Respect and honor your subscriber’s wishes, and make sure their opt-out requests are taken care of and acted upon immediately.  If you’re using an email service provider (ESP) to help you with your email campaigns, you should be able to take advantage of their immediate, maybe even “one-click”, opt-out mechanism.

Tip #2: Don’t Hide the Unsubscribe

I am a big fan of making the opt-out link within your emails very easy to find.  In fact, I often encourage clients to “welcome the unsubscribe”.  After all, an opt-out is much better for your reputation than a complaint.  If people are no longer interested in receiving your emails, you’d much rather them opt-out than complain, so make that opt-out link or button a no-brainer.

These days, subscribers have become accustomed to seeing and using the “This is Junk/Spam” button within their email client.  This button feels secure to them, as they trust that by using it they’ll no longer receive emails from your company again.  The button is also easy to find and always in the same place (usually at the top of their screen).  But the downer is that every click of this button is registered as a complaint for your company via a Feedback Loop, and that ultimately hurts your sending reputation.

In comparison, opt-outs do not hurt your reputation, but the option is often hard to find.  The opt-out link in most emails is at the way bottom of the email in super tiny font.  Instead of discouraging subscribers from opting out by trying to hide the link from them, try highlighting it in red or moving it to the top of your email.  I’ve had a few clients who were seeing high complaint rates try this, and the simple act of moving their opt-out link to the pre-header area of their email significantly cut down on their complaint rates.

Tip #3: Offer Opt-Down or Pause Options

Have you ever received too many emails from a sender and wanted to cut down on the number of emails you received, but you didn’t want to opt-out completely?  I have.  Check out this recent screenshot of my personal inbox – that’s 35 emails from just two senders in a two week period!  We all have cluttered inboxes.  Help your subscribers to manage theirs by offering an opt-down option on your opt-out page.  With this option, subscribers would have the ability to receive less frequent mailings from you instead of opting out completely.  For example, offer a quarterly “best of” newsletter instead of a monthly one.  Letting your subscribers choose what works for them will cut down on your unsubscribe rate and will enhance the subscriber experience.

I also really like the idea of offering a pause option on the opt-out page.  DailyCandy does a great job of this; check out their opt-out page.  When I go on vacation, I always pause my DailyCandy emails and set them to start back up again when I return.  This helps me to better manage my inbox, and also allows me to stay subscribed to one of my favorite emails.

Tip #4: Show Subscribers What Else You Have to Offer

Opt-outs often occur when subscribers are just no longer interested in the email content.  If you have other types of emails that you send to subscribers, make sure these are highlighted on your opt-out page.  For example, take another look at the DailyCandy opt-out page.  You’ll see they have a preference center at the bottom of their opt-out page that lists all of their subscription types.  So, for example, if I’m moving from San Francisco and want to start receiving the Dallas emails instead, I can make that change instead of having to opt-out completely.  Showing your subscribers what else you have to offer will decrease your opt-out rate and increase your subscriber retention rate.  Again, it’s all about letting the subscriber choose what works best for them!

Tip #5: Reveal a Little Personality

The typical opt-out process is boring.  You click on a link in the email, you’re brought to a boring page, confirm your opt-out, and that’s it.  With this type of process, the subscriber will feel no remorse at all about opting out.  Try shaking things up a bit by adding some personality to your opt-out process.  That could be with a personalized opt-out page (I encourage all my clients to brand their opt-out page to make for a seamless subscriber experience from email to webpage) or with a fun twist on the opt-out.  Take Groupon for example.  When you opt-out from their list, you’re immediately removed, but also introduced to “Derrick”, the guy who thought you’d enjoy receiving the daily Groupon email and who you can now punish.  Check out the full video here; it’s pretty funny, and maybe even funny enough to make people change their minds about their opt-out.

Tip #6: Survey your Unsubscribes

Wouldn’t it be great to know why people opt-out from your emails?  Ask them!  Take my client Cardstore.com for example.  On their opt-out page, they provide a drop-down menu for people to answer why they are opting out.  The options are:  Never Opted into List, Too Frequent Communication, Not Interested in Material, and Other.  The subscriber can then elaborate on their decision to opt-out in the comment box provided.  This information is not required, but we actually see a lot of people take advantage of this option, and the data can provide some great insight as to how Cardstore.com can improve their email program.

Tip #7: Periodically Test it Yourself

Finally, don’t forget to go through the opt-out process yourself every so often to make sure all is working correctly.  I typically recommend doing this at least once a quarter and definitely before any high email volume times of year (for example: the holiday season).  Go through the entire process to (1) ensure the opt-out link is easy to find within your email, (2) make sure the email link is working and takes you to the correct page, and (3) the opt-out request is processed within an appropriate amount of time (see tip #1).  Checking this process periodically will ensure you are staying CAN-SPAM compliant, and also giving your subscribers, even those on their way out, a good experience from your emails.

Remember: even subscribers who have opted out are still future re-subscribers and maybe even customers.  Treat them as valued subscribers even during the unsubscribe process, and show them that you really care about their preferences.  It may just help to win them over again!

This post was originally written by Joanna Roberts.