Surveying Your Subscribers who Leave

We’ve all been there, losing readers to our blog, losing subscribers to our newsletters. When this happens consistently we sometimes tend to panic, analyzing the numbers resulting from each send. Open rates, click rates, and so on.

We can estimate what the problem may be, however the only way to resolve the underlying issue is to go directly to the source. Ask the question and get some real answers.

  • Is it your content?
  • Are you sending too often?
  • Are you sending timely information when it matters to the subscriber?

It may seem counterintuitive to survey those who are opting out. However, the responses will help with understanding what variables you should test in order to increase the effectiveness of your email marketing strategy.

Here are some tips for surveying:

1. Check what data is already collected by your Email Service Provider before replicating the effort, data and ask more questions that are unnecessary.  Some ESPs will ask the subscriber why they are leaving.


If your ESP doesn’t provide a survey for those unsubscribing, here’s what you can to do to make it short and painless and still get the information you need to adjust your strategy if necessary.

2. Make the survey short. Try to keep it to 1 burning question. (Have more questions? See the next suggestion.) Don’t ask 10, 20, 50 questions or you risk losing the survey results.

3. Ask the most important and very targeted question first. “Can you please take a moment to tell us why you’re unsubscribing?” should be at the top of the list with a paragraph form box for a detailed answer.

4. Collect data for more than a week or two. Before making changes to any email marketing strategy, making a decision quickly because panic is inspiring action is not the way to go. Collect the data for at least 6 weeks.

5. Do something with the data collected (do the work). One idea? Feed all of the long form answers into a word cloud generator and see what stands out. Then dig into the answers for more detail. Collecting is only the first step, analyzing the data is the part that helps you make decisions.

6. Test one variable at a time. In order to determine what changes are actually influential to your email marketing, testing one variable at a time is vital. If you change a bunch of things at once, you’ll never know which of the changes truly moved the needle.

7. Ask subscribers to change their frequency preferences or to subscribe to other lists that may be relevant to their needs. If the monthly newsletter isn’t working for them, tips and tricks on email marketing for instance may be a better fit. Make the choices clear and state exactly what’s to be expected in terms of frequency or information.

The survey is the best way to start asking better questions. It isn’t necessarily going to give you instant, game changing answers but it will start you down the path of creating more fulfilling, more valuable emails that will retain current subscribers and attract new ones.

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