List Growth, List Management, Strategy and Planning

5 Reasons People Unsubscribe and How to Prevent It

The inbox is a coveted space. One quick glance at the 7990 unread emails lingering in my inbox and I realize there’s a bigger problem. Does my inbox work? Yes perfectly. It’s more of a user error. Having an overfilled inbox is a sign of the times and it seems far more common than we care to admit. So it makes sense that we should recognize the overwhelmed readers.

Why People Unsubscribe - Unread Emails

How does it get to this stage? Well, curiosity gets the better of me far too often and I subscribe to all sorts of interesting publications. I have the best intentions, but like most of us, time seems to be more of an arch nemesis than a long-lost friend, so I accept that I will have to skip a few. Oh and maybe a few more… week after week. The truth is it’s spiralled out of control and I can’t keep up.

When it comes to subscribers, there are 3 types. The first group are the low hanging fruit. You know the people who hand out email addresses like candy. Some have more discerning tastes and give out their email addresses cautiously. And lastly, there are the conspiracy theorists that lock their email addresses up in a vault never to see the light of day.

Earning someone’s email address is a serious privilege. But perhaps it’s time we have a deeper conversation about how to hang on to it. Email marketers constantly struggle with reader engagement. It’s ironic because we’re often the same people complaining about being burnt out by the volume of unopened emails overtaking our inboxes, while also feeling deflated when our readers decide to unsubscribe from our list. It’s quite the predicament.

The hard facts are that in our distraction economy, subscribers regularly question their original choice to subscribe. And why wouldn’t they when forced to make hard choices between the 101 daily messages vying for their attention all in the span of 3 spare minutes. To make matters worse, if your emails are falling into the pile of dreaded skipped over messages again and again, they’re heading for the proverbial chopping block.

Here are the top reasons why people unsubscribe and what you can do to stop list attrition.

  1. Irrelevant content. If you don’t know who you’re writing to and what makes them tick, how can you deliver a message that really resonates with them? Being relevant starts with knowing your readers really well and then organizing subscribers into interest-based streams to deliver content that delights and compels readers to spring into action.

  2. Being boring. Vanilla, corporate, traditional content isn’t going to help you stand out from the noise. Marketers are pretty lively usually brimming with personality so don’t be afraid to use it.  Channel it into your email marketing efforts and watch your customers actually begin to look forward to hearing from you.

  3. Pestering them. Persistence can be noble, but there’s a fine line between being aloof and stalking. When it comes to the inbox wearing out your welcome is easy to do. No one likes to feel annoyed when they look in their inbox and think, “Oh it’s you again, ugh!” so don’t be that person. Find your frequency and stick to it.

  4. Being forgotten. It’s a little bit heartbreaking, but sometimes people forget that they even subscribed in the first place. Don’t worry, it’s probably not you but them. But if they don’t remember who you are, they’re not likely to stick around. But it’s ok because email list quality always trumps quantity so wave farewell to the departed with grace and know that your engagement rates will thank you for it.

  5. Void of value. Readers have high expectations. And they like to keep raising the bar. So if you want a piece of the action, you need to be delivering value every single time you pop into their inboxes and also entertaining readers while doing it. Who said email marketing was for chimps?!

As humans, one of our most amazing traits is that we reserve the right to change our minds. Which certainly makes our lives tougher as marketers. So our job needs to shift from list growth to honing our email marketing game to get better at delivering engaging content that truly enriches our readers’ lives. This means sending messages worth opening, reading, gosh and maybe even clicking.

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