Top 7 reasons people unsubscribe from your email list

Email marketing pros discuss the main reasons people unsubscribe from email lists and offer advice on what you can do to decrease unsubscribe rates.

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And again, don’t forget, a large portion of subscribers are reading your emails, or trying to, on a mobile device.

“Very rarely do I check email on an actual computer, yet I receive many emails that are structured for desktop use only,” says Michelle Brammer, marketing and PR manager,, a digital advertising company. And when viewed on a smartphone or tablet, these emails can appear cluttered, or may not even load, she adds.

“To grab attention quickly, and swiftly, and avoid deletion, make sure images load quickly, use a readable font size, make the subject line relevant to the context,” and keep the message short and sweet, she says. “Failure to clearly convey the message [quickly] will result in deleting the email, or worse, unsubscribing.”

5. The content isn’t relevant to them. 

“People subscribe to email newsletters because they believe the sender has something valuable to offer,” says Farmiloe. “But sometimes [marketers] don't acknowledge subscriber preferences and send content that doesn't match what the subscribers want. That's when that unsubscribe button gets pressed, when content isn't personalized.” The solution: “Take the time to segment subscribers based on their preferences and campaign activity. Personalize content with targeted offers and consistent content,” Farmiloe says.

“It seems so simple and straightforward: Understand your target audience and provide content that is relevant for them,” says Linda Pophal, owner/founder, Strategic Communications. “But, despite the fact that we all know this to be true, too often we fail to deliver. Why? Because we are, by nature, internally focused. We understand us more than we understand them.” And, as a result, we lose them.

To keep subscribers subscribed, “take steps to understand and stay up-to-date on your audience's needs and interests,” she advises. “You can do this by being attentive to the content they are most interested in, by frequenting online discussion groups that your audience engages in, by monitoring relevant social media channels and by conducting research ( focus groups and/or polls and surveys) every once in a while to seek feedback from your audience.”

“People [typically] sign up for email newsletters because [they’re] relevant to their lives at that moment,” says Brammer. “New parents, for example, sign up to learn more about strollers or bottles and pacifiers.” However, “if you're still sending the same message two to three years later, the content isn't following the customers' journey,” she says. To keep customers interested, “modify the email pitch,” so it is relevant to where they are at now.

“If you neither email people with any new or interesting information nor any promotions of any real value, then what are you emailing them?” asks Ken Wisnefski, CEO, WebiMax, an Internet marketing company. “People are busy and they get a lot of email. If you want people to stay subscribed, and open your email, there has to be something in it for them, otherwise you are wasting their time, and they will unsubscribe.”

6. You’re always trying to sell them something.

“Some people unsubscribe because every email they get from you is an advertisement to buy your products or services,” says Gloria Rand, an Internet marketing consultant. “Don't barrage your subscribers with sales emails all the time.” Instead, “follow the 80/20 rule: 80 percent of your emails should feature helpful tips or strategies related to your industry, [or] free ebooks, templates or registrations for free webinars. The other 20 percent of your emails can be sales-related.”

“As business owners we all want to convert potential leads into paying customers,” says Brian Bowers, assistant director of operations, 48 Hour Film Project. “But dumping someone into a sales funnel right away is the quickest way to get them to unsubscribe.” Indeed, “people are inundated with thousands of virtual sales pitches every day. If your email is just a hard sell to get them to purchase something, it's going to get lost in the shuffle.”

The solution: “Provide [helpful information and] original, relevant content in your newsletters,” he says. “It not only keeps your emails from looking like a sales pitch, but also establishes you as an expert who has legitimate solutions to help solve their problems. Sure, not everyone will end up buying, but you can bet that when the time comes that they do need your help, you'll be at the top of their list of people to turn to.”

7. They feel your content is boring, unoriginal and/or repetitive.

“Creating content is hard. Producing varied and engaging content is even harder,” says Tyler Walton, marketing manager, Clutch, a loyalty program provider. “Yet, it's worth the effort to ensure that subscribers don't find your content repetitive and boring. In fact, content marketing research shows that marketers who align content to their audiences' interests at specific stages of the buyer's journey enjoy an average 73 percent higher conversion rates vs. marketers who don't do so,” he points out.

Furthermore, “not only should your value-added content be varied, the way you present it should be as well. Use blog posts, articles, infographics, SlideShares, pictures and videos to convey your story in a diverse way,” Walton says. And “if you can't come up with interesting content at the frequency you initially promised [or desired], slow down your pace. Your subscribers won't complain [about] less quantity as long as you give them great quality.”

“If you're providing information that can be found anywhere, by default you are not providing value,” says Pophal. “With so much content freely available to audiences of all kinds, those that are able to provide unique information will gain and maintain an audience.”

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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