Why unsubscribes are good for your email marketing

4 minute read

Unsubscribes aren’t something that you usually want to see when you’re managing your email marketing, but they can actually be good for you, so don’t be afraid of making it easy for people to opt out – here’s why:

People change. Never forget that when you send an email it’s going to a real person, and real people’s needs and interests change. Your newsletter might have been relevant to their job or hobby before, but they’ve moved on now and it’s just not right for them any more.

When this happens there are 3 possibilities:

1 – They just stop reading. They ignore your emails when they arrive, leaving them languishing unread in the inbox or simply delete them straight away.

2 – They flag your emails as spam. In a recent Windows Live blog post, Hotmail revealed that a staggering “75% of the email messages that people reported as spam are really legitimate newsletters, offers, or notifications that you just don’t want anymore”.

3 – They unsubscribe.

Of these three, unsubscribing is the one you want to encourage people to use. With the other two options you’re wasting time and money sending emails that are never read or reacted to. That’s why you should always make it super-easy for people to opt-out. We automatically add unsubscription links to your email and in the headers, so that certain email services can enable their own unsubscribe links, but you can also insert your own unsubscription links anywhere you like using our email personalisation tools.

When people don’t unsubscribe but stop engaging, your email becomes what’s known as Bacn (pronounced Bacon), or ‘graymail’ – something that someone legitimately signed up for, but no longer wants. Now that email filtering is so good that on average less than 2% of the email in an average inbox is real spam, graymail is the new challenge for keeping the inbox relevant. In the same blog post mentioned earlier, Hotmail just announced a new set of tools to help consumers deal with graymail, by automatically filtering newsletters and the like into a separate category of email.

Many email services also look at how many of your recipients open and interact with your emails and use this to decide whether your emails get delivered to the inbox or the junk folder in future – not just for that person, but for all recipients at that provider. That means that you want to ensure that as many of your subscribers as possible engage with you regularly and that those who don’t unsubscribe instead.

The good news here is that as graymail filtering becomes more intelligent, relevant, engaging email marketing has more chance than ever to stand out in the inbox and get positive reactions. In fact, according to the DMA’s “Power Of Direct (2011)” report, email marketing delivers an average ROI of 4,000% – or $40 for every $1 spent – a long way ahead of the 2,200% return from search and 1,970% return from display advertising.

So – don’t be afraid to let go of a subscriber when it’s not working out. However, if you start to see large shifts in your interaction and unsubscription rates, it’s time to take a look at your strategy and see if you need to rethink your approach. That’s something for another post though…