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Jason Green

By: Jason Green on July 29th, 2019

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Why Are People Opting Out of My Emails?

Email Marketing

Marketing communications usually contain an email opt-out option, which is generally a link at the end that says “unsubscribe.”  Of course, you hope that none of your recipients ever click the unsubscribe link. But what if they do? 

Email opt-outs are a fact of life in email marketing. While you can’t avoid them entirely, you can keep email opt-outs to a minimum if you understand why people unsubscribe. 

Five reasons behind email opt-outs

There are a few common reasons behind the majority of opt-outs.

1. The recipient didn’t choose to subscribe

When someone gives you their email address, it doesn’t mean that they’ve given consent to join a mailing list. 

People will give you their email address for a number of reasons, such as when they create an online account, or they want to access gated content. Even if you include a disclaimer asking for permission to send marketing communications, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they want your emails. 

If you send emails that the recipient hasn’t asked to receive, there’s a good chance they’ll unsubscribe. 

2. The recipient no longer needs your emails

Circumstances change. People retire, they change jobs, or their career moves forward, and they now have different needs. Your emails were useful in the past, but now they’re junk. 

If that’s the case, then these people will eventually unsubscribe. Sometimes, that’s a good thing as it helps you to keep your distribution lists current. Other times, it means that you’re failing to stay in touch with the needs of your members. 

3. You’re sending too many emails

Everyone is pressed for time these days, and reading emails is one of the biggest strains on productivity. If someone’s inbox is full of unread emails from your association, there’s a chance that the recipient will hit the unsubscribe button.

How many emails are too many? There’s no universal rule, but in general, you should aim to send as few emails as possible. 

4. Emails aren’t relevant to the recipient

Why does anyone open an email? Because they hope it will contain some useful information. 

Your communication has to contain something that’s going to enlighten, inform, or entertain the recipient. Above all, it has to be relevant – people don’t want to receive announcements for chapters in other cities or notifications about programming that doesn’t help them do their job. 

If it feels like your emails are aimed at someone else, the recipient will unsubscribe. 

5. Your emails look like spam

Most people are savvy enough to spot spam emails when they hit their inbox. Signs can include an unusual sender name or a clickbait title that urges you to click on the message. 

If you try to hard sell in your email headers, your emails may appear to be spam. Even if they get past the email server’s spam filters, the recipient might still choose to flag it as spam rather than risk opening it. 

Other things that could get you flagged as spam include using unusual sender info or sending from multiple email addresses.  

How do I stop people unsubscribing?

1. Send fewer emails

The golden rule of email marketing is quality, not quantity. Cut out all non-essential emails and try to combine content where possible. A single weekly email that results in high engagement is better than a daily email that gets ignored. 

2. Create targeted distribution lists

Don’t use a single email distribution list. Break your list down into several smaller lists based on factors such as location and job title. You can use segmentation tools to break these lists down further according to things like interests and buyer personas. 

3. Let people manage their email preferences

Ideally, members should be able to log into the association website and manage their own email preferences. This includes the option to update their address, to choose what kind of emails they want to receive, to select individual emails or a single weekly digest, and to specify the topics that interest them. 

4. Don’t oversell in the subject line

Spam emails usually have ridiculous subject lines, exhorting you to “read now!” for an “incredible offer!”

If your subject lines sound like spam, you’ll probably end up in the spam folder. Use clear, honest titles that explain why this email has real value for the recipient. Make sure that the content of the email delivers on the promise of the subject line. 

5. Ask if everyone is getting value from the newsletter

The newsletter is one of those emails that you can’t target. It generally has to go out to every member, and most recipients consider it to be a core benefit of their membership. 

However, it’s possible that your newsletter doesn’t appeal to the whole of your audience. If one group is constantly being ignored, they will stop opening your email and may end up unsubscribing. Try to include a variety of content in the newsletter – something for everyone. 

6. Provide something exclusive to email

Sometimes, people unsubscribe from emails because all of the content is available on the website. If you want to keep email as an active communication channel, you have to offer these people an incentive. 

This can be anything from email-only content, exclusive offers or discounts, or advance notification of events. If your subscribers have a fear of missing out on valuable emails, they won’t touch the unsubscribe button.

7. Perform exit surveys

When someone unsubscribes, you have an opportunity to ask for some feedback. Ask them to explain why they chose to unsubscribe and what might make them sign up again. Make sure you have a system in place to act on that feedback and improve your email communication.

Should I get rid of the unsubscribe button?

In a word: no.

First of all, CAN-SPAM rules oblige you to provide an unsubscribe option. If you remove this option, you’re officially a spammer. 

More importantly, any attempt to make it difficult to unsubscribe is self-defeating. If a recipient can’t unsubscribe with one click, then they’ll simply mark you as a Junk Mail sender. Your emails will no longer reach their inbox – and your sender reputation will be damaged. 

Anyway, why would you keep emailing someone who didn’t want your messages? Email automation platforms charge per email sent, so you’re wasting money on these people. It’s best for all parties if you make it as easy as possible to unsubscribe. 

Instead, focus on the reasons why people unsubscribe. If you provide useful, timely, personalized content, then the unsubscribe button will never be needed.

About Jason Green

Jason has an uncanny ability to communicate complex technical solutions across client teams while executing from non-technical descriptions. He has a Bachelors of Science in Information Technology Web Management and spent 13 years working at the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Having worked in an association for that length of time, he knows how best to communicate the value of technology solutions to empower the member experience.