How I Learned to Break Up with Un-Subscribers

Breaking up is hard to do! I mean how many boyfriends have I gone through, the long stretch across the dinner table saying “Its not you, its me!” The sad look, the awkwardness. Being a picky girlfriend and business owner, I can somewhat proudly say that I am a pro at break ups. (Don’t tell my current boyfriend please)

As tough as it may be, sometimes breaking up with unengaged subscribers is best for the both of you. You can’t be shy about unsubscribing contacts, after all they may no longer have value to you and as a result of keeping them around, you may be neglecting the loyal ones. Every pro has their first steps. When I first took the aggressive step of deleting 30% of my email list, I was like, why am I doing this? I worked so hard to get them and now, I am just tossing them aside! It was hard at first, but after the initial feeling of loss, I have seen necessary positive gains.

Take a Hike!

It turns out, I wasn’t the only one. My friend bought a business with a mess of an email list. It had 53,000 people on it, but about 13,000 had signed up during a contest and had not been emailed in over 90 days. 10,000 more subscribers had been sequestered into a “do not mail” list and also hadn’t been emailed in over 90 days and another 16,000 were on the newsletter list, which received monthly emails.

I was in the same boat, thinking about spam complaint rates. Mine were high, engagement was low, and a large portion of my email list hadn’t been sent a message in 90 days. It was time do do something!

Graymail Can Be Trouble

My big problem was that was seeing low engagement rates on a contest I was running. I learned that some IGraymailSPs flag email from known graymail senders and send it directly to junk folders, even for brand new subscribers who haven’t even had the chance to engage with your email.

I suspected that the 12,000 who signed up for the contest didn’t really want their emails and if 30% of the company’s email list is people who aren’t opening emails, it can keep emails from being delivered to people who really do want your emails.

Unsubscribing 14,000 people was terrifying! The thing is, after someone doesn’t respond to 10 to 25 emails, one has to ask themselves if these people are worth dumping.

Admit Your Faults

 I really wanted to re-engage others, some that had signed up and never received an email even after more than 90 days. Again with the awkward moments…” uh so, yeah we haven’t been emailing you but we still want to, cool?”. So I refined my language to this email: “Looks like we haven’t been emailing you!” A little under 50% opened that email, and we were back in business.

I made it look like, yeah my bad, but I want ya back! Some people found the humor in it and wroteback that they missed us

Those who opened the email were put back on the promotional list. Those who didn’t open received the same email a couple weeks later with a different subject line and image. Those who didn’t open anything were eventually weaned off the list.

Its important to investigate other reasons people might not be engaging. One reason could be that they have provided an email address they don’t actually use, or maybe they have images turned off, which can foil the tracking pixel.

We Miss You!

One way I acted to reengage customers was to send a text-only reactivation email saying “We miss you”. In it we had customers answer a few siWe-Miss-Youmple questions such as “Are you getting too many emails? Too little emails? What do you want to hear more about?” and other questions. Subscribers had the option of filling out a preference form or unsubscribing.

What started as a 0% open rate grew to 20%. One key was to make sure that I wasn’t using “Spammy” language, where it would trigger peoples spam email alerts, bypassing their actual inbox. Once you lower the spam complaints and the better your deliverability gets, the more you’re convincing email providers that your emails are worth putting in customer’s inboxes. If you are  using an unhealthy or inactive list, you’re at risk of being flagged by ISPs and having your clever campaigns sent right to the junk folder.

Here are some tips that can help!

Consider a One-Time Opt-In

Search your database for those people who haven’t opened or responded to your emails, and ask if they want to continue receiving your emails. If they don’t respond, delete them. Just because someone doesn’t want to receive your emails doesn’t mean they don’t want to buy your products! Most people will appreciate at your attention to their preferences.

Don’t Buy Email Lists!

Shoppers don’t like unsolicited email and don’t want to be on any lists they never subscribed to.  Let users make their own choices.

Don’t Auto Subscribe E-Receipt Recipients

An e-receipt program isn’t an opportunity to go nuts while growing your list. Don’t assume. Ask customers who sign up for e-receipts whether they want your emails.

Make the Unsubscribe Option Very Visible

Put the unsubscribe button at the top of your emails. Make it bold or add some color.

Offer a Preference Center

Ask your subscribers how often they’d like to be contacted and what messages they’d like to receive. This gives subscribers a sense of control over what information they receive and when. It is also great so you can tailor your emails accordingly.

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