15 Reasons People Unsubscribe from Your Email List (and What to Do about It)

Let's face it: if you're doing any kind of marketing online, you have to have an email list. Product announcements, special offers, job postings – they all feel personal when you're sending them to individual email addresses. Instead of blasting it all over social media. But if you're not adapting to the email medium, you end up making mistakes, which causes people to unsubscribe. And all that hard work put into getting the person to trust you enough to give you his email address – that work is gone.

Here are the top 15 reasons people unsubscribe from your email list – and what you can do about it:

Reason 1: You're Mister Spam-a-lot

Now that you have their email addresses, time to send as many commercial emails as possible, right? I mean they did willingly sign up for your newsletter. Wrong! This type of thinking needs to go away. With all the tools available today, you should be able to understand your subscribers better: what their names are, what their location is and what they want and need.

Reason #1 Why People Unsubscribe

TIP 1: Start a relationship, based on trust and mutual understanding. Let yourself known, tell the story of your company, talk about your vision. Send the occasional email newsletter, but only when you've made sure your subscribers were on board with your company's message.

Reason 2: You Make Mistakes

I don't just mean not using spell-check or sending at the wrong time, but more along the lines of: you send the brand new women-only promotion to your entire list. This sort of mistake can and will cost you subscribers. They'll soon realize that all the automation in the world is pointless, if your thinking isn't straight. If your vision isn't clear enough.

Reason #2 Why People Unsubscribe

TIP 2: Double and triple check your newsletters and try to have fun while doing it. Get an Intern to do it if you're too busy. But make sure mistakes are a thing of the past – you want to create an authentic relationship, based on professionalism and excellence in customer service.

Reason 3: You Don't Segment Your List

Once you've got your subscribers, the fun begins. Taking care of your list is not what most people consider to be “fun”, but it's a way of interacting with your subscribers. Making sure that they will receive the most personalized and suitable newsletters from you.

Reason #3 Why People Unsubscribe

TIP 3: One way of doing this is male/female. That's pretty basic. Next up you've got specific names (do they have a name day soon?). You can also segment based on activity – did this subscriber open all your past 3 newsletters and also click to the website? He must be a VIP, treat him as such.

Reason 4: You Send Too Often

I've heard cases where electronic retailers were sending 4 newsletters a day. To the same list. Just to make sure they read something, anything from them. The retailer also mentioned the unsubscribes weren't as big of an issue and that open rates were quite good using this method. But then again, that's just PR.

Reason #4 Why People Unsubscribe

TIP 4: Think about your product, your company, your vision and yourself. How often would you want to receive newsletters? Testing is in order and also think about offering options when they subscribe – daily digest, weekly roundup, monthly newsletter.

Reason 5: You Don't Send Often Enough

Sometimes you have much more news to cover than you can fit in a small monthly email. But if you don't realize your subscribers actually want more from you, you're in trouble. They'll forget about you and your company and guess what? They will sort through their emails and will finally decide to unsubscribe.

Reason #5 Why People Unsubscribe

TIP 5: Test frequency options and ask for feedback. Put yourself in their shoes. If you're a news site or one focused on great content, you will want to promote most of it. Not because it's your website, but because you know it will bring value to their lives.

Reason 6: You're Boring

Content Marketing is hard. So is email. Creating great content takes time, dedication, insights and experience. If you're missing any of these or if you're not excited about your own company's email, it's time to take a step back and reassess.

Reason #6 Why People Unsubscribe

TIP 6: Your product might be boring, but your Email Marketing shouldn't be. Try adding animated .GIFs. Switching up your templates. Try sending just one product instead of a long list. Ask them one single question. Try something with video. Break up the monotony and don't be boring!

Reason 7: You Don't Ask for Feedback

Proclaiming your offers are the best, that your prices are the lowest is not always the best way to please a subscriber. Sometimes, all he needs is a question. A reason to tell you, really tell you how he feels about your company. And how you can improve it.

Reason #7 Why People Unsubscribe

TIP 7: When you're setting up your emailing schedule, make sure to always include a feedback email. It doesn't have to be something that repeats itself for the same subscriber. Try to automate this email to arrive for all new subscribers after 2-3 emails – “How are we doing? Would you mind answering a short 5-minute survey?”

Reason 8: You're Not Providing Exclusivity

What's the point in asking for their email if what you're sending is also available online – an article, a coupon or an ebook? Exclusive content is one of the greatest ways to increase your email list. But if your tactic isn't implemented well, you're bound to lose subscribers.

Reason #8 Why People Unsubscribe

TIP 8: You should always strive to look at email as its own medium – because it is. If you promote your article on social media, it doesn't mean it will also work as a reward for a subscriber. Look for that exclusivity and give people a real reason to join your mailing list.

Reason 9: You Don't Maintain Your List

Believe it or not, sending an email telling your subscribers they'll be unsubscribed is a good thing. Don't make the mistake of thinking once you have your list, that's yours forever. Email lists need fresh blood once in a while – you need a constant flow of new subscribers. You also need to trim the old ones.

Reason #9 Why People Unsubscribe

TIP 9: Getting rid of inactive or uninterested subscribers can be done automatically. A more elegant way is to notify them first. That way, they might surprise you and actually give you feedback on why they haven't opened any of your last newsletters.

Reason 10: You Don't Create Original Content

There's no way around it – you need to be engaging, fun and original. The age of Inbound Marketing is upon us. And unless you realize this is what gets subscribers back to you and your company, you're dead in the water.

Reason #10 Why People Unsubscribe

TIP 10: Start writing and creating content yourself. Make it good-enough, not perfect. Put your whole heart into it. Do your research, analyze and test. If you just can't cut it, hire a designer and a copywriter and let them do their magic – led by you or someone who's an expert in Content Marketing.

Reason 11: You're Abusing the One Time Offer

Just because they gave you their email address doesn't mean you're free to do what you please with it. If your subscribers didn't allow you to send them more than 1 promotional email, I'm afraid you're out of luck.  You should be honest in all your communication. So if you lie to your subscribers from the get go, how are they going to trust you later on?

Reason #11 Why People Unsubscribe

TIP 11: If you want to avoid unsubscribes from your list, try to make your language clear. Mention the fact that after the one time offer (be it free guide, video and so on), they'll continue to receive emails from you. Better yet, have a check-box asking them whether or not they'd like to receive further emails from you.

Reason 12: You're Using the Wrong Language

A skateboarder has a different vocabulary than a 21 year old studying Microbiology. An internet marketer has a vastly different lingo than a construction worker. If you're using the wrong language, people will sense it right away. And classify you as fake.

Reason #12 Why People Unsubscribe

TIP 12: Before you even attempt to send one single newsletter, you should have customer personas configured. Ideas and statistics about your ideal customer. That way, you'll always hit your mark and you won't sound weird. Also, if you have a multi-language website, make sure to ask people what language they use. You don't want to end up sending Dutch language newsletters to someone who only speaks Japanese.

Reason 13: You Don't Realize They've Changed

Not only do your subscribers age, but they get married. They move to a different city, they enter a new career. Your newsletter about finding the perfect University might become obsolete, if you're not paying attention.

Reason #13 Why People Unsubscribe

TIP 13: Once every 3-6 months try to send a very short survey asking your subscribers about their current status. Even if they mention nothing has changed, you'll get a small boost in open rates and you'll end up on their radar again.

Reason 14: Your Newsletters Look Horrible on Mobile

It's crucial you adapt to the new web. People are multitasking, task switching and have different behaviors. They start reading a book on their computer, switch to a tablet to lay on a couch and check email at the end of the day, on their mobile, in bed. Your designs should adapt to all of this.

Reason #14 Why People Unsubscribe

TIP 14: Talk to your designer and programmer or make sure you test the newsletters you send. First on mobile – since it's becoming more and more of online traffic – and then on other platforms, systems and apps. Things like Microsoft Outlook, Gmail on Android or the newly-launched Inbox.

Reason 15: You Don't Care

One of the most obvious reasons, but one that's overlooked by big retailers. Caring should feel natural. Caring is human. Yet something happens when we sit in front of the computer and talk to another person. Your subscriber stops being a person and starts being a consumer. If you've gone down this road, nothing good can come of it.

Reason #15 Why People Unsubscribe

TIP 15: Send the kind of newsletters you'd like to receive: fun, open, short. Ask questions, present an idea, request feedback. Try to act like a human being, even if all you're after is their wallets. You will end up with a more powerful relationship that will pay off in the long run.

Calling all Email Marketers! How do you stay fresh and on top of every little reason people might unsubscribe from your list?

Featured Image Copyright TheNounProject

Sorin Amzu is a Digital Marketing Specialist, interested in Content Management and Growth. He shares advices and articles on growth hacking on this twitter account.
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