Now that you've done the hard work of developing a great email sign-up box, finding the right locations to solicit both existing customers and new leads to sign-up for your email marketing or newsletter list, and streamlining the process, how do you keep your subscribers active and engaged and control opt-outs and email unsubscribe requests? Managing your email list also means managing subscribers once they've joined. In this section, we'll talk about what to do to handle and minimize email unsubscribe requests and opt-out notifications.
Step 1: Offer Great Content and a Valuable Email Product
The first thing that you want to do, of course, is to minimize how many subscribers actually choose to unsubscribe from your email list. What's the best way to do that? Provide them with an email product that they'll be excited to receive and will look forward to reading. You'll still sometimes have users who simply want to minimize how much email they're receiving, but if you take the time to carefully develop and craft your email marketing or newsletter program, if you think about what consumers really want, and if you test and optimize different ideas, you can dramatically reduce the number of email unsubscribe requests that you receive. If, on the other hand, you email non-valuable content frequently to your subscriber base, you'll experience high volumes of both email unsubscribe requests and spam complaints. Both of these will negatively impact your sender reputation score and future email marketing programs.
Step 2: Be Sure to Process Opt-Outs or Email Unsubscribe Requests in a Timely Manner
Once somebody does unsubscribe from your email marketing list, you need to process the email unsubscribe request as quickly as possible. Legally, CAN-SPAM only requires that you process email opt out or unsubscribe requests within ten business days. However, if a person unsubscribes from your email and then receives another email from you two days later, not only will you likely get a customer service complaint, you will most likely also get a spam complaint filed with the email service provider. If you are using a third-party email marketing platform such as Comm100, then it's likely that your email unsubscribe or opt-out requests are being handled instantly. However, if you are building a proprietary in-house email system or manually removing opt-out or email unsubscribe requests, it's recommended that you have a process that ensures that all opt-out or email unsubscribe requests are handled within ten business days or prior to the next time that you send email, whichever is shorter.
Step 3: Allow Users to Unsubscribe from Individual Lists or to Universally Unsubscribe
If you manage multiple email list segments, it's advisable to allow users to choose between simply opting-out of a single email list or opting-out of all future emails from you. CAN-SPAM requires that you offer the ability to unsubscribe from all future emails from any main list or sub-list (referred to as a "universal unsubscribe"). However, if you have multiple special interest lists, you can often preserve your relationship with a subscriber by allowing them to simply opt-out of one type of list. For example, you may have one email list that you send special offers to, one that you send newsletter content to, and a third that you send only information related to new products to. You can allow your users to choose to not receive any email, or to individually choose which lists to no longer receive email from. In the second case, a user may only want to stop receiving information on new products. If you only offer a universal unsubscribe option, then that user will unsubscribe from all emails and you will never be able to contact them again. If you offer the user the ability to manage which email lists he or she is active on, you may only experience a reduction in the number of emails that you can send to the user. Many third-party email marketing platforms, including Comm100, offer an easy module to allow users to login to a management page and choose which of your email sub-lists they wish to remain on or unsubscribe from. However, always remember that you are legally required to offer users the ability to easily unsubscribe from all future emails from you.
Step 4: Offer Multiple Channels to Unsubscribe
You want to make it easy for your users to unsubscribe. This is both a CAN-SPAM requirement and a choice that is in your best interest. CAN-SPAM requires that users need only reply to your email or make one, single click from your email in order to unsubscribe. You want to not only ensure that that is the process that you use, but you also want to make sure that users can easily find the unsubscribe information in your email so that they do not become frustrated and mark you as spam.
Step 5: The Unsubscribe Confirmation Email
The debate over whether you should send a confirmation email after a user opts-out or unsubscribes from your email list is a debate that has never reached a conclusive answer. On the one hand, your former subscriber has made it clear that he or she does not want to receive any future emails from you. On the other hand, it's one last chance to communicate with your subscriber within the ten business day window before they must be entirely removed from your email list. We think that it's absolutely fine to send one final email confirming that you have received the user's request to unsubscribe and are removing them from the email list promptly. You can also use that email to solicit information from them (either by linking to a survey or by asking them to contact customer service) about why they opted-out of your email list. You may be able to gain valuable information about how to improve your email marketing program and avoid future email unsubscribe requests.
Losing members of your email or contact list is unavoidable no matter how well-developed your email marketing or newsletter plan is. However, managing email unsubscribe requests effectively and in a way that helps you maintain the health of your list and gather useful information can turn a negative into a positive.
Actively emailing your clients or customers while they are engaged with your brand, product or company has a two-fold benefit and may be the most important segment of email marketing. It extends the customer's life cycle with you by extending their feeling of relationship with you. It also drives revenue and sales through offers and incentives. When planning your email marketing program, make sure to put great thought into email techniques during the active customer life cycle.
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