How to Get In My Inbox: Confessions of an Email Unsubscribe Addict

email-overloadHi, my name is Alexis and I am a recovering email subscriber addict. If you've ever sold anything online, I have probably received your email. During the worst of it I was getting over 100 promotional emails a day. I would sign up for anything and everything.

Free samples? I’m in.

Discounts? Yes, please.

Merchandise online sold in the UK? Maybe I will move there one day.

I hit rock bottom when Gmail rolled out their new inbox. Lurking under the 'Promotions' tab were hundreds of unread emails that had nothing to do with my interests or needs. The number kept climbing and my anxiety kept rising. How will I get through all of them? What if I miss a deal?

Then I realized, 99% of these emails weren’t offering me anything. I was allowing them to send me spam on the off chance that I would get 30% off something I had been coveting for weeks. They didn’t know who I was or what my interests were. They didn’t know my shopping habits. They just knew my email address. Now, I'm the opposite of an email subscribe addict -- I'm an email unsubscribe addict.

Tired of scrolling already? Here's a quick overview of the rest of the post. Gmail's Promotions tab might make it harder for some businesses to get in front of consumers, so focus on creating personalized email content, segmenting your email lists, and sending content that has actual value for the reader. For more help improving your email conversion, download this free ebook The Complete Guide to Optimizing Email Marketing for Conversions.

Commence Project Unsubscribe

Next came: Project Unsubscribe. I spent a few hours combing through my Promotions email tab and unsubscribing from those that didn’t fit my needs. When all was said and done, I was down to 20 subscriptions. Here are the questions I used to decide if you were worthy of making it to my inbox.

  1. Have I opened one of your emails in the last month?
  2. Do you send me personalized emails based on my past behavior?
  3. Is this email relevant to my life? Do I need what you're selling?
  4. Is it easy for me to connect to your site via links in the email?
  5. Does it take me more than two minutes to read your email?
  6. Is it easy to unsubscribe if I choose to in the future?

The trend here? I kept emails that provided me with useful, relevant information, and that made my life easier. Here's one email that, based on this criteria I laid out, didn't make the cut:


I received this email four weeks after my wedding. I’d say it is a bit late for save the dates. Even if I loved their stationary -- and I do -- I felt a bit slighted. This email is appealing to the masses, not to a recently married woman. Had they sent me a discount on, say, monogrammed stationary for my new initials, I would have been happy to stay subscribed.

So let's flip this criteria around, and see what it means for email marketers trying to keep the email lists active and engaged. Here are a few tips to try out on your next email send (if your subscribers are anything like me):

  • Personalize your emails past “Hi, {first name}." Using my name in the email might improve conversion rates, but personalizing the tone and language to match your audience will make people feel that you understand them. 
  • Use behavioral intelligence. What did I interact with the last time I was on your site? What does that tell you about who I am and what I need? Use this information to deliver a message that is relevant to my needs.
  • Help me understand why I am getting this email. And do it quickly! I should be able to understand the goal of your email, and what I can get out of it, in just a few seconds.

To give you an idea of companies doing email right, here are a few companies that I stayed subscribed to:

1) Wedding Paper Divas


This email was sent the day after my wedding. Wedding Paper Divas took the information they knew about me (my wedding date) and sent me a thoughtful email. They understood where I was in the wedding process, and sent me relevant and timely info on photo keepsakes -- not, say, a wedding planning checklist.

2) TheNest


TheNest sent me a very relevant email based on my life events: First comes love, then comes marriage, and then comes the house. Their email contains six helpful links, all of which are relevant to where I am in my life, and aligned with my interests and needs.

3) ProFlowers


This email wasn’t sent to me -- it comes from a colleague -- but I thought it was too good an example of behavioral intelligence to pass up. My colleague ordered her cousin flowers for her birthday last year. She ordered them 2 days prior to her birthday. One year later, she got this email. ProFlowers knew she would probably wait until the last minute again (don't we all) and sent her a friendly reminder email.

Have you seen the new Gmail Inbox impact your subscription lists? How about your email conversion rates? Share your experiences in the comments.

Image credit: hyperdashery

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