The dreaded “unsubscribe” metric. Taming this number is vital for maintaining a healthy contact list to use for promoting your own products or those of potential advertisers. Unfortunately, often times the more emails you send out, the more this number goes up.
Assuming you’ve spent the time to grow your list the right way (and haven’t purchased it), this begs the question: Why are subscribers still dropping off at such a high rate if they’ve opted-in in the first place? Let's look at two of the top culprits—not spending enough time on coordinating your communications and not fully understanding your users.
Send Fewer Emails: Focus on Database Consolidation
All too often, publishers send a high-volume of email due to uncoordinated internal efforts. Unfortunately your audience doesn't stop to consider that you may have different teams internally who each have different goals and different reasons for communicating to them. It doesn’t matter if one email is for subscription renewal, one is for an event invitation and one is a newsletter. These emails all come from the same sender in the eyes of the recipient, and when a reader has five emails from COMPANY X sitting in your inbox, that “unsubscribe” button becomes a lot more tempting.
The first step to send less email and tackle high unsubscribe rates is to unify your databases. By pulling together disparate contact information to understand what your readers are most interested in and which products they engage with, your contact with them can become much less frequent, yet much much more relevant and valuable. You’re able to directly market to them the digital products that align with their previous purchases or actions taken, and then earn their trust along later stages of the buying journey.
For example, if you see that a reader has viewed several pages of the craft beer section of your website during multiple site visits, and has also downloaded a free copy of the local beer trail map that you offer, you could serve them an email offering your weekly beer lovers newsletter along with a discount code for your monthly local craft beer tasting events.
However, sending fewer emails doesn’t work if you don’t coordinate your internal teams. Even with one single database, you still have to manage team member access and designate which department is sending what, and to whom.
Get Your Team on the Same Page When it Comes to Sharing a Database
Create an email calendar for your teams. Specify details like send date/time, target list, sender name, and marketing campaign.
Think about ways you can combine email efforts. Could you have a subscription renewal request with a highlight of the week's top content instead of in two separate communications?
Test email frequency to see how much or little communication is the most successful. Are people unsubscribing or clicking through more after a certain number of emails?
Send More Relevant Emails: Focus on Audience Behavior
When you can better understand the behavior of individual users versus overall audience behavior, you can create more relevant emails for specific lists of readers. Odds are good you already do this in your personal life. Imagine telling the same story to your best friend, mother, and grandmother. Might sound a little different, right? Sending emails to your readers is no different. By knowing what type of language and content they respond to, you can develop a more segmented and informed email strategy.
One simple way to learn a bit more about your readers is with information captured when someone signs up for a subscription or that provided on content-gating forms. Instead of just a name and email address, you can request a few additional details that may be helpful down the line, depending on your publication’s focus and what type of information your advertisers may find relevant. For instance, you could ask for a person’s business title, and then serve all C-level readers a leadership series. Or you could request business size and match those with fewer than 50 employees with a particular small business solution from your advertisers.
With the right software in place, you can continue to track these contacts behavior on your site after their initial conversion. For example, if someone clicks on your social media-focused content and downloads offers related to social media management, you could send them a newsletter with several pieces of additional content on social media.
These minor additional details may not seem like much, but with them you’re able to segment your massive contact list into smaller sub-lists, making each touch point feel like a one-to-one versus one-to-many exchange.
Coordinated and relevant content are the keys to keeping readers engaged with your email campaigns. You've worked hard to grow your email list. Don't let harmful practices diminish on it's return.
Originally published Jul 23, 2015 7:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017