Why the unsubscribes?

It takes quite a bit of time and energy to create an email newsletter.  Writing the stories, putting the newsletter together, assembling and formatting the images, proofing the newsletter, and managing the distribution lists--the list of To Do's makes for quite a time investment. 

And then people unsubscribe! Each unsubscribe can feel like a total rejection.  And with broken heart you'll do the play-by-play in your brain, wondering what made them jump ship.  Was the newsletter uninteresting, not a suitable topic, riddled with errors? It's easy to jump to the conclusion that the content or presentation are at fault.

However, there are a myriad of reasons why people unsubscribe.  Some unsubscribes are simply a reaction to information overload.  People may be receiving hundreds of emails per day and they are looking to eliminate anything they can because they are overwhelmed and they'd rather see their kids after work than stay late to read your newsletter.  Or, while they are interested in a few topics that you've been emailing about, you also send a bunch of information that they aren't interested in, so they're tired of doing the work of scanning through the emails.

With these reasons in mind, it may be time to consider list segmentation and/or a fancy unsubscribe form.

List segmentation means dividing your list based on interest, geographic region, etc.  For example, you may divide a list based on the following criteria:

  • receive weekly updates
  • receive monthly updates
  • receive information about events

This will give people the opportunity to tailor their subscription based on their own preferences.  Start by adding these choices to your newsletter sign-up form, to allow new sign-ups to choose how often you contact them.  Next, export your subscriber list and update existing subscribers retroactively, to say that want to receive all communications and re-import them.  Then, depending on your newsletter software, you may be able to present people with a choice about what communications they want to receive if they try to unsubscribe.  For example, when I tried unsubscribing from a Constant Contact list, I was presented with this question: "Are you sure you wish to stop ALL emails from [Name of Website ] sent to your email address?"

This gives the subscriber an opportunity for some control over how they are contacted, which feels nice.

If you were fundraising by going door-to-door, you would definitely place limitations on when and how often you would drop by.  People that subscribe to your newsletter are often your strongest supporters and yet we often feel like we have the right to send emails to them whenever and as often as we want.  Giving your subscribers a choice about how often you contact them just makes sense.  It restores some of the manners that we take for granted in other communications.  And maybe, it will keep someone subscribed who would otherwise leave.