Permission Based Email Marketing: 6 Tips for Reducing Unsubscriptions

July 30, 2010 - Get free updates of new posts here

Sometimes I wonder about sharing my secrets since it makes competition harder but then it pushes me to just think of something new. (I’ve shared on Okdork too about how to get more subscribers.) On my way to breakfast I just had to get these out. These are some of the best email marketing tips I’ve learned from running AppSumo.

Here’s an excel chart where you can calculate how much your email unsubscriptions are costing you. Guess how much I am losing after a year? Way higher than I expected…

Email Unsubscription Costs

email unsubscriptions costs calculator

(This is from a Facebook ad spend for AppSumo)

Try yourself on Google Docs.

Without further ado here is how you can save your users:

1- Suggest them to follow you on Twitter when a user tries to unsubscribe from your email.

A few people said emails clog their inbox and wanted less communication. They’d be okay with Twitter. Also, you can try to suggest them a lower frequency email when they try to unsubscribe.

2- True 1 click unsubscribes.

I personally hate email. I unsubscribe and filter almost every email that annoys me. To me long-term loyalty and good experiences make me much more likely to use your service. I HATE clicking unsubscribe then having to login, find account page, etc. I just filter those emails and forget about you forever.

Consider even putting the unsubscribe link at the top, Ramit really reminded me about quality > quantity. Having people who really want your emails is infinitely more valuable than just having a big list. Size doesn’t matter. This is the key to permission based email marketing.

3- Save them at the unsubscribe.

This was something I built at Facebook. Ask the user why they are unsubscribing and offer a solution at that point. You may be able to save them.

3- A/B test your email provider for deliverability.

We found using that many of our emails would go to spam on Gmail so we are split-testing the list with and finding better results.

4- Offer pausing of email instead of unsubscribing.

Not sure where I saw this but as I am on vacation now there are a few San Francisco activity emails that I had to unsubscribe / forward since I’m not around for awhile. I’ve seen this on some site but can’t remember, they offered me the chance to pause emails and gave me a few choices (1 month, 3 months, 6 months).

5- Consider the name of your email list

Sometimes when you unsubscribe or signup for an email list you get to see the name, “Suckers who signed up for my service.” Is not a good one. For AppSumo I call one list of people who I really like “Gold,” you can name it VIP or whatever. Just something to be considerate of.

And my all-time favorite: I personally email every single person who unsubscribes. Please don’t try me 🙂

I apologize for the email and ask how we can improve for the future. The responses you get from this are a gold mine. It is a nightmare to get people and most just let them go without a fight. It takes time to get people to 1) be aware of your service 2) go there 3) sign up and the actual cost may be around $3+ per email sign up. It is WAY easier to keep them to then to go and find someone new, duh.

Any other good ones?

Now learn how to do funnel marketing 🙂

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10 responses to “Permission Based Email Marketing: 6 Tips for Reducing Unsubscriptions

  1. Koichi Reply

    I liked Ben@mailchimp’s unsubscribe page:

    Otherwise, like you said – quality > quantity. I want to make people look forward to the e-mails (then they’ll never unsubscribe). I always make sure:

    1. I tell people _exactly_ what they’ll be getting in emails, so they have a choice to sign up or not.

    2. Follow up the next day via an autoresponder sending a very personal sounding email, telling them they can e-mail me / contact me anytime (probably not what you want with your potential volume, but my funnel tries to get people to e-mail me). If I can get someone to e-mail me, there’s a good chance they’ll become an evangelical fan (the kind that opens all e-mails and then forwards them to others.

    3. Write great content – this might be a given… but lots of people seem to forget this 🙁

    4. Use merge tags in not-as-creepy ways. So many people use merge tags in a way that sounds too robotic… It’s easier since I sign all my e-mails with my name, but people love hearing their names. You can even use the merge tags to write them a little poem in the e-mail.

    There once was a subscriber named *|FNAME|* … well, that wouldn’t work, actually…

  2. Roy Rodenstein Reply

    Great topic, something most people don’t look at and indeed can be a big hidden cost.

    I also noticed/you could maybe do a followup on CTR.
    Most people without experience assume that CTR’s on their ads will be 1-5%, the reality is that 0.01-0.1% is typical.

  3. Gloria Reply

    Thanks for your sharing. As you mention using that many of our emails would go to spam on Gmail, you can try Comm100 Newsletter. It is free and can send emails to the inboxes with 95% or higher delivery rate. Hope the information will help.

  4. H. Cooper Reply

    Interesting points. It’s also useful to look at purchase data, especially if one of your goals with your email marketing is to get more sales and you’re including discounts and other offers as incentives for your subscribers to click through and purchase.

  5. rich Reply

    nice post, thanks.Like the fact that you email all your unsubscribers personally.Something I think I should do to be honest.

  6. Shaun Sinclair Reply

    Hi Noah

    Shaun of here. Matt (From Appsumo) did mention I might find some extra marketing tips to add to my arsenal, and he was right.

    I’ve managed to save most of my list by doing something magical…



    But I’ll be using the ’email them personally’ tip whenever I see a spike in unsubscribe numbers.

    Keep the ideas coming.

  7. Mark Reply

    Another option for unsubs could be to get them to follow your blog via rss. Lower engagement but when I go through feeds I will read an interesting article and I will save it for later if it is valuable.