Learning from the Top 5 Reasons for “opt-outs”


Many stores and most publishers these days are using e-newsletters as a way to connect directly with stakeholders.

Those of you who manage your e-mail campaigns will recognize the little jab of disappointment that comes with an “Unsubscribe” report showing that someone opted out.

Immediately, we are back in high school. Why don’t they like me? What’s wrong with my newsletter? Why won’t they listen? What did I do?

In a recent article at MarketingProfs.com, Tom Kulzer Ris, CEO and founder of email marketing software firm AWeber (www.aweber.com), outlines the top five reasons subscribers opt out, and what you can learn from it as a newsletter creator.

Here’s the best of his advice along with some “Bookstore Lessons” to bring it home.

1. Email Frequency

“Like us, our subscribers receive lots of email. If they come to feel that they’re receiving too much, they may become overwhelmed and decide that none is the better alternative to an unmanageable amount.

This decision to declare “email bankruptcy” means that subscribers mass-unsubscribe from several campaigns at once when they hit a tipping point.”

Bookstore Lesson: Less is more. Unless you are doing events every day with all the big hitters, customers will appreciate a good editorial eye and a thoughtful schedule.

Once a month may work for some, and every Monday may work for others, but before you push the “Publish” button, ask yourself how often is too often in your own in-box. Edit accordingly.

2. Quality or Relevancy of Content

“In email, you can’t separate quality from relevancy.

It’s clear that people don’t want to receive email for sake of filling their inboxes. They want value—messages that engage them with compelling content that’s related to what they originally expressed interested in receiving from us.

If email campaigns stray from providing relevant information or fail to fill emails with anything more than sales pitches, the rate of unsubscribes tends to grow.”

Bookstore Lesson: Are you finding it hard to find material for your e-mail blast? Do you fall back on the same kinds of items, or on cut-and-paste items from outside sources?

Nothing makes a newsletter irrelevant quicker than cookie cutter filler. It is good to reach out of the store to engage customers, but maybe you need to find a hook. A book of the week pick, a virtual reading group with participant comments, a teen/children reviews newsletter—something original, and something uniquely yours.

3. Change in Relationship Between Sender and Subscriber

“For better or worse, our relationships with subscribers of our email campaigns (just as with relationships outside of email) won’t be the same forever.”

Bookstore Lesson: Families grow, kids get older, their needs change, and what they originally came to you for may not be the same now. Some of these customers will be lost as they move away, but many of them can be retained if you can make sure you have something new to offer.

Consider multiple e-mail campaigns with different focuses, say General and YA. Or, alternate e-mail campaigns to focus of different parts of the store. Perhaps do a feature on adult crossover titles that appeal to teens, or a parents literacy information blast that educates them on what’s coming next for their children.

The key to this is always looking forward, and helping your customers by thinking ahead about what they might need.

We are in an age where one-size-fits-all no longer works. Just as there is a cable channel for every interest, figure out how to diversity your e-mail to target your key groups.

4. Personal Reasons Not Related to Email Content or Frequency

“Quite often, in comments left by subscribers on their way out, I’ll see messages such as “I’ll be on vacation for the next two months and won’t be checking my email” or “I’m putting all business on hold while tending to a family illness.”

Our subscribers are people, and things we can’t control will inevitably come up in their lives that may cause them to rightly choose to stop receiving our emails for at least a short period of time.

Fortunately, many of these people will come back when the time is right for them.”

Bookstore Lesson: never assume an opt-out is forever. Make sure you are always offering people the option to subscribe to your communications even if they are regular customers.

Now, that being said, don’t constantly ask them the same question at the counter. Do make sure you are collecting information and offering the subscription option in a wide variety of ways.

Counter sign-up sheets, subscribe links on your website, “forward this” buttons on your newsletters, and address copy on your bags and paper good all open the door for new and old subscribers.

Never say never, and appreciate that e-communication is extremely fluid.

5. Email Address or Subscription Method Change

“Just as people move and change their physical locations and postal addresses, email subscribers sometimes change email addresses or want to receive our email at other addresses.”

Bookstore Lesson: Before you go weeping into your beer, know that sometimes there is a very simple reason for an Opt Out, and it could be as mundane as a change of job or e-address.

Don’t sweat the individual opt-outs. Look instead for patterns of opting out, or a sudden attrition of subscribers. That is more indicative of a problem or an opportunity.

You might consider sending a brief follow-up survey to an opt-out customer to ask why they left. That information will help you make your service better.

Sometimes You Have to Let Them Go

Behind the counter, we know that when you try and please everyone, sometimes you wind up pleasing no one. The same is true of your e-newsletters.

It is better to be fresh, original, and focused than to be too general. If you feel you’re missing an opportunity, or leaving someone out, create another tool just for them.

In the end, your customers will receive more targeted material which they will appreciate and read, and you will retain more subscribers. And the more everyone will profit from the relationship.

BONUS: Download this funny but true list of the 100 words you should never put in the subject line of an e-mail.


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