Engagement Intervention – Converting Potential Unsubscribes


Do you think of disengaged subscribers as an unavoidable loss – or a business opportunity? Do you try to find the causes and perhaps offer ways of re-engaging your subscribers? Or does the whole process depress and annoy you?! If you keep getting the same poor responses from certain subscribers, you can either write them off − or take a couple of easy steps to see if you can reel them back in. Now we’re not talking about the non-responders, but only about the “on the fence” folks that are clearly not thrilled with something about your email marketing strategy!

So let’s look at the unsubscribe scenario from a “cause and effect” perspective to see if there’s any room for intervention – without annoying subscribers to the point that they flag your messages as SPAM.

Why do people unsubscribe?

According to recent email study (1), the top 5 reasons people unsubscribe are:

1.    67% – Irrelevant content
2.    64% – Receive too frequently
3.    50% – Think their email address is being shared or sold
4.    48% – Don’t recall signing up
5.    32% – Privacy concerns

The top 2 reasons are irrelevant content and frequency issues. We’ve discussed the importance of relevance many times on our blog, and we know you’re working hard to improve in this area. But have you ever thought about addressing these issues before the “disengaged” actually unsubscribe?

Would you help them re-engage if we told you it would only take a few minutes of your time?

1. Offering alternatives to on-the-fence subscribers

Let’s focus on the top 2 reasons people unsubscribe − Relevance and Frequency. Here are a few new practices marketers are using to address these causes with some success, based on data from the recent “Retail Email Unsubscribe Benchmark Study” (2) :

•    Opt down 35% of retailers studied are now offering subscribers the option of reducing the number (frequency) of emails they receive, up from 16% in 2008 – it’s working!

•    Content Preferences – Wow! 76% of retailers are now asking subscribers to update content preferences to increase relevance.

•    Channel Preferences – Only 7% of retailers do this currently, but why not offer it? Today’s consumers are online and on the go, so find out what channel they prefer!

•    Surveys – Now, according to the study, more retailers are surveying unsubscribers to find out why they left (20 percent in 2010, 11 percent in 2008) or offering feedback forms at opt-out (9 percent in 2010, 1 percent in 2008). But we say, why wait!

Use GetResponse Free Surveys to update subscriber preferences and adjust your email marketing campaigns BEFORE they unsubscribe! It only takes a minute or 2! If they decide to stay, use the Custom Fields to add respondent data to profiles and contact list fields. You know this helps with targeting, personalization, and list segmentation – and that improves relevance!

2. Survey AFTER they unsubscribe to make improvements

Only 16% of retailers say, “Goodbye” or “Thank you” to departing subscribers, down from 18% in 2008. Does this data shock you? Would you even consider doing business again with these vendors?

Handling unsubscribes with unnecessary rudeness ends up hurting your brand image. You don’t want to create negative buzz on the Internet, so why not leave a good impression?! Remember, you can always get them back with a great “remarketing campaign’! Most importantly perhaps, you NEED that feedback to slow the rate of unsubscribes across the board. This is important market research for your business!

Create an engaging “goodbye” page

For those who still decide to opt out, it’s important to create a nice “goodbye” page with a sincere “thank you” message and perhaps a short survey. With GetResponse, it’s easy to do!

Go to Campaigns >> Settings > Contacts tab and insert the customized removal page URL under “Customize Removal Page”.  If you use WordPress, for example, simply add the new page, write your thank-you message, paste a link to GetResponse Survey and publish it. That’s it!

Summary: So whether you use Surveys, follow-up messages, or create your own custom “thank-you or re-engagement page” is up to you. But we highly recommend you try some of these “intervention” tactics and don’t give up on your subscribers too soon! You could miss out on an entire lifetime of customer value!

If you use any of these tips, tell us what works and what doesn’t. Got some better ideas? We’d love to hear from you!

(1) Epsilon’s Global Consumer Email Study 2009.
(2) “Retail Email Unsubscribe Benchmark Study”, 2009, Smith-Harmon.

  • Good information. Is there any study to show that what is the optimum frequency between the auto follow up messages? e.g. one email every two days, one email every three days? This will help us to space out our follow messages accordingly.

  • Katarzyna Grochowska

    Hi Kenny. There’s no golden rule of how often sent follow ups as it mainly depends on your customers’ profile and engagement, your business branch, etc. We’d like to encourage to you read our “GetResponse Email Marketing Metric Analysis” report – it’s all about numbers. We believe it may prove much helpful to you! Good luck.