Keeping Your Subscribers Longer Than a Day


‘Til Unsub Do We Part. The relationship between email marketers and their subscribers is a lot like marriage. You go through a courting phase (signup)… a honeymoon phase (welcome program)… a rut phase (when interest is lost)… but hopefully not a divorce (unsubscribe) phase.

KISS: Keep It a Simple Signup

A healthy relationship requires clear communication. That’s why your email signup form must be crystal clear. This is especially important if the signup is attached to another action. You’ve probably seen checkboxes for newsletter signups on (customer) registration forms when downloading a white paper, customer support contact forms or with co-registration (when someone signs up to your newsletter via another website).

You can simply insert a checkbox that allows users to choose if they want to receive your newsletter. Or include a generic statement such as the one below:

“By checking this box you give us permission to contact you concerning information on our products/services.”

What are you really signing up for? Will a sales rep call you on your phone? Even if a phone call is your goal, you should state it outright or give the user the option to be contacted. It will save the sales team a lot of unnecessary and unpleasant calls.

Other, more ambiguous versions include:

  • Check this box if you don’t want to receive our newsletter.
  • Uncheck this box if you don’t want to receive our newsletter.

These two are simply confusing. An uncertain subscription can lead to an immediate unsubscribe, which defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?


Is s/he really into you?

Your email list is like a dating pool. You’ve got a lot of prospects to flirt with via email. But do all those new signups have the quality you seek in a subscriber? Do the new subscribers really want to receive your emails? That is interesting to find out. Learning more about their wants and needs on the second and third date will allow you to be more specific in your messaging and have them be totally in love.


Make good on your vows

Managing expectations is the most important thing you can do in the email marketer/subscriber relationship. As with any relationship, honesty is the best policy. This includes stating how often you’ll be emailing them and what your content will be. Draft a (bulleted) list with the primary benefits of subscribing to your newsletter. This both “sells the subscription” and sets the expectations. An example for a fashion retailer might be:

  • Get the scoop on the latest fashion and style tips
  • See — and purchase — new styles before everyone else
  • Be on the A-List for invitations to members-only shopping nights
  • Receive email-exclusive discounts & deals

You must uphold the promises you make, and quickly, as you don’t have much time to prove your worth. It’s a good idea to include one of your benefits (a tip, invitation, discount, etc.) in your automated welcome email, sent immediately after subscription. Or cut to the chase and include it on the “thank you” landing page once the signup form is submitted.

This welcome email from Caribou Coffee does it all – sets expectations and immediately delivers on its promises. As a bonus, it asks the subscriber to set preferences:



The honeymoon phase

So now you’re both basking in the glow of this new email relationship. You’re excited about the potential for a long-term commitment. They’re excited about the prospect of new offers and more. Right now, everything is new to them and life is good. If, however, you fail to deliver rich, relevant content, the honeymoon will be over sooner than later.


The 7-month itch?

Just because subscribers remain on your list, that doesn’t mean they’ll remain faithful. They are “cheating” on you by receiving email promotions from other companies, even your competitors.

Depending on the frequency of your emails, your subscribers could be disengaging at the 1-month mark (daily emails), 7-month mark (weekly emails), or at some other interval. To avoid being jilted, you can keep them from straying by sending emails with value, emails that are useful to recipients, that are correctly timed and that recipients enjoy receiving. It is interesting to look at your file and see at what point your subscribers start to tune out (and if there are certain groups that tune out faster than others).


Emotional Detachment

Inactive subscribers may have emotionally unsubscribed from your list. How do you detect the telltale signs of emotional detachment? It starts with non-opens and the accompanying lack of activity (i.e., click-throughs). Your email will end up in a mail folder seldom checked or the worst-case scenario, being flagged by the user with the spam button. Unengagement can lead to deliverability issues.


Build a lasting relationship

Remember, your relationship begins with that first impression, so make it a good one. Like marriage, the email marketer/subscriber relationship takes work. Don’t take your new subscribers for granted. Show them how much you appreciate them, make them feel special. A little subscriber love can go a long way when it comes to building your relationship… and your list.


  • Rob Montgomery

    I love how you associated keeping your subscribers with marriage and relationships. Truly, it requires great commitment. Being the one who is wooing subscribers, it is up to us, bloggers, to find ways to make the relationship lasts as long as possible.

  • Michal Leszczynski

    Thank you for your comment Rob! We all need to be reminded this simple truth every once in a while. It definitely helps running our business :).