Why Marketers Should Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Unsubscribe Button Losing some subscribers can be better than having your messages marked as spam.

By DJ Waldow

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


To promote your startup, you want to develop an email list of targeted customers and craft subject lines that people will want to click on. But no matter how hard you try to entice customers with new products, discounts and other information, some of the people receiving your emails will inevitably choose to opt out.

Although it may seem counterintuitive, making the unsubscribe option easy and painless for people can actually be a smart business strategy. But all too often, marketers bury the unsubscribe link at the bottom of the email in a tiny font with a text color that is nearly impossible to read.

Then, once you find and click the unsubscribe link, you might require an advanced college degree to understand the steps necessary to remove yourself from the email list. Hertz, for instance, has a multi-step opt-out process that some might find challenging to navigate..

The problem with a hard-to-find unsubscribe option is that you're making it that much easier for your subscribers to hit the dreaded "Mark as Spam" button. And the more spam reports your email provider receives, the less likely it is that your email will be delivered to the inbox.

Related: How to Write Better Email Subject Lines

There are a few ways to take your email opt-out from obscure to obvious. For starters, try including an unsubscribe link or button at the top of your email. The Dallas-based deals site woot! puts a big opt-out button at the top right of every email for its Daily Digest. The copy says it all: "Daily emails? Are you nuts? STOP SENDING ME THESE!" When you click on the button, you are automatically unsubscribed. No extra work. No need to enter your email address. No crazy form to fill out.

Chris Penn, vice president of marketing technology at SHIFT Communications, a Boston-based public relations agency, takes this a step further with his personal email newsletter. Every week, he adds a big new image that links to his unsubscribe page. He makes it funny and plays on what happened in the world the previous week.

Both Penn and woot! know that as their email list grows, some people will love the content while others won't find it as valuable. So they sensibly make it easy to opt-out. Penn reports that his unsubscribe rate has actually decreased since adding the big unsubscribe image.

Of course, making it easy to unsubscribe can be risky. You could end up losing a large part of your email list. But the risk is better than the alternative: someone being frustrated about your email and marking it as spam.

Related: 4 Ways to Get Customers to Open Your Emails

Once someone unsubscribes from your list, you can take a few different approaches. First, you can inform the individual that the opt-out request has been honored -- via a redirected landing page, a short note on the unsubscribe page or through one final email. If you want to have a bit more fun, you can create a video as HubSpot, a Cambridge, Mass.-based marketing software firm, has done. In this post-unsubscribe video, Dan Sally, a HubSpot employee, appears to be speaking directly to the person who just opted out and in a humorous manner, basically says "it's okay" to break up with HubSpot.

You also can try to persuade people to change their minds. Although it makes unsubscribing simple, woot! doesn't let people leave without trying to get them back. First, it delivers this very human, witty message: You have been removed from the Daily Digest mailing list. You will receive one last email, and maybe a creepy voicemail because we know we can work this out. Having second thoughts already? Take us back! It then offers a link to re-subscribe.

That "one last email" the Daily Digest sends next says: "Okay, fine! You're unsubscribed. You have been removed from the Daily Deal mailing list, and we were totally kidding about that voicemail. Was this a mistake? Did someone else unsubscribe you and you still want the Daily Digest? Head on over to your account and sign back up." Again, it uses humor -- and gives you another chance to re-subscribe.

Another approach is to offer subscribers alternatives to completely opting out of emails. For example, Bonobos, a New York City-based men's clothing retailer, recently launched a manage preferences page -- the page that appears after a subscriber requests to be removed. Instead of opting out, subscribers can opt-down, reducing their email frequency to once a week, once a month, or even "pause" the subscription for 30 days. Of course, people can still unsubscribe by choosing the option "*Sniff*. It's over, Bonobos." But the company says by offering the opt-down choices, it has consistently kept 25 percent of people from completely opting out.

The lesson here is simple: If someone wants to remove themselves from your email list, they will find a way. So instead of hiding the unsubscribe, why not have a little fun with it, and avoid that dreaded spam filter?

Related: 3 Rules You Must Break to Expand Your Email Marketing List

Wavy Line
DJ Waldow

Writer, Speaker, Author, Email Marketer, Podcaster, and Digital Marketing Evangelist at Marketo

DJ Waldow is a writer, blogger, speaker and co-author of The Rebel’s Guide to Email Marketing (Que Publishing, 2012). He is Digital Marketing Evangelist at Marketo, a San Mateo, Calif.-based marketing automation software company.

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