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Email Unsubscribes – Embrace Those Who Reject You

Authors: Jay Baer Jay Baer
Posted Under: Social Media
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Flickr image by Cheetah100A long-standing “success metric” in email marketing is the unsubscribe ratio. Like telling children that their pet fish is “just sleeping” the “unsubscribe ratio” is a euphemism.

Your unsubscribe ratio is the percentage of people who receive your email that have gotten so tired or frustrated with your program that they simply can’t take it any more. They’re fed up with your lack of relevancy, your frequency or some other shortcoming, and they’ve taken the extraordinary measure of actually clicking links and buttons to make you go away.

Unsubscribe rates have actually declined in many cases, but don’t get all cocky. It’s not because email programs have become more relevant to consumers, they’re just clicking the “spam” button, instead of using the “unsubscribe” link.

When you think about the frustration level required to actually unsubscribe, it’s disheartening that unsubscribe rates of 1 customer in 200 are often considered acceptable. If a similar number of customers walked out of a retail store yelling “I can’t take this anymore. I’ll NEVER come back,” a lot of attention would be paid to it.

Unsubscribes on Line 1

Hiding unsubscribes on a spreadsheet diminishes what it actually means for your brand. A few bright ideas to shine a light on unsubscribes:

1. For e-commerce companies, instead of tracking unsubscribes as a raw number, track the total value of all prior purchases made by unsubscribers, and put that dollar amount on the spreadsheet.


2. Each time a customer unsubscribes, send an email to the the CEO or CMO.

3. In addition to providing a CAN-SPAM mandated unsubscribe link, offer your customers an unsubscribe phone number where they can call or text message, and an unsubscribe Twitter account. Once unsubscribers start creating content instead of just hash marks in Excel, your organization will start paying attention to the cause, not the ratio.

I’m In. Who Else?

Effective immediately, I’m going to pay more attention to unsubscribes myself. At the recent Marketing Profs Digital Mixer, Gary Vaynerchuk said he is investing major resources into having team members telephone unsubscribers. I can’t go that route because I don’t have phone number for my subscribers, but wherever I can I’ll be emailing people that drop me on Twitter or via RSS.

And it’s already proving interesting. I emailed a gentleman from Norfolk who unfollowed me on Twitter (you can get unfollow notifications by using Qwitter). The text of my email is below.

Keith –

Hi there. I received a notification that you’ve unfollowed me on Twitter.

I want to do everything possible to serve my readers and my community. It would be fantastic if you could give me a sense of what you didn’t like about my tweets, or what you would have liked to see more of in them.

Thanks in advance for your feedback. It’s truly appreciated, and I hope to win you back someday.

Very best regards,


Convince & Convert
Social Media & Email Consulting
Twitter: @jaybaer
Ear: (602) 616-1895

Within 5 minutes I received his reply:

You were removed during a clean up of folks that did not follow me back. Twitter stills shows that you are not following me.

A perfectly reasonable explanation, and one I preferred to “your content sucks.” And now, we’re both following one another. It’s a success story.

Everyone and Every One counts

As you build your email list and your social media currency, it’s easy to view individual audience members as less than critical, because another subscriber could be just minutes away. Don’t fall for it. You don’t have to be the very best to succeed in a wired world. You just have to care the most. And I’m going to try to out-care my competition. How about you?

What Are You Doing to Out-Care the Competition? Comments, Please

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