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Are You a Subscription Email Offender?

There's a fine line between sending brilliant marketing e-mails and turning into Spamzilla--and it's known as the unsubscribe button. Here's how to keep your customers from hitting it.
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Want to anger your customers like nothing else? Then try making them jump through hoops to unsubscribe from your e-mail list.

Presenting Exhibit A:  

The fact of the matter is that it's on you, the email marketer, to strike a balance between what your customers want--an easy escape--with your business needs--an e-mail address or customer loyalty.

To help your brand avoid a public shaming, ask yourself if you're guilty of the following: 

Too Many Clicks

Jordan Cohen, vice president of marketing for Movable Ink, says unsubscribing should take "as few clicks as possible," since you're paying to send those e-mails. For many small businesses, "your monthly fee goes up based on how many subscribers are in your database, so you're paying extra for folks who aren't going to open e-mail or respond, and they might even get angry with you."

Of course, consumers love a business that offers a one-click unsubscribe option. A single click and you're free. But there may a danger to those one-click unsubscribes. Digital marketing expert Christopher Penn warns that certain security software checks all incoming links, meaning "the first time you send that email to your opted-in subscriber, their firewall opens your email and automatically unsubscribes them by clicking on every link in it."

On the flip side, 34 clicks and suddenly you're somebody's Twitter complaint (or even the Worst Unsubscribe Ever).

The best practice may be a two-click solution: Send unsubscribers to a page where they don't have to select any additional options--no checking a box to unsubscribe, no typing in their e-mail address, which you already have--and then let them go.

Too Many Questions

It's natural to want to know why someone is leaving your list. And it's smart--if there's a consistent issue, this gives you a chance to improve. As content marketer Brian Honigman points out, "When someone unsubscribes, it is your last opportunity to speak with him or her directly."

Because of that, Honigman recommends using a survey to try to get an explanation. Once someone has successfully unsubscribed, it's easy to send them to a confirmation page with a short set of questions.

But don't go crazy. Hongman says to "avoid further irritating customers while also trying to learn." 

Too Many Emails

So you've made it easy for customers to unsubscribe. But what if you've made it too easy? Should you send a confirmation email just in case it was all a mistake?

As VerticalResponse founder Janine Popick puts it, probably not. "Don't send me an e-mail telling me you've unsubscribed me. Hello, I just unsubscribed from your email!"

Still, like single-click links, what's good for the consumer isn't always good for the company. Honigman suggests using an automated confirmation email "to help combat accidental unsubscribes from an email list, which happens occasionally." As long as the rest of the process is simple, you should be fine. 

Too Much Time

Among the most consistent complaints about unsubscribing is when it take weeks to process. Besides being illegal--the 2003 CAN-SPAM Act requires that consumer opt-out requests be honored within 10 days--delays are often a sign of poor marketing.

"Especially in 2013, the expectation is that when you click it will just happen right away. The technology to make that happen is there. It's not expensive. It's built into tools like MailChimp, Aweber, ConstantContact," says Cohen. "The reality is that there's no excuse for not being able to process unsubscribes immediately."

In other words, be a good marketer. 




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