Baby, Don’t Go! How to Retain Email Unsubscribers

A question we’ve grown accustomed to hearing is, “How can I grow my email list?” Of course we have answers that we’d love to share! But first I have to ask, what are you doing to prevent contacts from leaving your list? Here’s a hint: you can’t please every customer, but you can prevent most of them from leaving.

Each time a subscriber leaves your list, you lose the opportunity to generate revenue and engage with your audience. Without driving your site traffic to your email list, your only options are to create a way of being physically present or connected on social media. The first option is time-consuming and costly. Even having them as one of your social media followers doesn’t guarantee their attention. Their feeds are constantly interrupted by Facebook algorithm changes and noise from other sources. A 2014 study found that many publishers with large Facebook followings had an organic reach of just 2 percent, and as most of those publishers will tell you, it’s only gotten worse.

Do you see the challenge? Recruiting your page visitors AND social media following to your email subscriber list is critical to audience development. It doesn’t matter how many social media followers you have if they aren’t engaging with your content. Once you realize you don’t own any of your traffic until you capture an email address, you’ll want to begin the process of migrating your site traffic to email. Email is the uninterrupted feed and direct connection to your audience; that’s what makes this tool so special.

What happens once you capture emails?

After you capture emails, your job is finished. All the work is done and everyone is going to buy, read, and want whatever you’re selling. Kidding! Here’s the reality: you’ll build out kickass content only to realize a mere 15% of your emails are opened. And of that 15%, only 3% of your emails are being clicked on and converted to more site traffic and purchases. Of the subscribers who are not converting, you’ll see subscribers leave far too often and in various forms: hard bounces, opt-out requests, and spam complaints.

Once your contacts are gone, it’s much harder (and costlier!) to win them back. If you are unable to find a way to replace the contacts you lose due to unsubscribes, you will eventually find that your list is lacking, or serves no purpose. There’s actually a name for this, it’s called “Contact Churn.” No, this is not when you appreciate your customers with a basket of nut butters and other yummy spreads!


What is Contact Churn?

Contact churn (also known as attrition rate) is a metric email marketers use to discover the percentage rate at which subscribers are going to unsubscribe from their email list. Simply put: you can’t please everyone, but you want to keep your churn rate as low as possible.

As email marketers increase their data-driven practices, knowing the rate at which your subscribers churn is a strong indicator of how effective you are at your job. You’ve been working extremely hard, sending more emails, producing better content and so much more! All great steps in the right direction! Maybe you just haven’t figured out how to keep your subscribers satisfied.

According to MediaPost, the average churn rate is between 10% and 50% depending on the type of churn you are looking to measure. The first type of churn is transparent churn – identifiable by “unsubscribes, hard bounces and spam complaints. You can no longer email these people because of a subscriber’s direct or indirect action.” The average transparent churn rate is between 25% and 50% annually. The second type of churn you need to be aware of is opaque churn. This is comprised of subscribers who ignore your messages, let them pile up in a spam folder to rot, or get delivery to an email account they hardly use. While no solid research is available, industry-wide research estimates opaque churn rates fall between 10% and 25% annually for most brands.

No matter the type of churn rate you are looking to decrease, you can actually keep your subscribers satisfied and retain more customers by creating an email preference center. Preference centers are all the rage. Why? Because they allow you and your site visitors to lay down the rules of your friendship from the very first interaction.

What is a Preference Center?

A Preference Center is a landing page (or built-in table) on your brand’s website that allows your subscribers to add, change, or delete their email preferences. For example, if you have more than one newsletter or type of email offer, you can provide a list of these programs for your subscribers to select which emails they would like to receive. If your brand has several categories of content or products, your subscriber could select only to receive information about specific ones. An even more sophisticated Preference Center may ask the subscriber how many emails or how often they would like to receive your emails. By giving the subscriber control, you can reduce your contact churn by sending more relevant content hand-selected by your subscribers.

How can I use a Preference Center to reduce contact churn?

When a subscriber chooses to unsubscribe, he or she will more than likely click on a link that says, “Unsubscribe”. The alternative is to invite potential email unsubscribers to scale down or re-target the messages they receive. This process of self-segmentation gives subscribers the ability to be in control of their inbox before they are annoyed with your frequency or content. Saying, “We understand your needs change. Would you like to update your preferences to receive more relevant emails?” conveys that you actually care about their needs, rather than just filling up their inbox.

This is an opportunity to humanize the person on the other side of an email address. Placing yourself behind the many screens of your subscribers will not only improve your deliverability, but also the relationship and trust that you maintain with your customers.

You will not prevent everyone who clicked on your unsubscribe link from continuing to unsubscribe, but with a preference center, you can reduce your unsubscribe rates. This understanding allows you to contribute to the success of your overall email marketing program by reducing your churn rate and keeping subscribers happy.

Does a Preference Center really work?

A well-designed Preference Center will not only improve your customer retention but increase subscriber engagement. As your subscribers feel more in control of what they receive from you, your relationship will improve.

Our customers who chose to leverage a PostUp preference center know firsthand how to ask what their subscribers want. We invite you to learn how New York Media improved their unsubscribe rate by 76% with PostUp’s Preference Center Solution.

Key Takeaway

Understanding how to satisfy your subscriber needs while meeting your business goals allows you to create better content, send more targeted emails, and increase your revenue generation. Let PostUp help you create your email preference center by checking out our recent SlideShare, “Email Preference Centers 101: How to Retain Your Ready-to-Unsubscribers.“ We also offer List Growth Strategy Session to help you increase the number of qualified email addresses you capture- schedule yours today!

Request your List Growth Strategy session now!