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Why are people unsubscribing from my mailing list?

Congratulations! You’ve taken your first steps into email marketing, and you have subscribers – but for some reason, the list is shrinking or your open-rate is dwindling.

Your hard-earned list doesn’t seem to be hitting home like you hoped it would. It’s time to plug that hole and turn things around – so let’s figure out what might be happening, and how to fix it.

They don’t have time for this nonsense

I’m ruthless when it comes to my inbox. So much of my workflow involves my inbox that I have to keep distractions to a minimum, so I can focus on the really important things – mostly contact with my clients and suppliers, to keep my business running smoothly.

Even if you’re not marketing to other business owners, you’re competing with everything else – their job, their family, their home, their hobbies, social media pings – not to mention all the bills and alerts that drop into their email inbox daily as we make the move towards a more environmentally conscious, paperless society. No pressure 😉

Don’t take their attention for granted. Portion your value in small, manageable pieces to help them digest it. Help them to build the habit of taking a couple of minutes out of their day.

Even though emails have the potential for long-form content, what is possible shouldn’t be confused with what’s effective. Keep things concise, get your point across, and sign off by setting the expectation of what they’ll receive next, and when.

They’re gettin’ drowsy

Why are people unsubscribing from my mailing list? •
Yeah, i snuck a cheeky gif in here. You’re welcome.

Savage, right? Good, because it’s truth time.

Do you enjoy reading someone’s ‘company news’? No, me neither. It’s one thing to update your social media with a snappy little show and tell, but don’t make the mistake of thinking your readers care about your business, your team, or your sparkly new offices. The odds are stacked against you there, my friend.

Your subscribers want to know what’s in it for them – they’re not going to waste time reading several paragraphs about the training you’ve sent your staff on – even if it’s relevant to what you can offer to them as customers, it needs to be reframed to highlight the benefits, and kept concise enough that it doesn’t become a long, rambling boast.

Provide value with each email – not just the tone-deaf ramblings of someone who “knows they’re supposed to send emails to their list”. Make a plan, hype it up, show its purpose – give it life.

Dry and dull content won’t break down any digital barriers. Even if you’re a legal or financial expert and you don’t think there’s much humour or intrigue to be had in your line of work, it’s time to think about how you’re using jargon and engaging with “regular” people – because that’s who’s on the other side of your email campaign.

Authenticity is key to building connections. Write conversationally, and show your personality, even if it’s a bit weird. No – especially if it’s a bit weird. Weird is good – weird is remembered.

“It’s not you, it’s me”

Consider how their situation might’ve changed. This is difficult without making some assumptions and massively over-generalising, but at least respect that priorities, interests, and curiosities change with our environment and circumstances.

In this last year alone, people have dramatically shifted where they shop, what they buy, and how much they’re willing to spend. Hell, even what they wear to work (anyone else in joggers today?). That doesn’t mean you can’t still connect with them, but tailoring your messages from something like “glam up for your night out” to “look gorgeous for your video calls” may be more appropriate.

If you really do need to pivot your business model (“pivot” is definitely the word of the year, isn’t it?), try to transition by finding common ground and ask for regular feedback. Otherwise, look at creating separate campaigns for various topics – you can always link to a new campaign within an old one and see who bites – and who doesn’t.

On that note, if you’re making a shift in your campaign, keep the target market in mind and the problem they originally wanted to solve. Fitness attire and gym memberships aren’t such a leap – but if the subject suddenly changes from “recipes for busy mums” to “master your home workout” (rude!), expect there to be some drop-off.

“Who the heck are you?”

Well gosh, it’s been a while since you’ve sent anything out – and now that you’ve dropped something into their inbox, your subscribers are backing out. Chances are they’ve forgotten who you are, why they signed up, and what problem they had that led them to offering their personal details in the first place. They’ve forgotten the value.

It’s not your subscriber’s responsibility to remember who you are – it’s your responsibility to remind them. If you’re sending out one newsletter every couple of months, it becomes unexpected and often unwelcome. The purpose has been lost, so you’re considered “spam”. That’s a dirty word, isn’t it?

How do you fix that? Without a time machine, you can’t fix a lack of communication in the past. But there are solutions to mitigate a future loss of subscribers. Ready? Good.

No time like the present! Get back in there…

Send regularly from now on (hello, I’m Captain Obvious, but it needs to be said). Even if you have to pre-write a bunch of content, or outsource it to a copywriter because you’re busy or feeling “uninspired”, that’s fine. You can always tweak it later down the line to keep it relevant (for example, if a global pandemic hits). Have a schedule in mind, and don’t leave it to the last minute to produce content.

You don’t have to send an email every day (unless you said you would, of course). Once or twice a week is enough to be remembered without being intrusive. Keep it short, keep it valuable, keep it relevant – and then give it some ‘umph’.

If you’re the kind of person who obsesses over everything (I feel ya, I really do), write it, review it JUST ONCE, and then hit send (or schedule). We’re human. Let go of the perfectionism before it kills your chances to put yourself out there. Done is better than perfect, as they say. One draft, one edit. Then stop faffing and send it to work.

Finally… don’t get disheartened… or salty. People unsubscribe for various reasons – you can’t keep everyone on your list. But, if the worst should come to the worst, try to have a friendly (and ideally funny) send-off on your unsubscribe link.

Who knows, they might even click the resubscribe button because they appreciate the nature of it (I have done this more than once, actually).

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