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Internet users are a fickle breed. One day they sign up for your newsletter because they are interested in a particular topic, then spend the next weeks doing their darndest to bash away said newsletter whenever it plonks into their inbox. Newsletters can infuriate people so much so, that they despairingly reach for the unsubscribe button. 

But why do people do this? If you’re running an email marketing campaign, it’s important you find out. With a few tweaks to your strategy, and with the help of good email marketing software, it’s possible to turn would-be unsubscribers into avid readers.

Here are some of the main reasons that people may be unsubscribing to your newsletter, along with some expert advice on how you can address each problem.

Problem: You’re sending too many emails

People hate a clogged-up inbox. When was the last time you heard someone complain that they aren’t receiving enough emails? One of the sure-fire ways to put off customers is to send them too many emails. They will start to see your newsletter as a menace in their never-ending battle to clear their inbox. A recent GetData study reveals that the volume of emails is the main reason why people unsubscribe from a newsletter.

On the flip-side, you don’t want to be sending too few mailouts. People can forget that they subscribed to you in the first place and unsubscribe, since they aren’t sure why they are getting your newsletter.

Fix: Perform periodicity tests

“Creating multiple drip marketing campaigns that you can test against one another will help determine this (if you are sending too many/too few emails),” says Nick Campbell, brand strategist at Partiqal, who has worked on campaigns for brands such as Kia, Kmart, and CI Games“

“Send more messages to one randomized group, and less to another, and then look for the best engagement and conversion rates. You can test any number of variables in this way, as long as you are controlled in your approach.”

Problem: Your content is irrelevant

One of the top reasons people unsubscribe to emails is if they aren’t relevant to the recipient. ‘But then why did they sign up in the first place?’ you ask. Perhaps they signed up to it when they had a particular need or interest that’s no longer there. For example, they were buying a house at the time, but now they’re settled and don’t need a newsletter about properties in the area; or, they were really into petcare products but then their dog died. 

In many cases, there’s no point trying to win these people back, since they simply aren’t your target audience. It could, however, be the case that you’re simply not responding to the questions your customers want answered.

Fix: Segment your readership

“The more you know about your subscribers, the more relevant a marketer can make the content,” says Brett Farmiloe, Founder at Markitors, who is a Mailchimp email marketing specialist. “The most important tactic lies in list segmentation. Rather than lump every subscriber together, invest time in segmenting subscribers by campaign activity and collected data.”

Problem: Your newsletter isn’t optimized for mobile

These days, more than half of emails opened are done so on a phone or a tablet. No matter how elegant and sharp your newsletter looks in a browser or desktop mail client, it could look like trash when rendered on a mobile. You have to make sure that your newsletter is mobile-friendly, or your audience will be hitting the unsubscribe button in droves.
 
Fix: Adopt responsive design

“Design and code your emails to be responsive,” says David Carpio, Director of Email Marketing at Zeeto Media. “Most statistics show that half (if not more) users are opening their emails on mobile. If you’re not using responsive design – or are mobile-friendly at the very least – you’re doing yourself a disservice, but more importantly, your subscribers.”

Problem: Too much (or too little) content

People generally don’t have time to read long emails, so it’s important that you keep your newsletters concise to avoid them getting overwhelmed and reaching for the unsubscribe button. Likewise, if you’re very light on content in your newsletters, your subscribers won’t see the value in your correspondence and could become ex-subscribers.

Fix: Use the “three-second scan”

“The best strategy I've found is what I call the "three-second scan test"- look at an email for three seconds (no longer) and tell me what this email is about. If that can't be clearly answered in three seconds, you likely have too much going on within your email,” says Nick Marvik, CEO of Northwest Tech (NWT3K), who previously worked for Amazon.com as an email marketing expert.

“Simplify your email and focus on direct calls-to-action -- take the user outside of their email inbox to further educate them. Don't use email to try and stuff everything into one package. Often times, minimizing the amount of content within an email and focusing more on the main message and CTA will dramatically increase your overall click-through-rates.”

Problem: You’re sending newsletters at the wrong time

Email open rates vary based on what time of day the newsletter is sent. As a result, it’s important to think about when you’re sending it out to avoid people missing your content. If they are constantly missing your content, then eventually they may just unsubscribe without paying any regard to what you’ve got to say.

Fix: Aim for the middle of the week

“We try to send on a Tuesday or Wednesday morning around 11 am EST,” says Deborah Sweeney, CEO at MyCorporation. “We find that we have a fairly high open rate in the middle of the week as opposed to the beginning, when readers are busy, or the end of the week, when people are ready for the weekend. Also, East coasters tend to be later to work, so we send it out later for those on the east coast.”

About the Author(s)

James Thornton

James is chief editor at GetApp Lab. He has worked as a software journalist for the last 15 years, documenting everything from the rise of the smartphone apps to the impact of cloud technology of modern business. He's excited about how apps are shaking up the worlds of HR, sales, and business intelligence. GetApp.com | @GetApp​ | More from James

Chief Editor, GetApp
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