Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Emotional Unsubscribes

I get asked a lot about unsubscribe rates as an indication of buyers losing interest. I always caution people not to look to hard at that number. If you think of your own behaviour when you lose interest in a particular sender, you'll see why (most of you). You just ignore them. That's it, no unsubscribe, nothing. I heard someone at Eloqua call this an "emotional unsubscribe" and I like that term for it.

The trouble is, this is much harder to detect and react to. You might even see a little bit of email open behaviour from these recipients if they are using preview panes in their email client.

If you look at your world this way, the question is, how do you react. The first step is understanding who has emotionally unsubscribed, the second step is re-engaging with them, and the third step is dropping them out (or nearly out) of your communications if you can't re-engage.

Identifying them is a bit more of an art form than looking at explicit unsubscribes, but still very possible. What we generally do is look at people who have been communicated with (over a period of 6 months or more), but have a minimal amount of open activity, and no clicks. The people who meet that criteria are close to being emotionally unsubscribed.

Next is re-engaging. There are a few techniques here, depending on how far gone you suspect your emotionally unsubscribed audience is. Sometimes, tweaks in subject line, email copy or offer can do it. Focus heavily on the first 2 seconds of viewing your message - these are, after all, not avid readers - so subject line and the first few words of content are, at best, all that will be read. Some of our clients in financial services have successfully used free, unique research offerings to spur activity in low-activity recipients.

Don't try to hard though - the folks at Marketing Sherpa did some interesting research that showed that over 40% of people count an email as spam even if they once subscribed, but now have lost interest or receive too many communications from you. Be dilligent about cleaning out your database of those who have lost interest.
Many of the topics on this blog are discussed in more detail in my book Digital Body Language
In my day job, I am with Eloqua, the marketing automation software used by the worlds best marketers
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