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How to Reduce Unsubscribes and Spam Complaints

I have a love hate relationship with unsubscribes and spam complaints.

There’s a part of me that doesn’t understand why some business owners track and even cry over a lost subscriber. Yet, there’s another part of me, the business owner, that understands it all too well.

I started to notice this odd relationship with unsubscribes long before I experienced my first unsubscribe. It may be hard to believe but I started my career in email marketing thinking that unsubscribes were one of the best things to happen to a marketer or business owner.

It all started over 10 years ago. At that time, I was working as a virtual assistant for coaches. And, while I smiled through my angst, it drove me crazy when my clients would get upset over losing 3 to 10 subscribers, per email.

From my, detached perspective, I looked at unsubscribes as a good thing. I thought, ‘That’s one less person that you’re paying to talk to. That’s one less person taking up space on your list and one less unresponsive subscriber.’ But, what I didn’t realize as the implementor that I’ve since learned as a business owner is that unsubscribes – whether 1 or 1000 people – sting.

Even though we’re taught not to take it personally. It’s easy to see that unsubscribe notification as a big old neon sign saying, “I don’t like you.” (Queue the knife to the gut and twist.)

As a business owner, I’ve thought, ‘I’m supposed to be growing my list – not losing subscribers.’

I used to feel this way about unsubscribes and then I learned some valuable lessons. The most important one is that unsubscribes, to a point, are within your control. You’re not an innocent bystander. You’re an intelligent business owner and as such, you have the right to help your contacts determine if they should stay or leave your list.

If your unsubscribe notifications have you ‘In your feelings,’ keep reading for suggestions on how to handle unsubscribes and spam complaints.

Give them the option to 'update your preferences'

Let your subscribers decide when they want to receive emails from you. They can either pick an option based on the frequency (weekly or twice a week). You can also choose from the various lists you offer. Many Email Service Providers (ESPs) will give you the option to manage your subscribers in this way.

Pro Tip: Not All Email Service Providers Offer This Option. Remember to check to see if this is possible with your ESP.

Let them say 'No'

Create a separate email list or separate tag that allows your subscribers to raise their hands and say I don’t want to learn more about your promotion/product/program.

I’ve been able to achieve this for clients in various email tools including, Aweber, Get Response, ConvertKit (aff link), Infusionsoft, Active Campaign and Mailchimp.

Add an unsubscribe link at or near the top of your newsletters and broadcasts

Adding an unsubscribe link above your header image or before your intro paragraph may scare you.

After all, “won’t that encourage them to subscribe?”

No. It does; however, make it easier for your subscribers to leave your list. Some people opt for the spam button rather than scrolling down to the bottom of the page to subscribe, not knowing that spam complaints can hurt your business and your ability to reach your ideal clients’ inbox. 

Adding an unsubscribe link at the top of your emails helps deter this behavior by giving people who aren’t your ideal client an easy out. Though it might seem like you’re losing a subscriber or your list is shrinking,  I want to encourage you to reframe your thinking. Rather than losing out, I want you to look on the brighter side to see that you’re actually gaining a more responsive list of potential buyers (who want to hear from you).

Don't automatically roll them over to your main list

Let’s say you offer a special opt-in during your pre-launch period, like a challenge or a giveaway. After this list building activity is over, take a moment to nurture these new subscribers. Then, ask them to join your main newsletter list (make sure you give them an ethical bribe or a new lead magnet) and provide an explicit opt-in offer to get their permission to enter your inbox weekly.

Be clear and tell people exactly what they’ll receive. If you’re planning on sending out a weekly newsletter and promotional emails, just say that (I’m all for authentic and simple marketing).

Which Of These Four Suggestions Are You Going To Implement To Avoid An Increase In Unsubscribes During Your Next Launch?

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