Email Campaign Management

The Unsubscribe Rate – A Horror Story

Obtaining addresses for an email marketing list is the most significant outlay in email marketing. Every one that you lose must hurt, so most of us pay a great deal of attention to the unsubscribe rate. If it increases unexpectedly we become worried. If it suddenly drops we frantically search for a reason.

One of the most frequent questions newcomers to email marketing ask is what unsubscribe rate should they expect and at what point should they do something about it. Let us take the first one first: What is a reasonable unsubscribe rate?

You must establish your norm. This varies from product to product and company to company. For instance, you might well have had customers subscribe for ideas and offers over the Christmas period. If so, then you will probably have a spike in unsubscribes after your first email marketing campaign of the New Year.

In this instance, a reasonable rate of unsubscribes might well be one identical to that of last year.

If you had a campaign to gain subscribers then some of them might well click the box when they have got whatever the gift was, or when they suddenly realise what they have actually signed up for. The latter often happens if you send too many emails in too short a time. Again, historical rates will have a significant bearing on how you view your current rate.

I find it easier to understand unsubscribe rates via a graph, the base-line being time and the other axis the percentage of unsubscribes. For my business, the time line has to be in months as my average rate of sending marketing emails is monthly. A simple overlay shows how I am doing instantly and, given that I work on a 15-month basis, it also shows trends. A sudden spike can be less worrying when viewed after a steady drop.

For the second most popular question, when should you start to do something about your unsubscribe rate, the answer is: if it is still of concern after eliminating short term variables.

The campaign with a tempting free gift has already been mentioned. You have to accept that some people will subscribe solely for the free gift and the first campaign after they’ve received it will often, if not always, produce a spike.

You also need to eliminate other time specific unsubscribes. For instance, it is common, but not universal, for there to be a set period after subscribing where a certain percentage unsubscribe. Let us say after two email marketing campaigns 10% unsubscribe. After this period, the rate might drop to, for instance, 4%.

Once these have been eliminated from your overall figures you will be able to assess the returns from your email marketing software. These should then be compared to those of the previous year/month/specific period/campaign depending on what you sell and how.

So you can appreciate that the rate customers unsubscribe from your email marketing list and when it should be of concern are exclusive to you.
We will address what you can do to lower this rate in a later article.



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