by Thea Joselow
I recently embarked on a “slash and burn” unsubscribe campaign. My inbox was too hectic to be useful, my phone was buzzing with new message alerts too often for me to concentrate on my actual work. On a good day, my attention span is nothing to brag about (hugs, Social Media! I love you!). But this was making me even more squirrely than usual.
I’ve done some email marketing in my time. We did a lot of exciting things with list segmentation, but not much with testing, and it was years ago. The state of the art has evolved a great deal, and I wouldn’t call myself an expert – certainly not by 2013 standards. We knew then that our program – though successful – wasn’t as scientific as it should have been. What we did have was a great project team and the knowledge that our brand was our most valuable asset.
Essentially, I’m the most dangerous kind of subscriber – the one who thinks she knows something. And here are some thoughts that came to me as I was unsubscribing my way through my inbox.
1) Please don’t make me log in to unsubscribe.
You have my email address – all decent email delivery software knows who I am when I click unsubscribe. I usually have to do the “forgot your password?” thing, and then reset it and then log in and then unsubscribe, and by then I just want to set the whole thing on fire. What begins as a gentle desire to prune my inbox becomes seething rage.
2) Let’s part as friends.
I understand the value of “adjust your preferences” forms – encouraging people to stay on some of your lists or receive messages less frequently rather than leaving your rolls altogether. But please keep it short and make sure there is an Unsubscribe From Everything option right at the tippy top. Just let me go quietly.
3) Email is instant. You should be, too.
There is no reason why it should take 7-10 business days to remove me from your list or make other changes to my information. You’re taking advantage of the speed and impact of the medium, but you also need to be responsive. Take pride in your work and respect your subscribers even when they’re opting out. It’s the gracious thing to do.
4) Eschew surplusage.
Okay, this was also an excellent excuse to work in one of my favorite Mark Twain quotes. I had it engraved on my iPad mini (did I mention that I have an iPad mini?). But it’s also an excellent principle to abide by in email marketing. Target your message, keep it elegant, warm, pithy and grateful. Everyone on your list has better things to do than read 600 words from your CEO. Calls to action should be clear and… well… actionable. Think in terms of headlines and captions, use verbs, and get out.
5) Email is cheap. Relationships aren’t.
Just because it’s not actively illegal for you to email me, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. A lot of people justify scattershot email because of the smattering of sales or donations that may come from people they wouldn’t reach with a more targeted approach. I’d love to see a good, comprehensive study of costs in terms of brand damage and financial futures versus whatever temporary gains may be realized. This principle is even more important for organizations and charities – your reputation is everything.
Thea Joselow is a writer, editor and digital media consultant based inBethesda, Maryland. She has worked for such illustrious institutions as National Public Radio, Smithsonian Magazine, and at a strategic communications firm in Washington, D.C. Her favorite professional qualification is that for a brief time she wrote the online quiz for the Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me program. Currently, she is the head of social and digital media for Arogya World, a small but mighty nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting non-communicable disease. She is also somebody’s mother. On Twitter: @tjoselow