Question: How do I deal with ruthless unsubscribers?

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ANSWER: Be kind to them. It sounds contradictory, but best practices are to make it as easy as possible for subscribers to change their e-mail address, get off your list permanently or contact you.

Remember, they don’t hate you or your publication. They, like you, are simply overwhelmed with information right now and may be trying to staunch the flow of messages into their in-boxes.

Think positively. Perhaps your unsubscriber isn’t "ruthless" after all. Perhaps he or she will rejoin your list at some point. Craft your subscriber information carefully. Always put it in the same place so your reader knows where to find it. The bottom of your newsletter is standard.

Here’s a suggestion on how to organize subscriber instructions to prevent "ruthless" unsubscribing:

  1. Change e-mail address: Offer a quick option that allows subscribers to change their e-mail address. I am astounded at the number of e-newsletters that omit a "change e-mail" link. It’s a must if you don’t want to lose subscribers!
  2. Unsubscribe link: You might want to make this an e-mail link so that a new message pops up prepopulated with a unique unsubscribe address. That gives your readers a couple more seconds to make up their mind about unsubscribing. Sometimes an "instant unsubscribe" link is a little too … instant. A trigger-happy reader may just click on it without meaning to. If your unsubscribe link goes to a Web page, add some friendly copy and a link so that your reader has an easy way to resubscribe from this page.
  3. Contact us: If subscribers hit "Reply" after receiving your newsletter and can’t reach you—it’s not unusual for the reply-to address to be set up this way—be sure to offer them an e-mail address through which they can reach a live person at your company. Also include a phone number.

Debbie Weil is an online marketing and corporate blogging consultant based in Washington, D.C. She blogs at and Visit her main site at

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