Tips for lowering your opt-out rate

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It's not uncommon to receive opt-outs every time you send out a marketing message—the industry average hovers around 2.1%—but there are things you can do to bring your opt-out rate down. Stefan Pollard, director of consulting services for EmailLabs, and Janine Popick, CEO of VerticalResponse, address some common marketer mistakes that result in subscribers opting-out.
  1. The Problem: You took too long to contact your prospect.
    The Fix: This happens most frequently when marketers take a few weeks or even months to follow up with prospects that have dropped their cards in a fishbowl at a conference or filled out a registration card in a publication. Popick suggested making contact with people immediately so they remember what they signed up for. "You should establish a connection as soon as possible," she said. "And if someone does sign up for a monthly newsletter, make sure you actually contact them monthly. Missing even one month creates too much of a gap."

  3. The Problem: You e-mail too frequently.
    The Fix: Frequency is tough. E-mail too often and you alienate your customer. E-mail too infrequently and they forget about you. Your best bet, Pollard said, is to let recipients dictate how often they want to hear from you. "The best, proactive way to avoid opt-outs is to always survey the audience about preferred frequency or even better, provide them frequency choices when they sign up," Pollard said. Another solution is to offer readers a monthly recap message that summarizes your weekly messages, or let them subscribe to your messages via RSS feed, Pollard said.

  5. The problem: The recipient is no longer interested in your product or service.
    The fix: Maybe your prospect opted in when she was researching a purchase that has since been completed. Or maybe she went with a competitor. In this case, it's all about lifecycle management, Pollard said. "If your customer purchased something yesterday, they might not purchase again for six months, but you still want to keep them involved," he said. "In that case, you want to move them to educational rather than promotional messages until they hit the end of that product's lifecycle."

  7. The problem: The recipient has changed jobs.
    The fix: In this case, it's not you, it's them. Because someone likely has filled the former recipient's job, you should attempt to identify the new person. "You obviously can't e-mail the person and ask them who took over," Popick said. "This is why having a phone number and address is important so you can contact the company and find out." You can protect yourself by asking people for this information when they sign up for your marketing messages or newsletter, she said.
And remember: The best way to find out why people are leaving is to make it very easy for them to tell you. Marketers with multiple newsletters can create an opt-out landing page where recipients can unsubscribe and tell you why they are leaving. "Two-click opt-outs take me to a page that says, 'I'm sorry to see you go.' I, as the subscriber, only have to hit the button one more time, but I also have the option of saying why I am leaving or if you're sending too much mail. In that case, you should let them choose a lesser frequency." Pollard said.
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