The upside of ‘unsubscribes'

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Opt-outs may not be all bad for e-mail marketers. They're not something you should strive for, but they're definitely something you can learn from, said Mark Priebe, president of e-marketing provider Proximity Marketing.

In fact, you can improve your overall e-mail marketing program and reduce future opt-outs by paying close attention to the list of people who are opting out today. “If you are honest and willing to dig into the why, you may find ways to improve your customer interactions and, in some cases, save a customer relationship,” Priebe said.

You can learn more about why someone opted out and how you can reconnect by asking these three questions, he said.

  1. Are they still interacting with you elsewhere? Some people might prefer to interact with you on a different level, Priebe said. “Just because the person has opted out doesn't mean you have to give up on the relationship completely,” he added. “Ask your salesperson if they are still hearing from the person. See if they are still following you on Facebook or Twitter.”

    If they are, consider your e-mail cadence. It's possible you're sending to that recipient too frequently, or maybe—in the case of someone who manages their life on a handheld device or phone—you don't offer a mobile e-mail design so it's easier for them to read your content on a Web page.

  2. Was the person on too many lists? When you have a large company or many products, the same person might be on multiple lists—for sales, conferences, e-mail newsletters, product renewals or customer service. The opt-out you're getting today may be the result of weeks of over-mailing, Priebe said. “At the opt-out screen, you can give the person the option to change the volume of the messages they receive,” he said. “The opt-out is a great way to help customers reset their preferences.”

    It's also a lesson in list hygiene. Make sure all your e-mail communications come from the same database so you know if you're mailing too often before your customers and prospects let you know

  3. Did your target leave the company or change roles? Sometimes, it's just not your fault. A person might be leaving the company or switching responsibilities. “A lot of business gets lost because of turnover,” Priebe said. “This is where human contact becomes so important. You need to have someone physically reach out and ask if someone new has taken over.”

    You don't have to stalk the person. The salesperson can ask the question during his or her regular sales call. If you don't use salespeople, you can call the company's main number and ask if the prospect who has opted out is still in his or her role, and, if not, who has taken over the position.

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