“Subscribe, subscribe, subscribe, sub– wait…UNsubscribe?”What you just witnessed is a previously subscribed customer leaving your email list.

Were you prepared for that?

If you weren’t, you’re not alone. You work hard to build your email list and get people to subscribe, so creating an unsubscribe message (and an unsubscribe process) may not be top of mind.

It’s not enough to just have a button that says “unsubscribe.” If all you have is a boring button or unsubscribe link, you’re just re-affirming the customer’s decision to leave.

“Whatever, I don’t care if you leave. Here’s the link.”

Customer: Definitely not feeling the love here. Buh-bye.

Unsubscribes don’t have to be your downfall. In some cases, it’s just unengaged customers cleaning up your email list for you— and giving you a stronger, more engaged list.

If people aren’t interested, you don’t want them staying on your list anyway.

Two things to remember:

  1. Don’t freak out when someone unsubscribes. It’s a bummer, but you can’t please everyone. Some unsubscribes are inevitable, it is what it is.
  2. Don’t burn bridges! You should care about your unsubscribe message and overall process because any good experience you give your customer (even one that’s leaving) could bring them back if they remember you well.

unsubscribe messageDon’t worry. Unsubscribes aren’t the end of the world.

There are right ways to provide the options and create a mature, makes-them-think-twice unsubscribe message.

You’re about to learn:

  • The top 3 reasons why people are leaving your email lists
  • 7 tips for a better unsubscribe message – plus some examples of successful ones
  • Mistakes you’re making with your unsubscribe process (and what to do instead)

Soon you’ll know the best ways to say goodbye (and still go on after).

7 ways to create a great unsubscribe message

Creating a good unsubscribe message is easier than you think. When you break it down, all the steps are actually pretty natural.

When you’re improving your unsubscribe email message, there are 7 ways to get people to stick around:

  1. Remind them of the good old days
  2. Stay on message
  3. Be yourself (don’t try to be a form)
  4. Show you care
  5. Offer alternatives
  6. Work on engagement
  7. Keep it simple

1. Remind them of the good old days

No one sees your email opt-in sign-up form and thinks, “huh, that’s a really nice form, my email address would look so great on it.” Something got them to subscribe.

Your unsubscribe process should focus on what got them to subscribe in the first place.

And you should put it at every step of the process:

  • Your unsubscribe page should make them second-guess their unsubscription
  • Your unsubscribe confirmation should point them to where they can sign up again
  • Your unsubscribe email (if you send one, which you might not want to) should do the same

Unsubscribe pages should be as easy to use as possible – you don’t want to make it hard for people to unsubscribe, or they might stay subscribed and start marking your emails as spam.

But you can also use them as a way to get people who click unsubscribe to stick around.

2. Stay on message

Your unsubscribe page is not an opportunity to provide a long-winded description of why they shouldn’t leave you. That’s what your diary is for.

This is a chance to keep them interested. The goal is to keep them subscribed, not make them feel your abandonment. BUT– that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t target a little emotion.

1-800 Contacts wasn’t afraid to target emotion, but they didn’t need a diary entry to do it.

unsubscribe message example
What about Prague??

Did you go to Prague with 1-800 Contacts? Probably not. Neither did I, but even I had a moment reading this where I thought “Oh God, I’m awful. I mean, we had Prague!”

(And I’m not even subscribed to 1-800 Contacts. Also haven’t been to Prague).

1-800 Contacts knew how to target emotions with a simple and clear message that stayed on the point they were trying to make: “You’re leaving? Don’t!”

Not only that, but they gave an alternative to unsubscribing (something we’ll talk about in a bit).

A monologue belongs in your diary. A simple message belongs on your form.

3. Be yourself (don’t try to be a form)

When you search for email marketing content, you’ll notice that a lot of blogs give similar advice: don’t talk like a robot. Your email opt-out wording should reflect your brand, just like any other copy.

If you are a fun company, have fun copy! Get creative with design, delivery method, and language.

A clean water non-profit, charity: water, did it with a splash that was very on-brand.

And guess what? Out of over 70,000 emails that were sent, only 100 recipients unsubscribed and 740 recipients watched the video.

In other words, more people watched the video and stayed subscribed than people who unsubscribed. That’s an unsubscribe rate of just around .001%.

The last thing anyone wants is a form as boring and unengaging that they would rather watch a parking garage security camera feed. If you’re boring, they’ll never re-subscribe (or salvage their current subscription).

4. Show you care

Don’t burn bridges. Some people who unsubscribe won’t be a loss (if they were never engaging anyway), but you always want to give them the chance to return.

If you get seriously annoyed when you get a text reply that says “K,” you know what I’m talking about. Don’t act like you don’t care that they are leaving.

unsubscribe message

Potassium to you too, see ya never.

If they ever consider re-subscribing, you want to leave a good last impression. Don’t be careless about your unsubscribe message just because you don’t want them to leave.

5. Offer alternatives

Ever heard the phrase “It’s not over until it’s over” before?
Unsubscribes aren’t unsubscribed until the customer actually clicks “Unsubscribe.” There’s a lot you can do in that decision time, like offering alternative options to leaving. Some could be:

  • Taking a break from emails for a set period of time
  • Receiving different emails
  • Provide other ways to keep in touch
  • Offering an incentive to stay

Remember the 1-800 Contacts example from before? There was an opportunity to unsubscribe, but also an opportunity to take alternative action—like updating the email address or follow on social media only.
People like choices.

It’s why restaurants have menus instead of a single meal. And why we have closets of clothes, not uniforms.

Take a look at how Grammarly does this.

grammarly unsubscribe message exampleI’ll have an order of Weekly Progress Reports with a side of Pop Quiz emails, please.

They offer to improve their experience by sending different emails and letting subscribers choose what they get, from blog content to progress reports.

How nice of them. Be nice like Grammarly.

6. Work on engagement

Like I mentioned above, this unsubscribe doesn’t have to be a flat out “see ya.” Make it “see ya soon.”

How do you do this? Make it memorable. Make it engaging. Make it personal.

This is an oldie but such a goodie. Groupon got a lot of attention for this unsubscribe video, featuring Derrick.

Let’s watch what happens to Derrick when he sends an email to a subscriber that they didn’t like, prompting an unsubscribe click (about 15 seconds in).

An immediate closing screen reads “That was pretty mean… I hope you are happy. Want to make it up to Derrick? Resubscribe!”

I would feel bad for Derrick. I would also want to keep in touch with a company that makes me laugh that hard (sorry Derrick).

There are ways to work on engagement even when the clock is running down on the unsubscribe process. Get creative! Find your own Derrick! Your Derrick can help save your unsubscribe rate (and your Derrick) from certain doom.

7. Keep it simple

Always always always, this is a good rule of thumb.

Simplicity applies to language, content, design, the whole shebang. Yes, it’s good to be creative. Yes, it’s fine to offer an incentive to stay on the list. But there is such a thing as too much.

If they are unsubscribing from your list in the first place, it’s possible that it’s because they are already getting too much from you. Don’t have an unsubscribe process that is so in their face it only makes them run away faster.

Keep your language simple (because a downloadable glossary to decipher what the heck your unsubscribe copy is saying does not count as good content). A little goes a long way with copy, images, design, and the process.

Mistakes you’re making with your unsubscribe process (and what to do instead)

You’ve followed all of the tips, so your unsubscribes should be going down, right?

But what if your unsubscribe rate STILL isn’t decreasing (or if it’s even increasing)? It’s time to do a double check.

These are the biggest mistakes you can make with your unsubscribe process:

  • Hiding the unsubscribe link
  • Making people log in to unsubscribe on your landing page
  • Not sending an unsubscribe confirmation email
  • Letting them leave without learning why
  • Having a complicated, multi-step process, then making them wait

Hiding the unsubscribe link

Ok. Enough of this.

Nobody wants people to unsubscribe, but it’s not 100% avoidable, and hiding the button is not going to change that.

(Also, depending on where you are, it could be illegal. CAN-SPAM and GDPR have provisions related to how you can and can’t email people).

I saw one such example of this in an email I received the morning I wrote this post:

hidden unsubscribe buttonA seemingly unfinished sentence is kind of a tip-off…

If people want to unsubscribe, they will find a way. In fact, trying to hide the link in a haze of beige might make them even more inclined to leave than they were originally.

If they can’t subscribe on their own, they might even send you a nasty email about it.

Just remember: Fewer people on your list who don’t want to be there means more time to engage those who DO want to be (which is more worth your time and money).

Don’t. Hide. The Unsubscribe Link.

Requiring a login to unsubscribe

After someone clicks unsubscribe from your email, they should be able to unsubscribe straight from your landing page.

Making them go all the way in just to leave again? Not cool, and not really necessary.

Think about this: a customer who is unsubscribing is probably someone who hasn’t engaged in a while anyway. If they’re anything like me, they probably don’t remember their login info (because they haven’t been engaging…).

Not only does this make the process longer and more annoying, but you also don’t stand to gain anything from it other than their frustration.

Not confirming unsubscribes

This is a personal pet peeve of mine. When you make a purchase, you expect to get a receipt, right?? I also expect to be told that my unsubscribe request is confirmed.

(Note: You may not want to send people an unsubscribe people after they’ve just told you they want to leave your email list. Check the laws in your area).

Your unsubscribe page should have a confirmation message – to make sure people know they’re done.

There was once a several weeks long period when I tried to unsubscribe from a publication I no longer read. I unsubscribed, and then still got it anyway.

Oh, also, I never got any indication of confirmation when I did it the first time (or either of the two times after that).

The only way I finally got rid of it (and finally got confirmation) was by speaking directly to their customer support, who informed me when it was done.

unsubscribe message confirmationSuch a time-saver.

A simple confirmation message to tell me (and the publication) that I was done with it would have saved us all a lot of time. A little reassurance goes a long way.

Letting them leave without learning why

You can’t know why someone is unsubscribing…or can you?
You can, if you