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Why You’re Losing Your Subscribers and How to Get Them Back

Why You’re Losing Your Subscribers and How to Get Them Back

Email remains one of the most effective digital marketing channels in the world, and surveys confirm it. This is something all business owners and marketers should remember. It’s particularly essential to small business owners, as email is also a fairly affordable marketing channel. However, to maximize the return on investment (ROI) of your campaigns, you need to make sure that you’re reaching as many subscribers as possible.

That means that you also need to monitor your unsubscribe rate and try to understand why your followers are unsubscribing in the first place. The information here will help. The following points explain some of the most common reasons why people unsubscribe from email lists, and what you can do about it.

Why Your Followers Are Unsubscribing

Before considering these points, it’s also important to remember that every business is different. The specific reasons your followers are unsubscribing may not be the same as those of another company. You could always survey your subscribers to determine what you’re doing wrong (and right).

In the meantime, it’s valuable to learn about these common reasons why your followers are unsubscribing. They include:

You’re Not Using the Right Tools

Small business owners work much more efficiently and effectively when they use the right tools. When you leverage useful resources, you can engage with your subscribers on a consistent basis. If you don’t, engagement may suffer, leading to a high unsubscribe rate. People aren’t going to follow a brand or business they don’t feel they have a consistent relationship with.

What to Do About It

Make sure you’re using a tool that simplifies the process of sending emails to your followers. Even if you’re a small business with a limited budget, you can still find excellent email marketing software that would be ideal for your brand. There is an affordable MailChimp alternative, where you can automate your emails, segment your list, personalize your content, and much more. The results? Higher levels of engagement without substantially more work.

You’re Sending too Many Emails

You don’t want to bombard your followers with emails. Even if your content is valuable, crowding their inboxes is not the way to make the right impression. In fact, Marketing Sherpa research indicates the following are the top three reasons why people unsubscribe from email lists: they receive too many emails in general, they receive too many emails that aren’t relevant to them, and they receive too many emails from the specific company whose list they are unsubscribing from.

What to Do About It

If you’re sending substantially too many emails, it could be the reason your followers are unsubscribing. Try sending fewer emails, and monitor how doing so impacts your unsubscribe rate.

It’s also important to segment your email list. This is key to ensuring you that you are sending only relevant content to your followers. As Neil Patel points out, according to numerous studies, it’s also an effective way to boost open rates and conversion rates.

For instance, if you’re handling email marketing for a company that hosts events throughout the world, it doesn’t mean that all of your subscribers will be able to attend all events. Most of them will only be able to attend those taking place relatively close to where they live. Send an email about an event in California to a follower in New York, and you’re just sending them irrelevant content. Segment your list so that this doesn’t happen, and your unsubscribe rate should improve as a result.

Your Emails Aren’t Visually Appealing

Gone are the days when many devices couldn’t load visually dynamic emails quickly enough. Now it’s far more likely your subscribers can easily read emails that contain images, animated GIFs, videos, and similar features.

In fact, they are now expecting an interactive type of content in their emails. When others are sending visually appealing emails, and yours are simply generic, text-based messages, you won’t capture their attention, and that will eventually lead you to a high unsubscribe rate.

What to Do About It

Including images, animated GIFs, and videos in your emails will help you boost engagement among your followers. However, that’s merely one step. You should also develop interactive emails.

An interactive email may include several different features, depending on its purpose. For example, if your goal is to generate a sense of urgency when promoting a sale, you could include a countdown clock in your emails. This example from Body Candy illustrates the effect:


If you’re trying to condense a substantial amount of content, emails can now include menus like those found on traditional websites, making it easier for readers to navigate to the content they find most relevant. Accordions also serve this purpose. Additionally, if you’re trying to display several pictures in one email (for example, to promote multiple products at once), you can add a slider or slideshow.

The main point to remember is interactive emails should be dynamic. Subscribers are more likely to engage with them if they look impressive and offer interactive features.

You’re Too “Salesy”

The Marketing Sherpa research referenced above also indicates people tend to unsubscribe from email lists if they frequently receive emails that are clearly trying to sell them something.

As a marketer, you obviously want to promote your company’s products and services. But, that doesn’t mean all your emails should be blatantly promotional. Coming across like a pushy salesperson is another way to irritate your subscribers.

What to Do About It

Review your content strategy and determine if your messages could be interpreted as being too “salesy.” If so, adjust your content strategy. Focus less on overt promotion, and more on providing genuinely valuable content. For example, consider this email from Brooks Sports, in which the company celebrates Desiree Linden’s victory at the 2018 Boston Marathon:


Brooks Sports is Desiree Linden’s sponsor. The email could have focused on promoting her relationship with the company and overtly selling products. Instead, Brooks Sports made the focus of the email a congratulatory and celebratory message. Yes, readers have an opportunity to make purchases, but that’s not the main purpose of the content.

Keep in mind that what constitutes “valuable content” depends on your brand and audience. For example, if you were marketing a law firm, your subscribers would likely be interested in informative content that educates them on relevant legal topics. On the other hand, if you were marketing a humor website aimed at young readers, it’s more likely your audience would want to receive entertaining content, such as funny listicles.

Determining what type of content to send your followers is easier when you monitor signs of engagement across all marketing content. This includes blogs, social media posts, and any other content that’s part of your overall strategy. You may identify certain qualities and traits that pieces of content with high levels of engagement share.

You’re Not Optimizing for Mobile

You need to consider how subscribers are consuming your emails when developing them. Recent research indicates that people check their emails via mobile devices more often than via desktop computers these days. If your emails aren’t optimized for mobile, your followers may unsubscribe.

What to Do About It

Optimizing email for mobile involves several key steps. First, you need to make sure you’ve formatted your emails, so they’re easy to read on small screens. That means limiting large blocks of text and using formatting elements such as headers and bullet lists to break them up into easier-to-consume chunks. You can also use images and infographics to break up text and present information in more “scannable” ways. If you use a template when drafting emails, find mobile-responsive one, ensuring your content will be readable on a mobile device.

It’s also important to keep in mind that mobile device screens tend to display less text from your subject lines and first paragraphs when readers see your emails in their inboxes. Knowing this, you should include important terms early in these sections. For example, if you’re promoting a major sale, make sure that’s clear at the start of the subject line. Otherwise, a potential reader may not realize what the email is about.

Your Subject Lines Are Too Forgettable or Too Aggressive

It’s easy to understand why generic subject lines lead to high unsubscribe rates. If you don’t give your followers a good reason to open your messages, they’ll eventually decide your content is simply making their inboxes too crowded.

On the other hand, a subject line that’s too aggressive will once again come across as too salesy and lead you to high unsubscribe rates.

What to Do About It

There are a few effective ways to improve subject lines. One is to personalize subject line by including a recipient’s name. You also need to consider the reader’s perspective. Your subscribers are busy, and they only have time to check the emails that sound valuable to them. Thus, you need to determine what would make you want to open an email you’ve sent.

For example, if you were promoting your apparel store’s holiday sale, a subject line that reads “Celebrate the holidays this season with big savings” is too generic. It sounds like dozens of other emails your followers would receive this time of year. It doesn’t stand out enough. A stronger subject line would be something along the lines of “Save up to 50% on winter sports gear, stylish winter apparel, and winter accessories!”

Why is this stronger? It starts with a benefit, telling the reader opening the email will give them the opportunity to save money. It’s also specific, telling them not only how much they can save, but what particular items they can save money on.

Just keep in mind that your subject lines need to represent the content of each email accurately. Promising valuable content in the subject line, but failing to deliver in the actual email, will give your audience yet another reason to unsubscribe.

When applying these tips, it’s of course still crucial to monitor your performance. Whether you own a small business or a major enterprise, you need to pay attention to the way followers respond to your campaigns. This is key to determining their specific reasons for unsubscribing, and by keeping these points in mind, you’ll reduce the unsubscribe rate substantially.

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by Antonija Bozickovic // Antonija is an internet marketing specialist at Point Visible, a marketing agency providing custom outreach and link building service. She has a great interest in digital marketing and a soft spot for graphic design. She’s never tired of searching for new inspirations, listening to her favorite music, and creating digital illustrations.

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.