The unsubscribe link is a critical part of your relationship with your email reader, and providing one that works is required by law. Here are 4 things about the unsusbcribe process that you need to keep in mind as you manage your email marketing program:
- The Lowdown
- The Experience
- The Consequence
- The Obvious
Unsubscribing is a nice, simple, clean way for your recipients to control the flow of information into their inbox. You want people to use your unsubscribe link because the alternatives (delete, ignore, email purgatory, or ‘Mark as Spam’ inbox tools) can affect your bank balance, your sender reputation, and your brand and word of mouth. To a business, an unsubscribe might cost thousands of dollars or more in loss of the chance to build a relationship with, and extract revenue from that human. We have written about this before, but the recent six-figure fines at Virgin has prompted another post today. Previous posts include some great stuff, so if you missed them: Unsubscribe don’t send hate mail. Happy to unsubscribe in 30 steps… Subscribe yourself, share with your network (SWYN) and other missed opportunities. Unsubscribe – a quick and painless death?
Legally, the ‘spam law’ in New Zealand, Australia, the EU, Canada, the USA and more, states clearly that your unsubscribe method must work, be free, and be honoured within a few days (5 days in NZ and AU, 10 days for CAN-SPAM).
The Experience – how users see your unsubscribe
People unsubscribe because they can. How the process works will be important to whether or not they call you next time they are in the market for your services. A difficult unsubscribe process can be annoying, infuriating, and illegal. There are three common scenarios. I’d love your comments, and why.
a) Click to Unsubscribe
Most important – there should be no doubt what you need to do, and whether or not you have done it. Practising what we preach, we were adamant that our SmartmailPro platform behave in a way that is extremely clear. One click on the link in the email and you see this message: Success! Next, it shows the email address you have unsusbcribed, we all have multiple addresses and sometime you’ll surprise even yourself with which you are signed up with, to what.
Then you can add a reason if you like, resubscribe if it was an error, or change your other subscriptions.
Usually found at the bottom of an email, we believe that the link should also be at the top of the email. (Sometimes this link is placed in the side bar which is uncommon and therefore bad.)
b) Phone, email to unsubscribe.
It surprises many of our clients to hear that they have to motnior inboxes and instruct CS staff in how to action unsusbcribes – if someone calls to unsusbcribe, can your staff tell them how to, or better yet, do it for them?
c) Log in to your account to ‘update your preferences’.
If you want people to log in then you are providing a barrier to unsusbcribe, something that is anti-customer, if not illegal. You can easily add the data to the link dynamically so that they are logged in with their details upon clicking the link. Yes, if you are a bank, then you might not have any option but to require security steps, however it’s important to offer an alternate method of contact so they can change their preferences even if they can’t access their account for any reason.
The Consequence – Virgin Aussie fined six figures for their non-working unsubscribe
EmailExpert.org recently posted news about the fines levied on Virgin three times now, for spamming. He relays that in March last year Virgin Mobile was fined $22,000 dollars in Australia, and more recently in the UK, Virgin Media came under fire for spamming, and in this the latest blow Virgin Blue Airlines has been fined AU$110,000 dollars for spamming by the Australian Communications and Media Authority. Virgin Blue has since committed to overhauling its email marketing in response to alleged contraventions of Spam Act. How did they fall foul? The unsubscribe links in their email simply did not work.
The enforcable conditions for Virgin Blue are available on the ACMA website, download here.
The Obvious – make your emails relevant
Finally, it’s important to remember that when asked why they unsubscribed, a majority of people respond that ‘it just isn’t relevant to me’. Making email personal and relevant is critical to keeping your recipients engaged in your content, and ultimately in your organisation.
Relevance can be improved dramatically with the following, which should be considerations in every campaign you plan:
If you still have time you can read more here Six Truths for Email Marketing (one of our most popular posts ever) Evolve your Email Strategy and here Does your site deliver ?(ecommerce focus). But perhaps the truth is still, as eMarketer reported last year, Email Marketers plan to get smart at some point just not right now!