I'm on a lot of email lists! Lists for newsletters, product announcements, newsfeeds and more. As you might expect, sometimes I decide I don’t want blast emails from certain organizations anymore and unsubscribe from their lists.
Now I'm just one person unsubscribing from a particular list but for larger organizations even a small dropout rate can equate to thousands of contacts being lost. According to Lauren Drell of Mashable.com average opt-out rates for email subscribers hover in low single-digit percentages, with the highest rates coming in the users first 30 days of being a new subscriber. When users are not finding value in the subscription anymore, they tend to ignore the emails or unsubscribe. In either scenario you are no longer connecting with your subscriber list.
Why is this important?
We've all heard the statistic that it costs 6-7 times more to obtain a new customer than it costs to retain existing ones. Whatever the precise number is, keeping your customers is obviously worthwhile. It takes time and money to convert prospects to customers, while established clients are already paying you for your time and expertise and are likely to be receptive to your ideas for additional projects. Even though members of your mailing list may not be established clients, they are more valuable than fully green leads.
A strong emailing list can also pay off in ways you can’t always predict. I was added to Studio Neat’s email list when I purchased a pair of their Glif iPhone mounts. I never really read their emails, because I figured 2 iPhone mounts was all I’d ever really need. I thought about opting out of their list a few times, but since they never “over did it” or became annoying; I never bothered to. The basic outline of my thinking is related to the captivating statistics on opt-out vs opt-in for of organ donors.
If you haven’t heard about these statistics yet, they‘re quite fascinating. The numbers show that countries where you have to actively opt-in to become an organ donor, such as the United States, the donor rates are far lower than countries where you are considered an automatic donor unless you actively opt-out. For example Germany, an opt-in country, sees organ donors make up only 12% of their total population whereas Austria, an opt-out country, sees organ donors make up 98% of their population. For Studio Neat, I would have never actively added myself to their email list, but since I was already on it I hadn’t yet bothered with trying to remove myself.
That paid off for Studio Neat!
Months after my purchase they sent me an email with the subject “We wrote a book!” It was intriguing enough for me to click-through and read the news that they had wrote a book about their adventures and rise to viability in the internet age. I bought a copy, liked it, and recommended it to friends. Sure, keeping me on their list won’t singlehandedly propel Studio Neat to the top of the New York Times’ Best Sellers list, but that isn’t what they were expecting when they sent the email. What they got from me was a few sales and some word-of-mouth advertising; multiply that across their whole list for a very nice return on their investment.
Email lists can provide you with another way to connect with your current and past customers. When someone unsubscribes from that list, that connection path is broken and it will be an uphill battle to try to re-establish a connection in the future.
You must fight to keep subscribers on the list!
Daily deal website Groupon gave me—and thousands of other users—a special treat when I tried to unsubscribe from their email list, and actually kept me on their list in the process. Instead of a simple “We’re sorry to see you go” message, there was a link to "Punish Derrick," a hilarious video that featured the “employee” in charge of the email list (actually portrayed by CEO Andrew Mason) getting punished for not being capable of retaining list members.
It had been a long day, and the video gave me a laugh—enough that the company kept me on their list. Even today I’m still there, and more importantly, I still buy from Groupon on occasion. (Groupon doesn't use that particular video anymore, but you can find many copies of it on YouTube)
I’m not suggesting that you torture your employees to persuade sadists to stay subscribed to your list. But a creative opt-out video can capture the attention of a nearly-lost prospect. Video has the power to connect through visual and auditory elements. An opt-out video is that “one last chance” you have to hold on to a contact; I wouldn’t bet my chances on that with a persuasive paragraph.
When producing your video make it fun, make it different, make it clear that you are not a run-of-the-mill company, and show that you are worth sticking with. I recommend featuring actual employees in this video, who can directly engage prospects. That personalization is hard to beat, and it may just save your opt-out rate!