Your Unsubscribe Page Playbook: 5 Great Ways to Keep Readers in the Game

Let’s compare, if you will, email marketing to football. Every play is guided by rules. Statistics. Timing criticalities. And when there’s pressure, the best teams know there’s still plenty of opportunity to pull out a win. Maybe that’s why I find it surprising when B2B marketers are so quick to throw in the towel the moment someone hits “unsubscribe” in an email. Don’t they know the game’s not over?

By all means, this is not to suggest that your company should make the unsubscribe process difficult in any way. Nor should you hang on to every email subscriber with the same dogged aggression. After all, some of your readers are simply not good candidates from the start – and keeping them on your list can force you into that dangerous graymail zone. Instead, the opportunity is with readers who do recognize your value … yet feel your email marketing is somehow missing the mark. For this group, borrow from football these five easy-to-execute rules for your unsubscribe page.

Rule #1. Let your “receivers” control the game.

The more you can help readers feel like they’re in control of their inbox, the better your chances of keeping them happy. Most B2B marketers have already caught on to the fact that the number one reason people unsubscribe is too many emails. Of those customers, nearly half (see statistics below) may respond favorably to “opt-down” options on the unsubscribe page. Bottom line: If you haven’t already incorporated this critical best practice into your email marketing playbook, you’re missing a huge opportunity.

Also consider other ways to let your email subs call the shots. Try out a “snooze” option for subscribers who want a break but not a break-up. And be sure to define options for different “content themes” (i.e., weekly blogs, monthly newsletter, educational content, etc.). This ensures users only receive only the content that’s relevant and valuable. Check out the following statistics:

  • MarketingCharts cites that a whopping 54% of email subscribers say they hit the unsubscribe button because they felt bombarded by emails.
  • According to the 2013 BlueHornet Consumer View of Email Report, 47% of respondents said if presented with the option to “opt-down” during the unsubscribe process, they would consider it.
  • The Lyris Annual Email Optimizer Report shows that emails that are segmented performed better compared to untargeted ones, lowering unsubscribe rates by 28%.

Rule #2. Throw in a few motivational buzzwords (examples included).

As we know from any good halftime speech, words are a powerful motivator. For B2B marketers, choosing the right phrases at the right moment can be a game-changer. For your unsubscribe page, put this to the test (literally) by trying out new words, different twists on worn-out phrasings, and if appropriate, a dash of humor.

Need some ideas? Copy Hackers cites two terms in particular that can heavily influence someone’s actions on the unsubscribe page: quit and give up. Copy Hackers cites that, as humans, we have a cultural aversion to phrases like the following:

Are you sure you want to quit receiving emails from CompanyXYZ?

It’s also noted that the effect of the “q” word is even greater when used in a CTA. Building on that same approach, try pairing one of these buzzwords with a message that reminds your readers of the value and benefit your emails provide. For example:

Don’t give up now – more great inspirations are in store for summer!

Remember, the idea here is not to shame your subscribers into sticking with you. But certain words may give them pause enough to consider the value they’d be missing out on should they proceed.

Rule #3. Do a little name-dropping from the sideline.

This tip works in two ways. First, include your company’s name at least once on your unsubscribe page. Studies suggest that brand name repetition – in the email sender field, email body, subject line, etc. – engenders trust with your audience and potentially leads to fewer unsubscribes. Second, include your reader’s name. Just as it works in subject lines, humanizing your message and speaking to your readers on a personal level can be just enough to tip the scales for readers who are on the fence. Test out one of these strategies, or combine them as shown below:

We’re sad to see you go, Allison. You will no longer receive emails from CompanyXYZ.

Rule #4. Don’t give up without a Hail Mary.

Your reader has officially clicked the unsubscribe button. Game over, right? Not exactly. There’s still one second on the clock for a Hail Mary touchdown attempt. In fact, a surprising number of marketers have reported success when providing a resubscribe option immediately after someone subscribes, as JustFab does below:

Unsubscribe Page Example: JustFab

Another great idea? Include social media icons/links on your unsubscribe page. Subscribers may want to de-clutter their inbox, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they want to disengage from your brand altogether. This smart technique simply provides another avenue for your customers. Take a look at how Lucky Peach does it:

Unsubscribe Page Example: Lucky Peach

Rule #5. Avoid embarrassing penalties.

We get it: it’s hard to part with subscribers. But that’s never a reason to forgo some of the hard and fast rules that have come to define the unsubscription process. There’s certain penalties that simply make you look so unprofessional that you risk any chance or future re-engagement with an email contact. Avoid tarnishing your image – and intensely frustrating your customers – by sticking to these rules:

  • DO include an unsubscribe link in every email.
  • DO NOT make people login to unsubscribe.

  • DO show a message confirming that they’ve been unsubscribed.
  • DO NOT send an email to let readers know they have been unsubscribed.

  • DO make the unsubscription immediate (don’t make them wait).
    • In the event the unsubscription cannot be immediate; DO provide specifics on how long it will take for them to truly be removed from your list.

  • DO make the unsubscribe link visible in the email footer.
  • DO NOT use a word other than “unsubscribe” – readers are conditioned to look for this word specifically.

  • DO NOT make your unsubscribe process exceed two clicks.
  • DO make sure your unsubscribe page is optimized for mobile.

Above all, the best way to keep your unsubscribe rates to a minimum is to provide your readers with valuable, relevant information that’s continuously tested and optimized over time. Do this, and you’ll be in better field position to avoid pressure altogether.

Now that you’ve tackled some ways to retain your subscribers, want to know the best ways to build your subscriber list in the first place? Check out 7 Tips That Get More People to Subscribe to Your Email and its follow-up blog post, 5 (More) Tips on How to Get People to Subscribe to Your Email.

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Allison Woodbury | Director of Content Operations
About the Author
Allison Woodbury, Director of Content Operations

Allison Woodbury has been a Content Marketer for PMG since 2016. She’s a content marketing, writing, social media and branding guru who spends her writing time alternating between getting in the shoes of her readers and scrutinizing super-niche industries. She loves to see what her readers like – so tell her what you want, what you really, really want (to read more of)!