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The Top 10 Reasons Why You Lose Email Subscribers

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The “drip campaign” is a common email marketing strategy. But for many companies, every time you look at your email lists, it feels like a drip from a leaky bucket. You’re losing email subscribers every day and can’t figure out how to plug the hole.

You want to grow your list. Your lead generation efforts appear to be working because new subscribers are coming on all the time. But then you lose just as many, if not more, to unsubscribes and the list is still shrinking.

How can you grow revenue and expand your customer base with a leaky email list?

The more helpful question is, why are people unsubscribing and what can you do about it? If you ask them (and you should), some will give a reason. But most don’t, or they click the dreaded ‘other’ option.

Plugging the hole requires more than just standing out in their inbox. Take a look at the infographic below for ten reasons you might be losing email subscribers.

Use the links below to jump to an article section and learn more:

  1. Irrelevant messaging
  2. Inconsistent deliverability
  3. Spelling errors and typos
  4. Uninterested audience
  5. Infrequent sends
  6. Seasonality
  7. Ineffective segmentation
  8. Overmarketing
  9. Bad brand experience
  10. Poor email user experience
email unsubscribe infographic
Click to view a larger image

1. Irrelevant messaging

For this one, there’s not always much you can do. They’re over you, they’ve moved on, and maybe you just need to accept that fact.

If a pregnant mom-to-be signs up for an email list related to babies, she probably won’t still need it when her kids are teens. People move away. They change careers. They retire. Priorities shift. And sometimes people just burn out and want a change.

There is one thing you can do before your subscribers jump ship: try giving them the opportunity to make a referral. If you’re sending out occasional emails asking for referrals, shares, and recommendations, you may get a few before your emails become irrelevant enough for that person to unsubscribe. Ask them to share your content!

Solution: Regularly ask for referrals and recommendations via email and encourage forwarding.

2. Inconsistent deliverability

If emails don’t show up at all or end up in spam or promotional folders, there’s a deliverability issue.

Subscribers might notice you in their spam filters and decide to unsubscribe. Or maybe they’re seeing some emails, but not others. This could lead to confusing messaging and a “goodbye” from your prospects.

Email on Acid tests your email for deliverability by running it through more than 20 real-life spam filters, giving you a pass/fail rating, and providing recommendations based on the results.

We could say a lot more about avoiding spam filters, but the biggest key is to prevent people from marking your emails as spam in the first place. That’s way more harmful than unsubscribes because it affects your sender reputation as a whole.

One tip is to not use certain ‘trigger’ words in your subject lines that spam filters look for. Check out our resource for ten ways you can avoid being flagged as spam.

Solution: Use an email deliverability check to test your email against spam filters.

3. Spelling errors and typos

It might seem trivial, and sometimes it is. But some people get pretty upset if spelling and grammar errors show up too often or in a widespread marketing campaign. If you reach a national or global audience, you can lose a lot of money with certain grammatical errors. Don’t be like them: See 20 examples of embarrassing marketing mistakes compiled by HubSpot.

Bad grammar makes you seem unprofessional. The simplest solution is to proofread, and that’s easy to say. But even printed books that were proofread by professional editors still contain errors. It’s hard to catch them all. And often, emails are handled by multiple people, introducing new errors that weren’t there before.

That’s why Email on Acid includes a spell-check feature as part of Campaign Precheck. It helps ensure you avoid upsetting people due to sloppy or offensive language.

Solution: Use an email spell check system.

4. Uninterested audience

If people begin to complain about your company sending “too many” emails, they may not be in your target audience. Now, if you’re sending five emails per day, you’re sending too many emails. But there are countless examples of companies sending just one per week, or even fewer, who still get this complaint from people who unsubscribe.

But this isn’t really why they unsubscribe. The real reason is usually that they simply aren’t in your target audience. If you’re sending out valuable and useful content — for your audience — then they won’t unsubscribe, even if you’re emailing them every day.

Some people are on your list even though they never subscribed. You may have purchased (which is never a good idea!) or inherited a list or added them because they bought something or attended an event. Or, they might have signed up just to get a special deal or coupon.

Now, you’d think some of these people might be in your target audience. Why sign up for your deal otherwise? Well, some people are window shoppers and impulse buyers. Or maybe they got a gift for someone but never intended on shopping from you again — it was a one-time purchase.

Not every buyer is a repeat buyer. And repeat buyers, for most businesses, are your target audience.

This Jilt article describes how HubSpot took what would seem like a big risk and reduced their email list from 550,000 to 300,000. But they saw no loss in revenue or engagement. Why? Because the 250,000 who were removed were no longer interested anyway. They also reduced their email frequency from four per day (yikes!) down to about one.

Solution: Pare down your email lists and send no more than one email per day, on average.

5. Infrequent sends

Some companies are afraid of sending too many emails, so they go the other extreme and send too few. The best way to lose no email subscribers is to send no emails. It’s email list perfection, safely encased in the cocoon of an undisturbed list.

And completely worthless.

Email lists exist to make money for your company. Sending no emails, or just sending a few emails per year, is like having someone hand you a treasure map and using it as a coaster for your coffee mug. The bigger and better your email list, the more it’s worth.

Why does sending too few emails make people unsubscribe? Because they forget about you. When you finally do send an email, their reaction is, “What’s this? I didn’t sign up for this.”

Solution: Send consistent emails.

6. Seasonality

Some people only want to hear from you during the holidays. The other 11 months, they simply don’t care. If you’re emailing them all year long, by June, they might get sick of it and unsubscribe – even though when December comes around, your emails would have been ‘relevant’ again.

To avoid this, you need to have a better sense of who is on your email list and what they prefer. We’ll say more about this in the next point. And there are other forms of seasonality besides just holidays, depending on the business.

Solution: Know your email subscribers and respect their preferences.

7. Ineffective list segmentation

This kind of falls under the relevance problem, but in a very different way.

Recommending flights to Hawaii to someone who already lives in Hawaii doesn’t make much sense. Neither does selling yogurt to a vegan.

Personalization is more than just using someone’s name — which you should do as often as makes sense. It’s also about segmenting your list. With advanced CRMs, you can create all kinds of segments based on buying preferences, demographics, and survey responses.

But even with basic email systems, you can have lists of people broken up by gender, age, or how they were added to your list. And in reference to the last point about seasonality, you could do a survey asking how often people want to hear from you. Send it out during the holidays. Put seasonal shoppers on a ‘holiday season’ list and start emailing them every year in October or November.

Solution: Segment your email list.

8. Overmarketing

This is the kind of marketing that makes people want to run away and hide. It’s not really about being too ‘salesy,’ though it can mean that too.

If all your emails are filled with flashing graphics, animations, videos, and media, it can be overwhelming for many subscribers.

Send some simple emails, too, that feel more personal. Deliver value. Don’t offer sales and deals in every single one, every single day. Consumers have caught on to the idea that if there’s a sale every day, then there’s never a sale — those are just your prices.

Send emails with helpful information, tips, and tricks, links to blogs, surveys, customer success stories, and announcements — not just sales emails.

Solution: Vary your email marketing content.

9. Bad brand experience

Sometimes, customers get angry about your company from something outside of your emails, but they take it out on you by unsubscribing. You might call this the ‘rage unsubscribe.’

However, if you’re aware of something that has gone wrong with your brand, be proactive about it and send out a couple emails to mend the relationship before too many people unsubscribe. Now, this runs the risk of alerting customers who didn’t know about a particular incident, leading them to unsubscribe when they otherwise wouldn’t have. So you have to weigh the risks.

But if it was an individual service failure of some kind, or something that happened at one location, send a personal email (or make a phone call!) just to the people affected, and you might be able to salvage the relationship.

Solution: Have a retention strategy and use email marketing as a customer service channel when needed.

10. Poor email user experience

If people have a hard time consuming your email content you may lose email subscribers in droves. Ask yourself these questions:

Do your emails look great for everyone, including those with disabilities? Is your text easy to read? Do your colors provide enough contrast? The accessibility feature available with Email on Acid ensures that your emails are ADA compliant on every device and email client.

Does your email work on mobile? With so many devices and platforms in use today, creating emails that properly display across all of them is not a simple task. The preview feature from Email on Acid shows how your email will look on over 90 email clients and devices.

Have you checked every single link? Do they go to your intended destinations? Are any broken? We’ve seen emails sent to national email lists with links to non-existent web pages. That’s a surefire way to lose a lot of email subscribers.

Do your images load quickly? Large or poorly-sized media can decrease open times and land your email in the trash. Email on Acid’s image validation tool shows you exactly how long it takes each image to load and provides tips for optimization and compression.

Solution: Use Email on Acid to deliver email perfection.

The final word on why you lose email subscribers

Remember, you’ll lose email subscribers no matter what. With every email you send, some people will probably unsubscribe. And that may not be a bad thing if they’re no longer in your target audience. The email analytics tool available with Email on Acid premium plans provides valuable insights into how your audience is responding to your campaigns, along with who is responding.

Deliver email perfection and keep more of your ideal subscribers with Email on Acid’s pre-deployment checklist.

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Author: Laura Horkey

As Email on Acid’s email marketing specialist, Laura is slightly obsessed with email strategy and is often geeking out on A/B testing, behavioral patterns of subscribers, and the occasional pop culture reference in email copy. Outside of work, she can be found on a baseball field or at a backyard bonfire with her husband, two kids, and poodle-mix puppers somewhere in Northwest Arkansas.

Author: Laura Horkey

As Email on Acid’s email marketing specialist, Laura is slightly obsessed with email strategy and is often geeking out on A/B testing, behavioral patterns of subscribers, and the occasional pop culture reference in email copy. Outside of work, she can be found on a baseball field or at a backyard bonfire with her husband, two kids, and poodle-mix puppers somewhere in Northwest Arkansas.

1 thought on “The Top 10 Reasons Why You Lose Email Subscribers”

  1. List segmentation has been in my experience and of our clients the most important factor to increasing clicks, sales, conversions, and also brand authority and respect. Because through segmentation and being able to email specifically per someones action, it allows a closer relationship with customer. And the faster you truly can build like know and trust, the faster you convert and attract lasting customers. Loved this one! And as you mentioned, segmentation has to be done RIGHT – in order for it to truly be effective.

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