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Unsubscribing to Email Marketing Lists

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A new study was released last week by the online marketing firm, Responsys. Their results show that 39% of the top 100 online retailers require three or more clicks to opt out of email marketing campaigns. This is a 32% increase in the last two years. There has also been a 4% increase in companies that send emails after an unsubscribe request.

As anyone who has been on either side of email marketing knows that there is a fine line between email marketing and spam. Marketers stay on the right side of the spam barrier by adhering to some common sense rules. Some of these rules are…

  • Don’t send too many emails
  • Send only emails that offer relevant content
  • Make it easy for list members to unsubscribe

These rules can be distilled into one principle; one meta-rule. That email marketing meta-rule is: Don’t do anything that will cause the email recipient to hit the “Report Spam” button.

As email recipients and list subscribers, our two main tools are:

  • The unsubscribe link in the email
  • The Mark as Spam button in our email program.

And we’ve all signed up for mailing lists that we’ve later decided later to unsubscribe. The decision to unsubscribe can be made as hastily as the decision to subscribe in the first place. From the company’s perspective, those subscribers are customers, prospects, leads, and hopefully revenue. As such, companies hate to lose them and do their very best to keep them. These subscribers justify people’s jobs, their marketing budgets. So companies must think strategically about growing and retaining our email list.

Email marketers may be tempted to follow suit and make it a little more difficult for subscribers to opt out. But the question email marketers have to ask themselves before making it more difficult to unsubscribe to their list is this: How does brand identity affect the likelihood of subscribers to perceive email as spam?  It is a potentially dangerous move for a company like Amazon to risk having their email marketing marked as spam, but they seem to be betting that the quality of their recommendations and how trusted their brand is will prevent people from seeing them as spam.

It’s a calculated risk on the part of a giant online retailer that will probably pay off. Smaller companies without brand recognition who follow suit will probably find that the gamble does not pay off. Spam is really in the eye of the beholder, and when it come to unsubscribing smaller companies follow the leader at their peril.

Tools and best practices for the insure email deliverabilty are an important part of a winning lead management system.

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