5 Strategies and Copywriting Tips to Reduce Email Unsubscribes

When my column on the topic of reducing email unsubscribes appeared in Today @ Target Marketing, the editors at Target Marketing tweeted it was “one of our ‘hottest’ stories of the day.” And the story was retweeted a lot … suggesting that unsubscribes are a problem for a lot of marketers.

If you’d like to reduce your email unsubscribes, keep reading.

Internet users were surveyed by MarketingSherpa asking why they unsubscribe from emails. The top results aren’t terribly surprising:

•    26% say “I get too many emails in general”

•    21% say “The emails aren’t relevant to me”

•    19% say “I receive too many emails from this company specifically”

But several other answers (summarized in this article by eMarketer) are ones where more solid marketing strategy and effective email copywriting, could result in fewer people unsubscribing:

•    17% say “The content of the emails is boring, repetitive and not interesting to me”

•    13% say “I receive the same ads and promotions in the email that I get in print form (direct mail, print magazines, newspapers, etc.)”

•    11% say “The email is too focused on the company’s needs, and not enough on my needs.”

•    10% say “I don’t trust their email to provide the information I need to make purchase decisions.”

When you have a solid strategy, and email copywriting is put to the test, these shouldn’t be reasons you lose subscribers or customers.

Last week I had the privilege of talking about email marketing at American Writers and Artists Web Copywriting Intensive, so today I share five concepts from that presentation that should reduce unsubscribes:

1.    Start thinking like the person getting your email (duh). My specific recommendation is that you align your message with how the mind naturally thinks. I covered this in detail in my column two weeks ago where I shared a framework describing how to align your message with the way your prospective customer thinks.  

2.    There are at least two (definitely more) reasons why someone opens an email, on the strength of the subject line. It’s because you provoked relevant curiosity with intended ambiguity (keyword “relevant”). Or, you promised something specific, perhaps a number, or words such as “how to,” or pointed out that there is a “video.” More about that in my column about using words proven to have a viral effect.

3.    Multivariate tests using email marketing automation can go a long way to identifying what your email recipient wants to see. Consider that you can scramble tests of three subject lines, three headlines, and three other elements (like images, your lead, call-to-action button, etc.) and be able to evaluate 27 different test combinations. One approach is to use Bayesian Analytic methodology

4.    Pay attention to what other marketers, and competitors are emailing. Recent research I conducted on emails archived in the Who’s Mailing What email marketing database produced findings you should test. The most popular words and symbols in 2016 emails were the “%” sign, and most used word is “off”. And the percents most popular (“20%” is the highest number found in email subject lines. See the full report at my Today @ Target Marketing column.

5.    Make your email more relevant with email marketing automation driven by specific reasons people are on your list. Create email marketing workflows based on behaviors such as topic of interest, new customers, lead nurturing, re-engagement, abandoned shopping cart and more. I found a great list of 13 email marketing workflows, complete with explanations, from Hubspot.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of bad players out there who spam our prospects and customers. But consumers are smart. When they trust you, when you respect their time, and when you send them relevant emails, you shouldn’t have to worry about large numbers of unsubscribes.


Gary Hennerberg

After a lot of years in marketing and sales, this is what I know works:

Stories sell. Think unique. Stimulate emotion. Close deals. And here are a few other gems from my new book, “Crack the Customer Mind Code.” Know the persona, interpret your offer and let your prospect give themselves permission to buy. That’s how the brain is wired. It’s how people think.

What else? When I’m not breaking down complex topics (or ones marketers over-complicate) into easy-to-grasp stories that sell, I crunch numbers. Manage projects. Write. Teach. Lead.