ExactTarget Study Sheds Light on Unsubscribe Best Practices

A recent study by ExactTarget shows that 93% of U.S. online consumers are subscribers to at least one opt-in email per day. That’s a lot of customers to whom you’re sending emails!

We all know about CAN-SPAM. We all know about the necessity of working within the opted-in framework so that customers do not need to opt-out in order not to receive unwanted emails. But doing the minimum isn’t enough.

Let’s start with the unsubscribe button itself. Make it clear. Make it obvious. No, it doesn’t have to be more obvious than the offer attached to the email, but don’t make your customers hunt for it, either.

Once the button is placed, don’t make the unsubscribe process difficult, either; as you’ll see a little later in this article, that’s never a good idea — but especially not in these days of social networks and viral comments. I have several email accounts, and I don’t want to spend 10 minutes figuring out which one I used to subscribe to your catalogue so that I can unsubscribe: just give me a button attached to a direct link.

The visibility and accessibility of the unsubscribe process may be obvious considerations; but the speed at which an unsubscribe is processed may not be as obvious, and it’s a vital component to effective list management.

It may not be obvious because we’re all accustomed to thinking from our own point of view: it’s in process, it’s on the list, it’ll get done. But if we were to take the customer’s point of view for a moment, we’d see the value in a quick unsubscribe. Here’s the scenario: you decide that you no longer want to be on a given list. Maybe you haven’t bought anything from that vendor for a few months. Maybe you subscribed by accident (it happens). In any case, thank you, no, I’m just not interested right now. You unsubscribe.

The following week, you receive another email offer. Perhaps even two. Now you’ve gone from feeling neutral about the company sending the emails to feeling irritated about it. The Web is supposed to be fast, right? So why didn’t they get the message? You may decide to vent your frustration in public places — on Facebook, in blogs, tweeting, even possibly on YouTube. And the company’s word-of-mouth reputation suffers.

Even looking at it from the company’s point of view speaks to the wisdom of a quick unsubscribe. Do you really want people on your lists who don’t want to be there? Do you really want to make people feel irritated when they think about you? Of course not.

A quick unsubscribe mechanism is the best way to keep everybody happy, and your lists error-free.