Unsubscribing from Email Campaigns: Relevance in the Eye of the Beholder

August 10, 2011 - 4 minutes read

Email SubsciptionsNearly all of our focus is on driving increased sales with predictive analytics. That’s all good, but what prospects and customers use and judge are the sales and marketing communications. No matter how precise the analytics and the lead scoring in marketing automation systems, there needs to be an option for the recipient to “just take a break.” (We call it correcting for outliers.)

We faced one such moment on an overseas trip. When I powered up the BlackBerry, a message popped up from the carrier:

INTERNATIONAL ROAMING: Calls $2.50/min, Data $0.008/KB.

Internet use and emails can really put a shocking dent in your Euro budget (or Rupee or Yen). Like my finding out later it cost $40 per hour of connectivity via the satellite card. Sure I could limit how many minutes I’d spend on calls, but with email it’s not easy to keep track of data in KB units.

I really liked the convenience of getting emails on my BlackBerry without messing with new devices or sim cards. Determined not to be taken in by my carrier for all the non-work email communications, I wanted to “opt-out” for a limited time. So I embarked on an “unsubscribe to campaigns” campaign.

I found out the world of email communications is most often binary: It is on or off.

In many cases, I could not select the frequency of communication. Sometimes it was not long enough. And there was absolutely no “vacation hold” opt-out choice. Here’s what happened …

I started with the 20 or so LinkedIn Group notifications. The choices were: weekly, daily or off. Well, I need a break for three weeks. So it was Off.

Then I hit the unsubscribe link in Both Sides of the Table. One of my favorite daily reads. Nope, on or off.

Then B2B Online. Ditto. Then Marketo, then Eloqua. Buh-bye. SlideShare breaks down subscription by newsletter area like individual, daily, weekly or none, and “Receive no emails from SlideShare.” Yup, that’s the closest choice. So long, SlideShare. @Focus: Notifications or updates? Neither, folks.  Amazon, the home of smart communications: Unsubscribe from all. That’s it.

Then another newsletter took me to SafeUnsubscribe. Again all or nothing. But at least it had a “tell us why you’re leaving” field. I said,

“Traveling overseas and paying for data by the KB which gets expensive. I want VACATION HOLD option, and RESUME when back in the USA.”

Now when I return, I must remember to subscribe to everything again.

For marketing to be relevant, communication vehicles must offer such flexible options. The good news is there’s an unsubscribe option in every case. We have come a long way from the wild west spamming days.

But have we not learned anything from newspapers that offer vacation hold? And the U.S. Postal Service? Is this feature very difficult to implement online, or do we not care about the customer at this level? Even if not traveling overseas couldn’t we give readers a choice to get a break for a time when needed? Shouldn’t this courtesy not be the norm? In addition, an automatic return from a temporary break means readers don’t need to take conscious actions to seek you out and come back.

Which of these leaders in marketing communication and social media is listening?