December 28, 2007, 12:00 AM

Unleashing the marketing opportunities in the unsubscribe process

Just because a consumer unsubscribes from e-mails, that doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to hear from an e-retailer again. EmailLabs suggests ways to extend the relationship.

Just because a consumer unsubscribes from your e-mails, that doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to hear from you again. Properly designed, the unsubscribe process can help extend the relationship with that consumer, says Stefan Pollard, e-mail best practices director at e-mail service provider Email Labs.

More than three-quarters of the more than 400 e-mail marketers responding to a recent Email Labs survey say they allow recipients to opt out of an e-mail list with a single click, such as by hitting an unsubscribe link, Pollard says in a report entitled “Unsubscribing in 2007: Marketers Can Get More Out of Goodbye.” But that assumes the recipient wants no more contact with the e-mailer, which is not always the case.

“An unsubscribe isn’t always about saying goodbye,” Pollard explains. “Maybe the subscriber’s needs or interests change, or he wants to update an address, or hear from you more or less often. This is where profile pages can help you reduce unsubscribes and give users a more valuable experience.”

Only 25% of the marketers surveyed allow recipients to unsubscribe by going to a profile page that does not require a password to log in. That’s the method Pollard recommends, because it allows a consumer to change profile information while remaining on the list.

Pollard notes that 17% direct subscribers to a profile page that requires a password, but says that’s self-defeating because passwords are so often forgotten. Many times, he says, a consumer will give up and report the e-mail as spam, which can make it harder for the marketer to get e-mail delivered in the future.

Fewer than 20% of marketers in the survey use the unsubscribe confirmation method to remind subscribers about other communication options or to gather exit information, Pollard notes. For instance, only 6.3% include a customer service phone number in the goodbye message, 5.3% an incentive to update profile and resubscribe, 5% a survey, and 4.8% a form for submitting suggestions.

“The unsubscribe doesn’t have to be a final farewell, but marketers too often treat it that way, given the nearly half who use the message format merely to confirm the unsubscribe,” Pollard writes. “Always acknowledge the unsubscribe with a personal message thanking the subscriber for his patronage, offering other options for receiving messages and an opportunity to explain the request, and providing contact information including phone numbers and links to your web site.”

Pollard also discourages marketers from using tricks to make it hard to unsubscribe. He notes more than 30% of the survey respondents say they put the unsubscribe message in very small type-8 points or less-while another 8.7% use a very light grey font on a white background, and another 8.7% push the unsubscribe message far down in the body of the message.

“This only makes them angry, and angry people click the spam button,” Pollard says. He recommends putting the unsubscribe language in the same type font and size as the rest of the message, and putting it close enough to the main body of the message that the recipient does not have to scroll down a long way to see it.

EmailLabs is a unit of marketing technology company Lyris Inc.

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