Let's Play The Unsubscribe Game

Bonnier Corporation is a publisher of lifestyle magazines and online properties. Of their 50+ titles Sailing World, TransWorld SKATEboarding, and SNOW are among my favorites.

However, when I recently attempted to opt-out of one newsletter I noticed a host of missed opportunities and one big problem. Take a quick look at the following image and tell me if you can easily find the unsubscribe link:

Bonnier Corporation

(By the way, don’t even get me started on the rendering of the links in the footer)

Once you’ve finally found, and clicked on, the unsubscribe link imagine that you’ve entered your email address (which is completely unnecessary by the way) and click submit. Which button on the bare-bones page below would you pick?

Bonnier Corporation

If you’re anything like me you would either A) click the first button (which I did two weeks ago) or B) hit enter on your keyboard. In either scenario the window simply closes. No confirmation. No nothing. Note: Perhaps you’re smarter than me or maybe I’m busier than you. :) No matter the case, I was surprised to see the very same newsletter in my inbox this morning.

I’m an email-friendly guy so I don’t want to hit the ‘report as spam’ button so I tried unsubscribe again only time I took a bit more time, read more carefully, and clicked the correct button. Voila. I see by the confirmation message below. And that’s all I see.

Bonnier Corporation

Granted, I live and dream email marketing but I’ve seen firsthand that a well crafted opt-out process will allow marketers to gather valuable intelligence, reduce attrition, improve deliverability, and even gain more loyalty.

My advice to Bonnier Corporation?

  1. Don’t be sneaky. Don’t try to be sly with the opt-out language in the email and placement of the unsubscribe button. (Not to mention the lack of confirmation when I clicked the misplaced unsubscribe button.) If I want out, let me leave. Otherwise you risk damaging the reputation of your brands and certainly that of your email deliverability (this is the big problem I mentioned).
  2. Don’t make me feel like a second-class citizen. The lack of the effort you’ve put into the opt-out page screams that you no longer care about me. You should. Simply because I no longer want this particular newsletter it doesn’t mean that I don’t buy your magazines or the products of your advertisers.
  3. Learn from me. Survey me or ask me set my preferences (i.e. weekly, monthly, never). Maybe I like the newsletter, but not the frequency? Or perhaps, I’m no longer in the market.  You’ll never know of you don’t ask.
  4. Try to keep me. You could use humor or some other devise, perhaps coupled with an incentive, to get me to stay. GroupOn does an excellent job.
  5. Profit from me. For starters, brand the opt-out pages. It’s free money. Ask me to buy something, subscribe to other more relevant publications, or join you on the social networks. Hell, why not display ads? You’ve got my attention. Capitalize on it.

As I mentioned, I’m busy so I’m fairly certain that I’ve overlooked several other missed opportunities. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

3 comments

  1. I agree with your comments and it is exactly the reasons you mentioned above that many email subscribers click SPAM because it’s easier to get rid of unwanted mail then go through the hoops that are placed in front of them to unsubscribe from future emails.

    Just today I received an email from the eBay Partner Network which had no unsubscribe link. They actually asked users to log in to their account to unsubscribe from future emails.

    Does that really make sense? eBay never thought about their email subscriber and how to make life easy for them by including an unsubscribe link.

    It’s companies eBay who don’t follow best practices that fall into situations with high complaint rates and it’s not because the content or the email itself is spamming, it’s because they make life difficult for the people who are receiving their email to unsubscribe.

    eBay folks should think about auditing their email marketing program ;)

  2. “Don’t make me feel like a second class citizen”. Terrific point, Scott. There are many reasons a person might opt-out of a newsletter. I’ve done so myself with websites I visit regularly enough that I don’t feel it necessary to receive a newsletter. Being presented with thoughtless design, as you were, or worse, running into a series of dirty tricks designed to prevent unsubscribing only guarantees damaging the relationship with the brand. And as you say, opt-out pages are opportunities to market, to brand, and provide a perfect moment to educate users on those aspects they can control. This is the whole game: let users control when and what kinds of emails they receive and you can build an actively engaged user base while sending fewer emails.

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