Email strategy and copywriting could use improvement, according to a recent survey where consumers revealed reasons why they unsubscribe from emails. Consumers used words like “boring, repetitive,” “same ads in print,” “too focused on company’s needs” and “I don’t trust their email” as reasons why they unsubscribe. Today, I share five copywriting tips to reduce email unsubscribes.

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

– 26 percent say “I get too many emails in general”
– 21 percent say “The emails aren’t relevant to me”
– 19 percent 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 percent say “The content of the emails is boring, repetitive and not interesting to me”
– 13 percent say “I receive the same ads and promotions in the email that I get in print form (direct mail, print magazines, newspapers, etc.)”
– 11 percent say “The email is too focused on the company’s needs, and not enough on my needs.”
– 10 percent 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.

This 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:

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.  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.”

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 mythology.

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. Here are the most popular words and symbols in 2016 emails (the most used symbol is the “%” sign,and most used word is “off”), and the percents most popular (“20%” is the highest number found in email subject lines).

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.

Credit: Target Marketing.
By: Gary Hennerberg is a marketing strategist and is recognized as a leading direct marketing consultant and copywriter.


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