‘Tis the Season to Unsubscribe

Written by

Josh Stauffer

CEO and President

An optimistic believer in digital’s transformative power on the landscape of B2B marketing, Josh brings over a decade of agency experience to his role as CEO and president of Blue Flame Thinking. He also brings a lifetime spent in the act of artistic creation and expression…and some serious coding skills.

Josh’s journey from artist to coder to creator of enterprise-grade software applications to digital marketing team leader to business owner began with the realization that the act of creating is more important than the medium used.

It’s not that I am less of a ‘maker’ now. I’m just making something that serves other makers: an agency that provides clients and staff members with a better way to express themselves.

Fast Facts:

  • Classically trained oil painter and illustrator.
  • 5:30 a.m. CrossFit junkie.
  • Han shot first. It’s not a debate, though to be clear, Greedo was a slimeball.

If you have any brand affinity at all, you’ve probably subscribed to notifications from the brands you love. It’s just as likely that this show of affection has been rewarded in recent weeks with a growing barrage of seasonal e-blasts.

That helpful heads-up from many retailers is often followed by even more well-intended reminders of upcoming sales, second and third missives related to those sales, and, of course, announcements of even better sales once the initial sale passes. When these seasonal messages combine with your regular inbox flow, it threatens to become a tsunami of messaging no one can easily process. You aren’t alone if your response is to engage in mass deletions of unopened mail or, as the frustration builds, hitting “unsubscribe” in a frustrated attempt to stem the flow.

An Epic Battle for Attention

Much like children trying to outshout each other for candy, the din gets louder and louder as the deletions build and the holidays grow closer. Retailers try to talk over each other with flashier GIFs, bolder numbers and emojis in their subject lines in an effort to draw your eye—and, hopefully, your finger—toward the click-through button. Others take a different tack by staying away from holiday-specific colors and language, making it harder to distinguish the seasonal from the daily course of messaging and creating further inbox confusion for their audiences.

Regardless, what starts out as marketing strategy at one brand combines to form an abusive marketing trend with collateral damage: Your message can be lost to email-marketing fatigue as it is lumped in with the worst offenders.

How to Rise Above the Inbox Clutter

For B2B companies communicating during this time of year, it’s a serious challenge. Some simply take to the proverbial hills like the Grinch and let the B2C brands slug it out until the start of the new year. Others stick with it and power through the holidays, executing on their marketing plan with the understanding that the clamor will diminish their efforts.

If you are among the latter group, here’s some advice to help you avoid the potential collateral damage these other brands might cause you.

Be mindful, concise and helpful. No one needs four email communications from you in a single day, ever. That type of communication strategy will spend your brand equity faster than you could ever build—or rebuild—it. Remember, right now your target has the least amount of patience for this channel of communication than at any other time of the year. As effective as email is the other 11 months of the year, consider relying more heavily on social posts for the month of December. Posts are less invasive and allow users to interact when they are comfortable, rather than on your email schedule.

Let them opt out easily. If you aren’t passing through opt-out functions to your marketing automation system and instead simply display a “thank you” page in response to each “unsubscribe” …how do we put this…you’re doing it wrong. There’s no need to aggravate a soon-to-be former subscriber further by engaging them with surveys or forcing them through a prolonged, multistep exit to discourage them from completing the process. Doing so risks a simple “no, thank you” erupting into heated and highly visible complaints on your social media channels.

Most mobile operating systems now feature an Unsubscribe button, prominently placed above the content, for mailing list emails. With this option, users aren’t taken out of the email app to a separate unsubscribe page in an effort to keep their business. This alone makes the process of unsubscribing quick and convenient. And, it’s the first CTA a user sees, so it’s very important your message is compelling enough for them to continue reading, rather than clicking.

Test drive your unsubscribe process. The best way to understand the pain points that customers have with your email marketing is to subscribe and then opt out. When auditing our clients’ marketing communications, we often find this exercise uncovers serious trouble spots that are counterproductive to a successful user journey.

The Struggle Is Real

So far, we’re only a few weeks into the holiday season, and I’ve personally unsubscribed from nine brands I used to trust with my email address. Banana Republic, I love you, but my patience is wearing thin! I’m on pace to set a record for unsubscribing this year. How about you? Or, maybe a better question is, “How about your audience?”