How to make sure no one unsubscribes from your email marketing campaigns

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It’s an old saw, but still very true. It’s from three to 10 times more expensive for a B2B marketer to acquire new customers than to keep her current customers, according to the CAM Foundation. However, B2B email marketing unsubscribe rates are higher than ever.

What can a B2B marketer do to keep her subscribers engaged and subscribed? What are the best tips and tricks to dissuading subscribers from unsubscribing?

Keeping subscribers starts before a contact agrees to subscribe, according to Tyler Walton, marketing manager at Clutch, a platform for intelligent customer engagements. “It’s not enough to get permission to email a contact; you need permission for the type of campaign you plan to deploy,” he says. “Tell the subscriber exactly what she will be getting and when it will be sent. Otherwise, not only will your unsubscribe rate increase, your company will lose trust.”

Certain number of unsubscribes inevitable

When it comes to email marketing there are always going to be a certain number of unsubscribes. Countervailing unsubscribes is content quality, according to David Scott, an email marketer with more than 20 years of experience including work for multiple Fortune 500 companies and author of The New Rules of Lead Generation.

“It’s all about the quality of the content that you are providing,” he says. “When I’ve focused on producing value-added content, I’ve seen my unsubscribe rates drop to less than 1 percent and my open rates stay between 15-30 percent.”

But what’s the key to quality content? Quality content that can lower the customer unsubscribe rate as much as possible is actually pretty simple: “Give them stuff they want,” says Jeremy Brown, resident content and social media marketer for Gild, provider of smart hiring platforms.

For example, find out if your subscribers want a newsletter with curated articles, product tutorials or to know when you have a new ebook, Brown says. “Whatever you send them, keep an eye on your unsubscribe rate,” he adds. “This will tell you a lot about what your customers are interested in seeing in their inboxes. When you start seeing large spikes of or consistent unsubscribes, that’s when you should start investigating.”

It’s all about value creation

The most important element of any email marketing program remains value creation. “Most emails start out strong with good storytelling and valuable content, then the creativity runs out and it becomes a daily email of boring stories,” says Jonathan Kendall, global adviser and coach, Pop Up Selling, a seminar presenter for sales pros and entrepreneurs. “The value and engagement leaves through a lack of proper storytelling, and I opt-out soon thereafter. Short, pithy, high quality, engaging content is hard to create. It’s not for amateurs.”

With content marketing the key to keeping B2B direct marketing subscribers engaged means dedicating at least 80 percent of the space in your email newsletter to providing value to the reader, according to Dave Popple, PhD and president of Psynet Group, a management consulting firm of business psychologists and HR professionals.

“For example, in our newsletter, the heading is always about the valuable content and never about a new product or service,” Popple says. “Since we started content marketing two years ago, we have only had 63 unsubscribes from a direct mail list of nearly 5000.”

Right subscribers at the right time

These days, B2B email marketers do not just want to build a huge list of inactive subscribers. That’s so 1999 and not a metric that any savvy CMO is going to be swayed by in the 21st century. “My approach is a little different, I actually encourage unsubscribes,” says Paul St-Jacques, founder, Maverick ROI, a direct marketing consultancy. “You want to have a tight list of responsive subscribers. I will routinely delete people who haven’t opened my emails or those who aren’t clicking links.”

According to St-Jacques, B2B email marketers need to think upfront about whom their customers are and what they want even before beginning their campaigns. Unsubscribes can happen for any number of reasons, including too many emails, not enough emails, uninteresting material, overly promotional messages or just a general mismatch of audience and content, he says.

Now’s the real time

For engaging customers and encouraging them to continue to subscribe, emails with real-time content can be part of the answer. “Content that is personalized and relevant to each subscriber,” says Jeff Kupietzky, CEO of PowerInbox, an email marketing solution provider. “Today, we can personalize email content according to the device—mobile or desktop—location, time and user click behavior, all in real-time when the subscriber opens the email.”

Real-time personalization dramatically improves email performance, according to Kupietzky.

In addition, dynamic content such as embedded video and live news tickers makes email more engaging, increasing email clickthrough rates by 20 percent and lifting ROI by up to 400 percent, according to PowerInbox research.

Unsubscribe lessons learned

In the end, unsubscribes do not have a panacea. Once a B2B customer has reached the point where she wants to unsubscribe, it’s probably too late to salvage the situation with some lower level of commitment such as offering a “light” subscription.

“Selective or light opt outs have been less successful for me,” says Rob Watson, digital marketing consultant, Click to Sale. “It’s like lifting the hood and showing customers all the different lists you have, and they feel very over marketed as a result and just unsubscribe completely—almost all the time.”

One of the best strategies an email marketer can employ to reduce the chance of unsubscribes is to segment. “Putting people on a specific, targeted list is effective,” Watson says. “Segment your lists and target people instead of just batching and blasting everything to everyone.”

He advises to segment by market sector, customer type and stage in the buyer’s journey as well as by the content for each list.

Also read this post on the top email marketing software for your B2B firm.

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Derek Handova

Derek Handova

Derek Handova is a veteran journalist writing on various B2B vertical beats. He started out as associate editor of Micro Publishing News, a pioneer in coverage of the desktop publishing space and more recently as a freelance writer for Digital Journal, Economy Lead (finance and IR beats) and Intelligent Utility (electrical transmission and distribution beats).
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