15 Strategies for Reducing Email List Churn

15 Strategies for Reducing Email List Churn

Managing email list churn while preserving a positive brand reputation is a delicate balance, so we’ve gathered insights from top marketing professionals, including email marketing managers and CEOs. From implementing an exit survey to expressing gratitude to subscribers, discover the fifteen strategies these experts use to gracefully handle unsubscribes.

  • Implement an Exit Survey
  • Offer Tailored Content Preferences
  • Respect Choices with Clear Instructions
  • Remind Subscribers of Sign-Up Reasons
  • Provide a Parting Gift with Feedback
  • Simplify the Unsubscribe Experience
  • Use Segmentation for Personalized Emails
  • Be Deliberate with Email Content
  • Limit Deal Alert Frequency
  • Focus on Engaged Subscribers
  • Personalize Emails and Collect Feedback
  • Handle Unsubscribes with Dignity
  • Prune Disengaged Subscribers
  • Make a Strong First Impression
  • Express Gratitude to Subscribers

Implement an Exit Survey

If you don’t already have one, you should set up an exit survey to understand why people are unsubscribing. This helps provide valuable data to help address any issues like email frequency, content relevancy, and opt-in awareness. Also, it helps reduce any ‘accidental unsubscribes’ from click-bot traffic that clicks every link in an email, including the unsubscribe link. One of our clients saw a dramatic decrease in unsubscribe rates after we implemented an exit survey.

Tony WagnerTony Wagner
Email Marketing Manager, Strategic America

Offer Tailored Content Preferences

Hi there, while allowing easy unsubscribes is crucial, I also offer preference centers to let subscribers tailor content and frequency, reducing unnecessary unsubscribes and fostering a positive brand experience.

Udemezue JohnUdemezue John
Digital Entrepreneur, Tchelete

Respect Choices with Clear Instructions

One effective way to handle unsubscribes and manage email list churn rate, while preserving a positive brand image, is by implementing an easy and transparent unsubscribe process. Start by offering clear instructions and a visible unsubscribe link in every email, respecting your contacts’ choice to opt out quickly.

Additionally, be sure to provide options for subscribers to manage their preferences, allowing them to tailor the frequency and content they receive. This will also help minimize the number of people who opt entirely out. In addition, I have found that regularly reviewing and updating your email list to remove inactive or disengaged subscribers ensures better targeting and reduces the likelihood of spam complaints. We use tools to help quickly identify contacts who are inactive or invalid.

Then, we leverage data in our marketing automation tool to identify contacts who are simply not engaged in our emails anymore and need to be removed to improve our deliverability. Finally, use engaging content and personalized communication to keep subscribers interested and less likely to unsubscribe. This will foster a positive relationship with your brand and continue to boost your email engagement and overall deliverability rate.

Elyse Flynn MeyerElyse Flynn Meyer
Owner & Founder, Prism Global Marketing Solutions

Remind Subscribers of Sign-Up Reasons

I like to include a reminder of how they ended up on the list in the first place, as oftentimes I think unsubscribes are the result of people de-prioritizing the reason they signed up in the first place rather than because they don’t like your content or find it annoying.

This is a small touch that I believe nets positive results, as it causes at least some people to have a rethink about whether they really want to drop off the list while they are still focused on that particular topic. This method does not pressure and is seen as somewhat useful, which helps maintain positive brand relations even from those who do choose to ultimately unsubscribe.

Kate KandeferKate Kandefer
CEO, SEOwind

Provide a Parting Gift with Feedback

As a Director of Content Marketing, I view unsubscribes not just as a necessary evil, but as an opportunity to refine our approach and maintain a positive relationship with our audience. Instead of seeing each unsubscribe as a loss, we see it as a chance to learn and leave a lasting, positive impression.

One strategy involves offering a parting gift or a valuable piece of content to those opting out. It’s our way of saying ‘Thank you’ for their time and providing value one last time. Additionally, I’ve found success in incorporating a simple, optional feedback form to understand why they’re leaving, which helps us to continually improve our content and strategies. This approach not only helps us to reduce our churn rate by making adjustments based on the feedback but also ensures that the departing subscribers remember our brand positively. It’s about ending on a high note and keeping the door open for future re-engagement.

Aimie YeAimie Ye
Director of Content Marketing, Centime

Simplify the Unsubscribe Experience

One strategy I lean on to manage unsubscribes and keep the email list churn rate in check, all the while keeping our brand’s image shiny, is to make the unsubscribe process as smooth as a buttered slide.

Seriously, I place a straightforward, no-hoops-to-jump-through unsubscribe link right where it’s easy to find. And here’s the kicker: I also throw in a quick feedback form asking why they’re opting out. Not only does this approach respect the subscriber’s choice (major brownie points for brand image!), but it also gives us invaluable insights into what’s working, what’s not, and how we can improve. This way, even as they’re saying goodbye, they’re helping us get better. It’s like making lemonade out of lemons!

Bhavik SarkhediBhavik Sarkhedi
Growth Head & CMO, Content Whale

Use Segmentation for Personalized Emails

In my capacity as the Founder of First Pier, a specialized e-commerce growth agency, I’ve had the opportunity to delve deeply into the nuanced challenges of email marketing, particularly managing unsubscribes and email list churn rate. A strategy that has proven remarkably effective for us involves leveraging the power of segmentation and personalization to make our emails indispensable to our subscribers.

For instance, by analyzing and understanding the specific interests and behaviors of our audience segments, we’re able to tailor our emails so they’re not just seen as another piece in the inbox but as valuable content tailored to the recipients’ needs and interests. This not only decreases our unsubscribe rates but significantly enhances customer engagement with our brand. To illustrate, after initiating a segmented campaign focusing on customers’ previous purchase behavior, we observed a 30% decrease in our unsubscribe rate alongside a notable increase in open and click-through rates.

A crucial part of managing list churn for us has also been adopting a proactive approach toward list hygiene. Regularly cleaning our email list to remove inactive subscribers has been pivotal. In doing so, we’re not only improving our engagement metrics but also ensuring our messages are reaching those genuinely interested. This practice, while it may reduce the size of the email list, substantially increases its quality and effectiveness, reinforcing a positive brand image.

Through these strategies, we’ve effectively minimized unsubscribe rates and managed email list churn, ensuring our email marketing efforts are both efficient and respectful of our audience’s preferences.

Steve PogsonSteve Pogson
Founder, First Pier

Be Deliberate with Email Content

Someone once told me that unsubscribes are a part of email marketing, and not to worry too much about it. Well, I run an ad agency, so on behalf of my clients, I need to worry about it—at least a little. I personally have a love/dislike relationship with email marketing, since I know how effective it is—but at the same time, I don’t enjoy getting five hundred spam emails a day in my own personal inbox.

This is why we are both deliberate and delicate with our email marketing strategies. We make a point of respecting the people on our list—those who have chosen to give us their contact information—by not taking it for granted and overusing it.

How? Well, we are very intentional with the content we put in our emails. We don’t ‘throw campaigns against the wall to see what sticks,’ as it were. We make sure that when we email someone, there’s a good reason for it—and that there is content with which they will want to engage. This also means that we look at metrics—a lot—to make sure that people are engaging with what we’re writing, and if they aren’t, then we need to change tactics, or figure out why not and fix it.

Phillip MandelPhillip Mandel
Owner, Mandel Marketing

Limit Deal Alert Frequency

Believe it or not, send very few deal alerts or discount emails. Sending one per month is enough to keep your sales consistent, maintain your top-of-funnel, and lend an air of exclusivity.

Blasting deals daily ends up cheapening your brand and will lead to longer-term churn.

Justin AbramsJustin Abrams
Founder & CEO, Aryo Consulting Group

Focus on Engaged Subscribers

While it is important to manage and notice your subscription list, the last thing you want to do is focus on the people who are leaving. This is a natural part of the marketing game, and my honest, experienced opinion is that you will be wasting your energy in the wrong place on something you can’t change.

Focus on the people who stay and those who join. That is where your true customer base is, and pandering to or tempting back leavers can leave you in one of two situations. You either give away more than you want to in order to tempt them back with massive discounts and offers, or you annoy somebody further so that instead of just not being interested anymore, they are actively telling people about you—and not in a good way.

The only time this focus should shift is if you are losing the vast majority of your subscribers. This will be a far more important signal—not that people are moving on, but that you are doing something that is not connecting with your audience. Again, though, this is less about chasing and more about looking inward on how to change and prevent this. Don’t ask for people to stay if you haven’t changed what you are doing.

Brett DownesBrett Downes
Founder, Haro Helpers

Personalize Emails and Collect Feedback

To reduce your email list churn rate and unsubscribes, it’s important to personalize your emails and create a feedback loop to learn more about their behaviors and what they’re interested in; personalization is key.

Set up a brief survey once someone unsubscribes to understand their reasons for leaving. Allow subscribers to customize their subscriptions so they only receive information relevant to them. Your messages will resonate more deeply with your audience because they will be tailored to their individual preferences, which will help you refine your strategy moving forward.

Alexa WheelhouseAlexa Wheelhouse
Email Marketing Specialist

Handle Unsubscribes with Dignity

Maintaining a positive brand image is critical, particularly if your program is advanced enough to retain data for re-engaged customers. It’s vital not to shame or insult subscribers who are no longer interested in receiving emails. In terms of maintaining a positive brand image, it’s essential to approach the sunset exchange the same way a mature adult would approach the ending of a platonic or romantic relationship.

All you need to do is let them know you enjoyed the time together, remind them of the positive things your brand offers, and, if they change their mind, how they can get back in touch. Many brands send multiple needy emails or reminders with uncomfortable emojis. These tactics will not win over your unengaged subscribers any more than they’ll win you back an ex; they will just weird them out and make them regret being in communication. Be cool, and don’t damage your image.

Katherine BakkenKatherine Bakken
Director, Train River Publishing

Prune Disengaged Subscribers

When it comes to minimizing churn while maintaining a positive brand image, there is more than one strategy to consider. You should be reviewing the topics of your emails, subject lines, readability, how connected the content and reader are, whether the audience signed up for this kind of content, etc. If I had to point out something many business owners overlook, it would be list pruning.

List pruning is crucial in maintaining an engaged email database because if you’ve tried adjusting everything else and it’s not moving the needle, it’s time to let some people go and focus your efforts on those who are interested and engaged in what you’re sending.

If you run the numbers on the last five emails you’ve sent and find that 10% of your database hasn’t opened all five, cut them loose by removing them from your database.

If you want to give them a chance to stay on the list, you can create an audience segment of these people and send them an email letting them know they’ll be pruned if they don’t opt in again. The ones that don’t opt in can safely be pruned, and you can move forward knowing you’ve reduced the likelihood that these disengaged people will unsubscribe at some point.

Brett StoneBrett Stone
Creative Director & Founder, Three Bites

Make a Strong First Impression

Focus on the beginning of the subscriber’s journey. When someone signs up for my newsletter, I see it as a sign they’re interested in what I have to share. So, I start by sending a welcome email or a series of introductory emails. This helps new subscribers get familiar with what I offer and shows them the value right from the start.

By sharing high-quality content early on, I aim to make a strong first impression. This approach not only deepens their engagement with my content but also encourages the habit of opening my emails. Over time, this helps reduce the number of people who unsubscribe because they feel connected and see the ongoing value.

Marco Genaro PalmaMarco Genaro Palma
Freelance CMO and SEO Consultant, GenaroPalma.com

Express Gratitude to Subscribers

Growing up as a child, I was taught that gratitude is most effective when expressed in words. And in my career as a marketing manager, I have learned that there is still much magic contained in saying these simple words, ‘Thank you,’ to my brand’s email subscribers.

Frankly, when it comes to managing my email list churn, my experience as a marketer has taught me that communication is key to growing and sustaining a budding relationship with my email subscribers. This is why showing gratitude to my subscribers is one of the simplest yet quite effective strategies I adopt to keep my email list churn in check and maintain a positive brand image. By showing gratitude to our subscribers, not only do I achieve the goal of keeping my brand memorable and maintaining its positive image, but I also achieve the goal of retaining them by communicating that they are appreciated. Hence, giving them a reason to remain loyal patrons of our brand.

Samantha MillerSamantha Miller
Marketing Manager, Expressdentist

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