7 Reasons Why People are Unsubscribing from Your Email List

Ah, unsubscribes, the 'unfollow' of email marketing (but worse in my opinion). With social media, following and unfollowing accounts is one of the many sleazy ways that people attempt to get new followers. This "technique" is far more popular than I'd like it to be so I don't tend to take my unfollows too personally. But unsubscribes on the other hand, now those are a bit of a different story.

People don't just go around subscribing to newsletters in the hopes that those people will return the favour and subscribe to their newsletter as well, just to immediately unsubscribe once they realize the favour has not been returned. At least not to my knowledge anyways.

When someone signs up for your newsletter, they genuinely care about who you are and what you have to say. Now if you're anything like me, getting a new email subscriber means SO MUCH more to me than a new follow on Twitter or Instagram. But this also means that when I lose a subscriber, it hurts that much more as well.

People unsubscribe from newsletters for a host of different reasons but in my 5+ years of being a professional Email Marketer, I've found that the following 7 reasons are the main reasons why are unsubscribing from your email list. 

1. You've attracted the wrong subscribers. 

I've seem people use some pretty sleazy tactics when it comes to growing their email list. For example, running a contest where subscribing to their newsletter is the way to enter. This is even worse when the prize of the contest have absolutely nothing to do with your brand or product offering.

Another example of a sleazy list building tactic is subscribing people to your newsletter without them really knowing it. I see this happen in Facebook groups ALL THE TIME. Someone will post about a free resource they've created and tell people in the group to comment/message their email address if they want it. Then this person will not only send them this free resource but they'll also add their email to their list and start sending them their newsletters. NOT COOL! I'm all for sharing free resources but when you think you're going to participate in a one-time exchange of information just to find out that you're now getting their weekly emails, that shit ain't cool.

Collecting subscribers in these ways will only leave you with a list of subscribers who aren't genuinely interested in what you have to say but simply wanted the free thing. This just means that the second you go to send them an actual newsletter, they'll likely hit that unsubscribe button right away as they've already gotten what they wanted from you.

TIP: To attract engaged subscribers, incentivize them with free content that relates to your brand and offerings and be explicit in letting them know that they're subscribing to your newsletter.

2. You're sending too many emails.

We can all think of more than a few newsletters we've unsubscribed from simply because they sent WAY TOO MANY emails. This is big in the retail industry. I swear to god Old Navy, Sephora and J.Crew email me every single day, sometimes more than once a day and it seems like they never have anything new to say!

I've found that emailing your subscribers once a week is totally reasonable place to start. Heck, even once every two weeks is a great place to start. From there, you can test a couple different frequencies and see how it affects your engagement rates. For example, one week try emailing your list 2 times per week and see if you notice lower engagement rates and a higher unsubscribe rate. Then try again with 3 times per week.

However, make sure you're ONLY sending out an email when you have something really valuable to share. If you don't have anything to say, don't feel like you HAVE to send out an email.

TIP: Have a lot to say? Try segmenting your subscribers into smaller groups so that you can send out multiple messages per week without a given subscriber receiving multiple emails in a short period of time. 

3. You're only using email to sell. 

People subscribe to newsletters because they expect you to add value to their life in some way, shape or form. Whether that's teaching them a new skill, sharing a new perspective or letting them know about a really amazing product of yours, it needs to be valuable and not a waste of their time.

Often times entrepreneurs look at email as just another sales channel for their business, but that couldn't be more incorrect. Email gives you the opportunity to build really strong relationships with your audience, grow their trust and turn them into life long fans of your brand by consistently adding value to both their inbox and their lives.

If the only time you're emailing your audience is to sell your newest product or for some other self-serving reason, then expect your unsubscribe rates to go through the roof.

TIP: Develop an email marketing strategy that shares free and valuable content with your subscribers 75% of the time, leaving the remaining 25% for sales-y emails.  

4. Your emails are repetitive. 

We've all subscribed to at least one newsletter in our lifetime that does the bare minimum when it comes to email marketing. They send the same thing, week in and week out. Whether that's a digest of their recent blog posts that week, or a direct copy and paste of a blog post on their website, it's always the same. 

Doing this will bore your subscribers. I'm not saying that sharing your blog content with your subscriber list is a bad idea, I'm just saying that you'll want to get a little bit creative with how you do so.

TIP: Try sharing an infographic that summarizes one of your blog posts, or invite them to a webinar where you'll dive deeper into the topic. Whatever you do, keep your email content fresh and engaging to keep your subscribers interested and reading your content.

5. Your content is irrelevant. 

There's nothing worse than subscribing to a newsletter expecting one thing, and receiving something completely different. This is likely a bi-product of attracting the wrong customers in the first place.

For example, say you sign up to a Fitness Coach's newsletter. You're probably expecting to receive information about healthy living, exercise, recipes, etc. But imagine after you've signed up for their newsletter you start to notice that the only thing they talk about in their newsletter is their children? While this may still be relevant to some, a lot of times this is going to catch people by surprise and result in them unsubscribing if they don't find the content to be relevant to why they signed up in the first place. 

TIP: Attract the right types of subscribers, set expectations for the types of content you'll be sharing through email and follow-through on that promise and deliver the types of content they're expecting.

6. You didn't set proper expectations.

Setting expectations is HUGE when it comes to email marketing. You'll want to make sure you're setting expectations for your subscribers or soon-to-be subscribers in the following ways:

  1. Tell them how often you'll be emailing them
  2. Tell them what types of stuff you'll be emailing them.
  3. Tell them how they can give their feedback/suggestions and get in contact with you.

Setting these expectations will go a long way to ensure that your subscribers know exactly what they're getting into when they give you their email address. This will help to ensure that nothing you send them through email will catch them off guard and encourage them to unsubscribe. 

TIP: Two great places to set these expectations are 1) on your sign up form and 2) in your welcome email. 

7. Your emails aren't mobile-friendly.

There's nothing worse than receiving an email and opening it on your mobile phone just to find yourself trying to zoom in and scroll over to read the damn thing! With over 50% of people reading their emails on their mobile phones these days, make sure your emails are mobile-friendly so that they're easy to read on a mobile device and look nice too! 

According to Litmus, 80% of people will delete an email that doesn't look good on mobile and 30% will immediately unsubscribe. 

TIP: Most email marketing service providers have tools that will show you how your email renders across all different mobile devices. Make sure you incorporate mobile testing as part of your testing process before you hit send.