The late, lamented TV comedy Better Off Ted has some great lines. But few surpassed Veronica telling Phil and Lem “I would like to unsubscribe from whatever you’re doing right now.”
Unsubscribing is something email list managers usually don’t want you to do. They like to have lots and lots and lots of records in their lists, even if the people represented by those records don’t especially want to be there. And more than a few mailing lists make unsubscribing a pain in the ass — apparently in the hopes that would-be unsubscribers will give up.
Which, frankly, is more than a little crazy. I can think of countless seething reasons why as a subscriber, I find that abusive and unethical. But I’d argue it’s also counterproductive for email marketers, too.
Sure, the marginal cost of maintaining one record out of thousands (or millions) and sending them email is trivially small. But if a lot of your subscribers have no interest in what you’re sending — or at least in reading it in this format — then you pay in other ways.
Like the way performance measurement and benchmarking become a lot less meaningful. Are you way behind your peers’ open rates because that last email’s subject line read “Keep Calm And Buy Our Tractor Pistons,” or because their lists aren’t inflated with reluctant subscribers? Is your clickthrough rate steadily declining because your calls to action aren’t working, or because apathy is building up in your list like barnacles?
I’m not saying email marketers are the worst about this. (Facebook still beats them all with their heart-string-tugging “But these close friends will miss you if you leave Facebook!” account-deletion-confirmation screen.) But c’mon, people.
By the way, while I was searching for the exact Better off Ted quotation with keywords including “Ted” and “unsubscribe,” I came up with this lovely TED talk by James Veitch. Enjoy.