Simon Terry

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Unsubscribe Marketing

We are in the era of unsubscribe marketing. Lazy marketing behaviours favour activity over outcomes. 

Seth Godin wrote permission marketing 17 years ago. He and others have regularly returned to the reminder that the best relationships are built on consent to a conversation. 

Mostly, marketers and marketing platforms haven’t listened. LinkedIn connections add you to their mailing lists. DM messages blast marketing at you. Every day messages and calls come in sellIng regardless of your preferences and settings. 

When you complain, you are politely directed to unsubscribe. Of course, even unsubscribing is not straight forward. One conference organiser uses a unique list for every email so you unsubscribe only to the email you just received. Spammers use unsubscribe as confirmation of a valid email. Social media sites and others change preferences and hide unsubscribe options to retain and re-enroll users. We have shifted from permission marketing to unsubscribe marketing without considering the impacts.

All this unsubscribe marketing It is all pointless and counterproductive. These campaigns in many cases generate additional sales. In a digital era when costs of an email or social message are low, people may be lured into thinking that they are ahead.  They are not when the cost is fully considered.

Let’s consider the costs. On many of these campaigns unsubscribe rates exceed conversion rates. Being told by your prospects to never contact them again can’t be the outcome of a great brand experience. Worse still, these campaigns are so ineffective that at best they fail in the heights of the 90th percentile. Many marketers see the only cost of this mammoth failure as the unsubscribe rate. In fact, they risk creating a negative impression on the far larger group who note the campaign and form a negative impression. An economic analysis of spam estimated the externality caused by these messages was 100 times the value created.  Every time a marketer sends an unsubscribe marketing campaign they are destroying time and money for their potential prospects. Last time I checked the best way to do business is create value for customers, not destroy it.

Unsubscribe marketing isn’t be a sustainable way to do business. Marketers who put their faith in unsubscribe need to look at the bigger picture and understand the damage they do to their brand, their business and their target market.


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