How to Analyze and Act on an Unsubscribe Survey

Even though we know it’s good to say goodbye to unengaged subscribers, it’s still easy to cringe at the sight of an unsubscribe. However, learning from feedback given in an unsubscribe survey could actually be the best way to inform and improve your email marketing strategy for the rest of your audience.

Losing a subscriber is like losing a customer to another company. It stings, but you’d do anything to learn why they chose to go somewhere else and what made them see greener grass beyond your product or offering.

An unsubscribe survey does just that: At the moment your subscriber decides to opt out, it allows you to capture their honest feedback about your email strategy. As an optional feature, not everyone will fill out the unsubscribe survey, but you’ll get immeasurable insights from those who do.

An unsubscribe survey is only as good as the analysis you give it, so read on to discover some actionable ways to act on the feedback. But, first, let’s explore how a subscriber would fill out this survey, as well as how to set it up.

What is an unsubscribe survey?

An unsubscribe survey is a simple form that subscribers can choose to answer after they opt out of your email list. It asks the question: “Why are you unsubscribing?” and provides a variety of response options.

The unsubscribe procedure

The typical process to unsubscribe from an email list looks like this:

  • Your subscriber opens a recent email from you.
  • They decide the email content is no longer relevant to them (for reasons you’ll hopefully discover in the survey process).
  • The subscriber scrolls to the bottom of the email and chooses Unsubscribe (location of this link is dependent on the template, but it’s usually in the footer).
  • Clicking Unsubscribe redirects the subscriber to a page hosted by your email platform.
  • The page should confirm their action (e.g., “You’re now unsubscribed.”) and invite them to answer your unsubscribe survey (e.g., “Please let us know why you unsubscribed.”)

Standard unsubscribe survey questions

In Campaign Monitor’s unsubscribe survey, we follow standard best practices for analyzing opt-out reasons. Our unsubscribe survey provides the following responses by default:

  • I never signed up for your emails
  • The content isn’t what I expected
  • The context is no longer relevant to me
  • You email too frequently
  • Other

These responses cover the gamut of your subscribers’ attitudes. Below, we’ll cover how you can improve your strategy based on how respondents are leaning.

How to set up an unsubscribe survey in Campaign Monitor

Setting up an unsubscribe survey is quick and easy. If you’re not a Campaign Monitor customer, this might look different for your respective email platform.

Here’s how you enable an unsubscribe survey for one of your lists:

  • On the Lists & subscribers page, select the email list that you wish to add the unsubscribe survey to.
  • Select Unsubscribe settings.
  • From the options listed, select Display a generic unsubscribe success page to the unsubscriber.
  • Check the box next to Include unsubscribe survey.
  • Choose Save changes.

And here’s how you can view the responses to your unsubscribe survey:

  • On the Lists & subscribers page in Campaign Monitor, select the email list that has an unsubscribe survey set up and running.
  • Select Unsubscribe survey responses CSV.

Clicking this link will generate a CSV file download with the following data:

  • Campaign name
  • Unsubscribe email address
  • Date of unsubscribe
  • Unsubscribe reason
  • Feedback (“Other”)

For more info on how to set up an unsubscribe survey in Campaign Monitor, check out the help doc.

Analyzing unsubscribe survey responses

This is really where rubber meets the road. Once you start getting unsubscriber feedback, it’s important to check the responses regularly and implement them into your strategy.

Schedule regular performance reviews.

The cadence for a review will depend on how often you send. Here’s a quick guide:

 

Sending cadence Performance review
Once a day Every 7–14 days
Once a week Every 30–45 days
Once a month Every 90–180 days

These meetings should contain an unsubscribe survey review, as well as some of these reports:

  • Best and worst campaigns during the time period
  • Bounce rates during the time period (flagging any concerns)
  • Test results and new content, copy, or design ideas to test
  • Comparison of your metrics compared to your industry’s benchmarks

Determine next steps based on unsubscribe feedback.

Feedback is only as helpful as your response. Let’s take a look at each response a subscriber can give in this survey and what you can change to make your subscriber experience even better.

1. I never signed up for your emails.

Those that opt out because they don’t know who you are or are surprised by receiving an email from you are shining a light on your subscribe and welcome process.

First and foremost, make sure you never add an email to your list without their express consent. This is considered spamming and is an unacceptable practice. As long as you follow this principle, no one should ever choose this opt-out reason because they’re getting spammed.

The other reason they may be choosing this unsubscribe reason would be that they weren’t welcomed appropriately.

So, if you get a lot of responses in this category, try implementing some of the following steps:

  • Write out clear expectations on your email signup form, so that the subscriber knows what emails they’ll get, when to expect them, and who they’ll come from.
  • Make your list a double opt-in or confirmed opt-in, so you make sure that everyone who submitted their email address is truly interested in your messages.
  • Improve your welcome email or welcome series to better explain what list the subscriber signed up for and how they can identify your brand.
2. The content is not what I expected.

This reason requires an additional mention from the previous section: Your expectations need to be explicitly stated in your email signup form. And then you need to deliver on those expectations.

This is a good indicator that either the inputs to your list need to be examined (i.e., how/where subscribers are signing up and what those forms are saying), or your emails vary too far from your brand experience on other platforms. This also happens a lot when someone enters their email to be sent a newsletter with helpful content, and then the emails they’re sent are filled with sales-oriented content.

Here are some things to try if your unsubscribe responses skew this way:

  • Get a focus group together and ask them to evaluate your content across your website, blog, social profiles, and email to see if your email varies too much from the rest.
  • Reexamine those email signup forms to make sure you’re meeting the expectations you set.
  • Don’t bait and switch. If you invite people to sign up for a helpful newsletter, don’t allow the focus to be on sales or product info. This is a good time to make use of a preference center to give subscribers flexibility on the content they want to receive.
3. The context is no longer relevant to me.

“No longer relevant” is both a good and a bad answer for email marketers.

Pros: It shows that your content no longer aligns with this subscriber, meaning they’re likely not going to buy your product, so they’re just dragging your email performance down. These are the types of subscribers you want to see go.

Cons: This could show that your content just isn’t personalized enough to reach that subscriber. Personalization increases relevance (i.e., if it’s not for me, why am I getting it?), and someone opting out because of a lack of relevance might be exposing the weakness of your strategy.

Here are a few tips to improve relevance:

  • Use A/B testing to try out different design, copy, or content approaches and see what resonates with your audience.
  • Use dynamic content to personalize specific sections of your emails. Try personalizing just one section of an email for your various segments using dynamic content, and see if you get a positive response from it.
4. You email too frequently.

Inbox fatigue is a real thing—and, for some brands, it’s difficult to battle subscriber churn. This is a telltale sign that your subscribers get too many emails from your brand.

Now, for some organizations, your subscribers may be getting emails from your marketing team, customer service team, and product development team all at the same time. This is a common way to burn out subscribers. To you, your specific team might not be sending that much. But, to them, your brand just sent them 10 emails in a matter of days.

If you find your subscribers trend toward this unsubscribe response, here are some tips:

  • Add a cadence option to your preference center. If your normal list expects a daily email, give options for weekly and monthly sends, where you can send digests of the more frequent content. This way, you can retain your subscribers and keep them engaged while also thinning out their inbox.
  • Differentiate your brand’s senders. At Campaign Monitor, our marketing emails come from Syd (our email editor), while our onboarding emails come from Emily and Kalyn (they run the onboarding process). Simply having a different sender name can change the perception—just be sure to keep senders consistent once you’ve it set. Otherwise, your audience will get confused by the changes.
  • It might just be time to lower your cadence if this is an overwhelming response. Try sending a survey out to your audience and ask everyone what they think about your email program. If only the unsubscribers say there are too many emails, you might be in the clear. But, if your entire list says it’s too many, it’s time to dial it back.

Wrap up

Even though it can be bittersweet to lose a subscriber, now you and your strategy have something to gain from it. Make sure you check on your unsubscribe survey regularly, and have a plan for how to approach these various responses, so you can curate the most engaged list possible.

Don’t have an unsubscribe survey in your email platform? Try out Campaign Monitor for free and take advantage of these insights.

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