Why are we asking people to UNSUBSCRIBE from our mailing list?

Why are we asking people to UNSUBSCRIBE from our mailing list?

We did a weird thing this week. Pretty much the opposite of apparently good marketing practive. We pro actively tried to reduce the size of our mailing list.

Why? Well a number of reasons, primarily driven by the fact that we were about to go over a monthly price threshold in our email provider’s pricing options. But the list felt like it was getting a bit dated with open rates languishing and some names having been with us for up to a decade. We’d recently run a prize draw which rewarded people for referring “friends”. It was clear from a look through some of these email addresses that they were in fact second or third emails belonging to our original subscriber. We don’t want to be paying to send duplicate emails to people and people don’t really want to be receiving duplicate emails.

Before taking action I researched my options. Most email service providers actively encourage companies to regularly prune their lists. They advise kicking off the least active subscribers and even help you to do this by awarding subscribers between 1 and 5 stars. They suggest deleting out those with only 1 and 2 stars.  I thought this was a pretty good idea until I started clicking through our list and found plenty of 2-star people that had relatively recently opened emails from us. That’s a fairly engaged potential customer in my book and not one I want to lose from my list. I’m sure they won’t have appreciate the sudden silence from Musicademy either.

I was also aware that the accuracy of the tracking of email opens less than perfect so I could end up deleting someone that always opens our emails but simply doesn’t display the images.

So what to do?

I decided it was worth sending a short email out with a relatively stark headline. I’ve copied this below:

mailchimp unsubscribe

You’ll probably be aware that I (Marie) am also a digital marketing practitioner (see the Facebook Marketing ebook I’ve recently written) so for those who are interested here are the things I decided to do:

  • Firstly I kept the message really simple. It was not difficult to skim the email and click on the Unsubscribe button (where they would then be presented with an “are you sure” screen as well as the option to give us feedback on the reasons for unsubscribing).
  • Secondly I decided to give people the opportunity to give us open feedback via email. I was astonished at how many people replied in this way. I think the slightly shocking title led many people to believe they were somehow in danger of being auto-unsubscribed so they replied in their droves telling us that “No. Please don’t unsubscribe me. I LOVE the newsletter”.
  • Thirdly, I decided to sweeten the whole thing with a free gift. I felt this might reconvert a lapsed customer or soften someone in a bad mood bent on emptying their inbox. Surely an organisation giving away 22 free lessons can’t be all bad? This “secret page” I reference is actually the link we give to people when they sign up on the website to receive emails. The majority of our existing list (which we’ve collated from sales records and conference sign-ups) won’t have ever had the free lessons so it was nice to reward them. Rather than yet another email from Musicademy suggesting they buy something, here was a free gift. About half the people that opened the email clicked through to the Free Lessons secret page.

And the results?

Actually quite surprising. Yes we had more unsubscribes than usual. And for once I was happy with that. But it wasn’t anything like as overwhelming as I had feared (I guess a lot of our inactives simply have our emails going to spam or are a relatively dead account which isn’t yet giving Mailchimp a hard bounce).

We had an unsubscribe rate a lot higher than our regular mailings. About 35 in every thousand people wanted to unsubscribe. So we met the main objective of the mailing which was to slim down our mailing list. But it also yielded lots of other unexpected benefits.

I decided (as I am wont to do) to share the story on Facebook. The result:

  • Loads of engagement – likes, comments and shares (which we LOVE!)
  • Lots of people, without being cajoled, volunteered lovely things about us. Not only did that make our team feel really good about themselves, but it demonstrated to other fans that genuine normal people actually really appreciate Musicademy and don’t want to miss out on our messaging
  • Great organic reach (always a good thing on Facebook as the platform will only make widely visible content that gets lots of engagement and clicks)

I’ve had emails from marketers on our mailing list saying “Great idea. Would you mind sharing your results. I’ve a client that might be interested in this approach.” So hence I’m writing this blog post.

We’ve also received (and I genuinely didn’t expect this) a ton of unsolicited customer reviews including some that gave us some helpful customer insight. I’ll share a few here. I said we had been overwhelmed!  Thank you so much if you appear in this list:

  • “I just want to say “thank you ” for all the great updates,and practical information regarding leading worship.Please continue my subscription ” Dave, Denmark
  • “Please keep me on your list.  I love receiving Musicademy updates.   Thanks, and may God bless.” Ralph, WA, USA
  • “I love to get your emails so don’t stop sending them! I have bought a number of your guitar DVDs snd have some drumming ones on my Christmas list.  I tell all my muso friends to check out your site. I’m a Musicademy fan!! Blessings on your ministry” Ann, Aussie living in Brussells
  • “It is great stuff and priced right, too!” David, guitar player
  • “I read these!  Just letting you know!  I appreciate the many amazing resources and that’s it’s for the Kingdom of God! Blessings to you, your families and your ministry!” Brian
  • “Thanks for the interesting articles and forums. I don’t use them all but do pass on to the rest of the group as the maybe of value to someone else” Simon
  • “Many thanks for your e-mails. We don’t very often buy stuff, but have recommended you to others who do, and we really value your site, especially the stuff on music theory. Keep up the good work.” Willow
  • “I enjoy receiving emails from Musicademy. Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of resources to be able to buy as much  material as I’d like, but I do enjoy and appreciate the content within your emails very much. Thank you for providing this valuable resource.” Rick
  • NO, I do not want to unsubscribe ! Your work is really amazing and inspiring! I’ve followed it almost from the beginning, and I purchased many of your dvds that became a great help in my playing.” Valerie, France
  • “I love getting your email and hope one day that I will improve to glorify God.” Terri
  • “GOODNESS ME NO !!!..   Did I push a wrong button ????? Keep me on. I’ve purchased a few DVD’s and enjoy the updates.” Darryl
  • “Just to let you guys know your newsletter is a blessing and a massive tool for our worship team. We love receiving it and keep up the good work.” Hastings
  • “I’m no longer in a church where there is a music group (more’s the pity!) but I still enjoy your e-mails.  They are informative and entertaining.  Occasionally I can pass things on to interested friends.” Nancy
  • “I definitely do not want to be removed from your list! I always look forward to the Newsletter, and often find things of interest and relevance. I just wish I could get the rest of the band to read them! Keep up the good work, and many thanks.” Ken
  • “No I don’t want to stop. You affirm what we do and give great articles that I share with music team. That includes sound and musos. It’s great to think that we are miles away in culture but worship in such a similar way.” Lorna, South Africa
  • “Great stuff! Keep it coming!” Pat
  • “I absolutely do not want to unsubscribe.  Your articles etc., make very good reading and you have lots of useful info for the likes of me who needs things very basic! Thank you for all your work.  It is much appreciated.” Linda
  • “I like the emails, read at least one of the articles each time.” Bruce
  • “Keep me signed up please.  Great stuff for us without a band.  [yet ]” Rev Bob, USA
  • “Please keep me on your mailing list.  Many good tips to advise worship teams.  Good teaching tool.  Thank you.” Monika
  • “Keep it going! Good work!” Tony
  • “Thanks for your mailings. I read them with interest. Please keep them diversified.”Arnold
  • “Love the concept, please keep me subscribed” Albert
  • “Please keep me subscribed – always happy to get emails from you.” Simon
  • “Please keep sending the emails. I have two of your DVD’s and am always interested in what you are doing. Good work….. keep going…!!” Colin
  • “Please may I stay subscribed to Music Academy I have learnt so much and greatly appreciate all you do . God bless you all” Gavin
  • “I want to STAY SUBSCRIBED!  :-)  I check the website almost daily.  Awesome resource, you guys are awesome!” Nate
  • “I would like to keep recieving your emails. I read and enjoy them very much. I love your site, and use worship backing band alot when I am unable to take the Band from my home church with me when I lead worship on the road. It has proved to be the most useful tool I have found for when things like that arise.” Daniel
  • “A great site. Keep it coming.” Cleve
  • “Thanks for sending me emails.  I really enjoy them and they have lots of good info in them as well as videos etc. It keeps me up to date with all sorts of things” Leanne
  • “No need to unsubscribe. I have bought Keyboard beginner, intermediate and advanced products, also playing by ear dvds. You guys are a blessing and be assured of our prayers and support, even when we do not send you constant feedbacks.” Solomon

I particularly liked this comment from Alun “I was impressed with the email, you’re the only company on my subscription list that’s done this and I think it deserves respect. It’s another clear indication of your openness and integrity. Well done, keep up the excellent work!”

So all in all, a very effective exercise. We’ve slimmed down our mailing list a tiny bit, we’ve engaged positively with some of our most dedicated “fans” and customers, we’ve learned more about the people on our subscriber list, we’ve been made to feel really, really good by loads of customers and we have a load of positive reviews which I am sure I can find a good use for!

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