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Face it – breaking up is hard to do. The worst moment of my unsuccessful teenage dating years was not the time that I spent dating a guy I met at a daggy school disco. It was a week later, when he called up to say it was all over.

“But why do you want to break up with me?” I sniffed. After a dubious pause, he responded, “Trust me, its not your fault.” Even as a daggy disco-going teenager, I knew there was more to it.

Sometimes the worst part is not knowing why it all went wrong. Thankfully, with your email subscribers, you can set up an optional exit interview to capture the reasons why they’re leaving after they unsubscribe. This is a neat way to turn an unfortunate situation into solid lessons for your future email sends. So, lets wipe away the tears and find out how we can improve our campaigns.

Why do people unsubscribe?

According to a 2009 Epsilon study on email usage trends*, the top reasons given for unsubscribing from a newsletter amongst worldwide respondents included:

  • Content was irrelevant – 64%
  • Received too frequently – 60%
  • Thought address was being shared/sold – 40%
  • Didn’t recall signing up – 33%
  • Privacy concerns – 33%

All these reasons are fairly self-explanatory. I’m sure a lot of us have signed up for a newsletter, then later realized that most of the content didn’t interest them, or given up on updates from an online store that insisted on promoting daily sales.

Moving on to creating our own exit survey, lets look at the reasons why folks would unsubscribe from our newsletters. As we encourage all our customers to do the right thing, we’ll focus on Content was irrelevant, Received too frequently and Didn’t recall signing up. We can also include an ‘other’ field as well.

Creating an exit survey

First of all, you need to find yourself a survey app. As we’re fond of the folks at Wufoo (as they integrate with us and are all-round nice people), we’ll use them in this example, however you can choose any software to do the job.

Lets mock up a short and sweet exit survey:

But really, I thought I was so perfect for him

Thanks to Wufoo’s field rules, you can create a text area that only appears if you select “I’ve got another reason”. Click to see this in action:

It was Clare, right? You were looking at her, weren't you?

Now your survey is complete, you can either embed it on your site, or leave it as a standalone page to link to. Either way, lets copy the URL of this survey and make it our unsubscribe confirmation page in Campaign Monitor:

I'm sorry I didn't know how to clean your car. I'd never cleaned a car before

Adding your exit survey as an unsubscribe confirmation page

Log into your Campaign Monitor account and on the ‘Lists & Subscribers’ tab, click on the subscriber list you want to apply this exit survey to. Then in ‘Unsubscribe settings’, add your exit survey’s URL to ‘Redirect unsubscribers to your own confirmation page’:

My parents don't let me out late, I know

Save your unsubscribe settings. Note that these unsubscribe settings apply to individual lists, not clients or campaigns.

Now, whenever someone on this list unsubscribes, they should see your exit survey. It should be totally optional to complete and hopefully, not too long, either!

What can I learn?

Once a few folks have unsubscribed, take a look at your results. They might provide an insight into how you can keep subscribers and maintain a more responsive list. Hopefully, you will be inspired to try something new (like autoresponders or A/B testing), send more segmented campaigns or even reconsider your newsletter content:

It's not you, it's me. BLATBLATBLATBLAT!

Later down the track, these results can be used as a starting point for further surveys with your active subscribers, to monitor whether tweaks to your campaign have resulted in less unsubscribes (or for different reasons), or to simply sate your curiosity. After all, if exit surveys existed during senior high, I wouldn’t be left wondering to this day.

* Epsilon, “Inside the Inbox: Trends for the Multichannel Marketer.” June, 2009. (accessed 18 August, 2010).

This blog provides general information and discussion about email marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.
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