Why people unsubscribing from your email list is a good idea

Sometimes, people unsubscribing from your email list is a good idea. If you’ve been doing some email marketing, one of the things that you’ll be looking at a lot will be the number of people subscribed to your list. More is better, yes? Or no?

When somebody unsubscribes, it can feel kind of weird, like you’ve been rejected. Especially if it is somebody that you know. Why don’t they want to get my emails? Do they hate me now? Am I sending out too much? These sorts of questions can go through your head.

But you’re not doing email marketing to have a chat with your friends – you go to the pub after work or post photos on Facebook to do that. You’re doing email marketing to drive sales or get engagement. So when somebody unsubscribes from your email list, that means that they’re probably not in the right place at the moment to buy from you.

Maybe they’ve unsubscribed from your email list because they made a decision to buy from your competitors; maybe they’d love to buy from you but they can’t afford it right now. Or something completely different has happened – they’re closing down the business; they’re having a purge of all of the emails that they get and yours got caught up in it.

Maybe they’re going for a long trip to the space station, and they need to cut down on the number of emails they get due to a NASA directive.

My point is that you have no idea what’s going on with them, and why they’re unsubscribed from your email list,  so don’t jump to assumptions about what’s going on there.

Here’s a little list of why people unsubscribing from your email list is a good idea:

  1. It saves you money. Most of the email subscribers, like MailChimp, charge you for the number of subscribers, or the number of emails that you send out. If you’re sending out emails to people who are uninterested and unquantifiable from you, there’s no return on your investment.
  2. It increases your open rate. People who unsubscribe usually don’t open your emails so your percentage goes down. I would argue that your open rate is even more important than the size of your list. A high open rate means that people are reading your emails and that you’re hitting the right note with what you’re sending out. So getting rid of people who don’t open your emails is a good thing.
  3. It increases your open rate (2). A higher open rate makes you feel good, so you send out more emails and put more effort into what you’re writing.
  4. It improves your deliverability. The more people who open your emails, the less chance there is of your email going into somebody’s junk folder.

So don’t worry about people unsubscribing from your email list, it’s probably all for the best.

People unsubscribe – just get some more

Your job with all your marketing is to try to get your message across to the right people.  The people who have unsubscribed from your email list are maybe not the right people for you, so it makes sense to add in some more people who are the right people.

There are lots you can do to encourage more people (new people who are more likely to buy from you) to subscribe.  Here are a few to start thinking about:

  • Are you offering them a reason to subscribe?  You’ll have a lot more people on your list if you offer an “ethical bribe” or lead magnet. Here’s more about lead magnets.


  • Are you asking people to “subscribe to my newsletter”?  Sorry, but that’s… well, boring.  You need to tell people what they’re going to get, and why it’s good for people like them.  A newsletter is something I would have got in 1963 from the local parish council, it’s not the interesting useful tips I might get from your cool company.


  • Are you hiding your subscribe button away at the bottom of your website?  Or just on one page, hidden away so no one can see it? Apart from ringing you up to buy something there and then, giving you permission to email them regularly is one of the most important steps you want people to make.  Make it easy for them to do this.


  • Are you encouraging people who follow you on social media to join your email list?  Send out a tweet every couple of weeks encouraging people to get your emails, and explain why they’re good.

What about unsubscribing people from your email list yourself?

One of my business mentoring clients recently went through her email list and unsubscribed all the people who had signed up and never opened the emails. That was a brave choice because she had gone to a lot of trouble to get those subscribers. But it was the right choice because her open rate went up dramatically after she took these people off the list.

More good stuff about email marketing

If you’re thinking about doing more with your email marketing, I recommend Ian Brodie’s book, Email Marketing, which goes into a lot more detail about how to manage this whole process, including more tips on how to increase your open rate.

Get my emails

Every week I send out a little story, tip or useful snippet about how to run a successful online business. Someone recently said they loved them because they’re “funny and true”, which is a good combination in my book.

Try them out, the first one is about Himalayan salt and chocolate, with a lesson about business.  And if you don’t like them, I’ve learnt to be impervious to people unsubscribing from my email list.


Photo credit – Yorkshire photo walks – sheep people unsubscribing from your email list