I Just Want to Go! Honor the Unsubscribe: 5 Ways to Screw Up an Unsubscribe

January 8, 2020 | 3 minute read
Heike Neumann
VP, Marketing, Oracle CX Marketing
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We are living in the world of the experience economy. While we as marketers are all talking about creating great customer experiences, communicating the right message at the right time to the right audience, living the micro-moment, some of us tend to fail to understand that sometimes you need to leave folks alone! If that is what they want.

So, where is this coming from? Sitting on a coast to coast flight offers a great opportunity to clean out my mailbox. Doing so, I come across all these unsolicited emails we all receive. While some might be interesting – others are simply a nuisance, like offering me help to migrate to a competitor’s Finance Management system? Right, so much about targeting, as that is right up my alley as a marketer (sarcasm). But going about cleaning mailbox-house Marie Kondo style, I’m asking myself “Do I still want this newsletter? Am I actually reading it? Does this email have any valuable information for me? Am I interested in this?” The decision might be yes or no—not much in between. So, I say “no”, next destination, the footer of the email to find the unsubscribe link. And that’s where the fun starts:

  1. There is no unsubscribe link—are you kidding me? You are offering me to write an email, to a generic mailbox or respond to your email with “unsubscribe” in the subject line?

  2. The link goes into oblivion or to a 404 page—yeah, that’s great!

  3. I can unsubscribe and see the message, that my unsubscribe will be processed within the next 48 hours. So, who exactly is processing this? Why does your system take 48 hours? Or are you using a bunch of Heinzelmännchen to clean your contacts?

  4. I get to an unsubscribe page and are asked to enter my email—sigh, you should know where I’m coming from, because I clicked through on an email you sent me!

  5. I get to the unsubscribe page, enter my email address, and then you ask me why I want to unsubscribe.

Why does it need to be so hard? No marketer is doing themselves a favor by making it hard for people to unsubscribe. If someone doesn’t want to receive your emails anymore, ask yourself if you really need to know the reason. Are you even analyzing the results of the unsubscribe reasons? If you run any reports on unsubscribe reasons, are you acting based upon it, and i.e. “I receive too many emails from you” is one of the reasons mentioned by unsubscribes—are you sending less emails to your audience in the future?

If someone makes the decision to part ways with your email communication, make it as straight forward as possible and honor that decision. It makes your email marketing better. If you make the unsubscribe impossible you will have a silent unsubscribe anyway. In my case, your future emails will end up in my “Straight to Trash” mailbox rule. I will neither read them nor open them, they come into my mailbox are filtered by the rule and routed straight to my trash folder, which automatically empties itself every 24 hours. Your email metrics are affected in a negative way, yes, you have the email in your delivered stats, but that’s it. No open, no click to open, let alone a click through.

Here are a few ways to make it easy:

  1. Have an unsubscribe link or button; it should be easy to find, and it should work.

  2. Pre-populate the email address of the contact.

  3. If you want to ask the question why somebody unsubscribes, don’t be afraid to ask it, but make it short and sweet and most importantly optional.

  4. Provide alternatives to stay in contact with them, i.e. less frequent, take a break for a certain time, or provide links to your social channels.

And in general, target, target, target—quality over quantity. If your message is right it will be heard.


Honoring unsubscribe helps your reputation as an email marketer, as does safeguarding customer data. Find out to “Do More with Email Deliverability and Privacy.”

Read the guide.




Heike Neumann

VP, Marketing, Oracle CX Marketing

With more than 20 years of experience in Marketing within the computing and technology space, Heike has seen and experienced the rise and development of digital marketing. She is passionate about the influence of technology on organizational behavior, change and process management.

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