June 28, 2018

How Publishers Can Avoid Losing Email Subscribers

With a wealth of digital media and technologies that upped the publishing game to another level, email is still a big deal. It’s cost-effective, less intrusive, and has a flexible design that can create more targeted and personalized messages. In short, email is a highly effective way for publishes to communicate with their readers. However, when people unsubscribe, their lifetime journey with you is cut short. You don’t just need email subscribers: you need them to stay put.

Your messages are five times more likely to be seen in email than they are on Facebook (not to mention it’s 40x more effective for acquiring new customers than Facebook or Twitter) and it all revolves around content. If you want to make money, you need to engage your subscribers and one of the best ways is to give a sneak peek of your best content. But before we dabble into how you can avoid the thinning of your email subscribers list, there must be some reasons why you are losing them in the first place, right?

Why you are losing subscribers?

While there are many reasons that drive people to hit that ‘Unsubscribe’ button, you really need to worry about the two major ones:

  • Email frequency
  • Low content relevancy

Led by “the more, the merrier” motto, publishers tend to oversaturate subscribers with more emails than they’d like or appreciate. On the other hand, irrelevant content is much more sinister because it means you are missing the point completely: there’s a stark contrast in the subscriber’s content needs and what actually gets served to them in the email. If the people on your list get content that doesn’t peak their interest at all, they’re prompted to unsubscribe and go for the greener pastures.

What you can do?

In order to re-engage subscribers and avoid losing them, publishers need to be innovative and proactive when it comes to their email lifecycle messaging and customer loyalty approach. More informative and engaging content is key to preventing subscribers from losing interest and opting out. You can achieve this by:

Mixing it up

Before your audience becomes bored or fed up with your emails, enable subscribers to select their preferred mailing frequency, even if it means sending less. Allowing the subscriber to drive the timing will inform you of when they really want information served. After all, setting the desired email frequency is a form of email personalization and nothing beats personalization when it comes to engagement. While you’re at it, try reaching out with a unique content (something that is specifically focused and hyper-relevant like suggestions for similar content browsed or items purchased in the past – what they’ve shown interest in, be it latest fashion trends or a health magazine subscription, for instance) on a frequent basis to peak interest. This will show inactive subscribers there’s more than meets the eye to your newsletter than usual and motivate them to open or click through at a constant pulse. In addition, test different days within a week to learn the time of the most engagement and increase chances that subscribers will stay glued to your content.

Investing in your triggers

Triggered emails sent in response to a specific action or data are consistently edging email with standard content, showing far greater engagement among the target audience. How much difference do they make? According to Yes Lifecycle Marketing’s email-based report, triggered campaigns executed during the last quarter of 2017 earned more than double the open rate, more than triple the number of unique click rates and nearly double the CTOs (click-to-open) compared to standard emails. Sadly, just a bit over 2% of the evaluated emails were part of a trigger campaign.

Performance of standard versus triggered emails

Performance of standard versus triggered emails
Image credit: Yes Lifecycle Marketing

Apart from triggers being underused, there are loads of them to consider and easily implement. ‘Welcome’ triggers can warm up new subscribers without overwhelming them with general messages. Abandoned browse triggers can be personalized combining previously browsed items and related recommendations. The same goes for the abandoned search triggers, where a combination of the search query + related recommendations can drive higher conversion rates. Special occasion triggers, such as birthdays, anniversaries, and such can be used to send out an email with relevant recommendations or incentives, personalized to reflect the event. There’s a variety of trigger types that almost universally drive better engagement than non-triggered emails. According to the report, even reactivation emails (sent exclusively to subscribers who have not engaged for some time) rival the performance of standard messages in terms of CTO and conversion rate.

Tracking your CTAs

When sending out an email campaign to your subscribers, you will want to get them to do much more than simply glance over it. You want them to actively engage: respond to ads, read articles on your site, share it via social media buttons, etc. However, this is easier said than done. You have to figure out what will work and, in particular, what CTAs are suitable for the context of email and newsletter marketing.

The solution is A/B testing your CTAs. Through this process, you can analyze which offers, anchor text, and information, in general, evoke interest in your subscribers, as well as what might motivate them to seek more about a topic or advertisers. For example, you can test CTAs that send subscribers directly to advertised offers or to find out more about a segment of your publication. Through tracking links, you can learn what your subscribers might be interested in and what incentives you should be promoting as a result of that Sherlock Holmes-like deduction. This way, you’ll be able to deliver better quality, more tailored and more relevant CTAs that are accurately customized for the proper context and right audience.

Monetizing the right way

In the end, it all comes down to making money. Your subscribers have value to you as long as you provide value to them. Generally speaking, email is relatively immune to ad blocking, which is one of the pressing issues for both advertisers and the publishers from which they buy the inventory from.

As a result of web ad blocking adverts become invisible to the audience and billions are lost in revenue. Email is a great solution for this but for the perfect fix the answer lies in the form of dynamic email advertising, which basically means delivering highly targeted and dynamic ad content that navigates around the ad blockers to captivate audiences. This includes sending people to buy products, upgrade their membership, sponsorship deals, etc.

However, you can’t go blindly about it: you need to find the balance in your email advertising between delivering value and monetization. This is where personalisation and relevancy step in. It’s about building stronger, more meaningful relationships with your subscribers. Personalized emails improve both click-through rates and conversions by 14% and 10%, respectively. While personalization begins (and stops for many, sadly) with the personalized subject line, it’s so much more than that.


Image credit: WPForms

The key is to think outside the box for a minute and be innovative. These days, a little HTML snippet in your existing email template is all it takes for a reader to get served with highly relevant, dynamically personalized and tailored ads in their inbox. Upon opening the email, the subscriber is matched to the previous click history and location, as well as pre-configured ad categories and parameters. You can easily push content based on which device he/she is using to build a custom experience that feels fresh every time, all while retaining content relevancy. Hence, not only do you retain your email subscribers, you also get to monetize them at the same time.

Final words

Some list turnover is inevitable and it’s impossible to eliminate it completely. What you can do is reduce it to a minimum. When people unsubscribe, it’s almost certainly a clear indicator your email campaigns are falling short on providing value. In order to take necessary measures to improve, you need to understand the reasons why your subscribers are abandoning ship.

Email remains one of the best, most direct ways to captivate your audience. By doing the following you will keep them glued to their screens and away from the ‘Unsubscribe’ button:

  • Mixing up the email frequency, timing, and content
  • Using trigger-based emails more
  • Paying attention to how your CTAs perform
  • Using dynamic email advertising for monetization