Too many email unsubscribes? Add more user value to your email marketing

By Alan Jones

I’ve got a full email inbox. I bet you’ve got a full email inbox too. Are you happy to receive emails that waste your time? No, neither am I.

Which is why, when a startup founder wants my advice on how to reduce the unsubscribe rate on their customer emails, I like to get straight into the archive of past emails to establish whether the content of their emails is delivering value for the startup, or value for the user. Because if your emails have insufficient value for the user, you’re going to get [drum roll] more unsubscribes [cymbal crash].

Here’s a great example (redacted the startup’s brand name)…

All this email does is tell the user that the name of the app has changed. Which is important to the startup, but probably not important to the user. I hadn’t used the app in several months and didn’t remember what it was, so getting me where I need to go affordably, quickly and trouble-free is probably something I rely on other apps for right now.

It takes more than a change of brand name to make me return to try an app one more time. Send me an offer. Send me a free ride. Send me a chance to win something. Send me a funny cat video.

There is almost no value for the user in this email. If you had to pie chart the ratio here between value-to-the-startup and value-to-the-user it would look like this…

When you send emails to users, focus on making >50% of the value in the email for the user. Here’s a great example from one of my favourite university startup programs, UTS Startups. Here, if anything, there’s almost too much value (in too many items) for student startup founders to benefit from (but don’t worry because you can subscribe to a calendar using the link at the end). Everything in this email is focused on value for the user, not the brand: