“Subscriber burnout” occurs when a company’s marketing communications become more annoying than they are helpful, leading to diminished interest from your subscribers - which can become a serious problem on multiple levels, from acquisition and nurturing prospects to onboarding or re-engaging existing customers.
While there are some organic and unavoidable causes for unsubscribes, burnout often occurs due to reasons that could have been avoided by recognizing and correcting practices that cause it in the first place.
I’ve put together some of the most common causes of subscriber burnout I’ve seen, and the best approaches to fixing this issue before it’s too late.
5 things you're doing that are causing subscriber burnout
1. You don't clean up your lists
Without regular list clean-ups, you could be sending your subscriber base unwanted emails - to the point that it feels like spam and ruins any chance of converting prospects to customers in the future or re-engaging current churn risks.
2. You're not paying attention to engagement stats
If you're not making regular adjustments to your content and email strategies based on previous engagement trends, then you're likely heading quickly toward subscriber burnout.
A downward trend in open and click rates and an upward trend in unsubscribes can be a sign of dwindling interest and an ineffective marketing strategy. These stats are the most important and valuable tool for understanding the impact of your marketing strategy, so ignore these signals at your peril.
3. You're sending too much promotional content
If you're not providing helpful and informative content between promotional outreaches, then you become just another uncaring company asking for subscribers' money rather than an organization that provides them with real value and ultimately earns their trust - and, eventually, their business. Many marketers forget the proven adage that you have to give to get.
4. You're bulk-sending general emails
Content is not one-size-fits-all. Customers expect to receive emails tailored to their interests and don't enjoy having their time wasted by emails promoting content or products that aren’t relevant to them. Senders still utilizing the old build-and-blast method of email marketing see some of the highest rates of subscriber burnout.
5. You're sending too frequently
Frequency depends on the quality of content, industry, and audience relationship, but, unless requested by subscribers, sending three or more emails a week is a great way to train subscribers to overlook your messages, like a dirty sock in the corner of the room. And, depending on your audience, even one or two emails a week might be considered too much.
5 ways to protect your audience from burnout
1. Elevate the Preference Center in content
Giving subscribers control over the frequency of emails and the content types they want to receive via a Preference Center can encourage them to update their preferences rather than unsubscribe from your emails completely.
The more options you provide them within the Preference Center, the more ways you can keep subscribers from churning and provide them with a more personalized and relevant experience. In other words, help them to help you!
Understanding opt-in vs. opt-out
Opt-out signup forms are different from opt-in signup forms – and the latter is better for deliverability.
In an opt-out form, checkboxes for content lists are pre-ticked, meaning a submitter has to actively untick boxes if they do not wish to receive communications.
An opt-in form, on the other hand, does not predetermine such a subscription, meaning that subscribers are less likely to end up on content lists they don’t wish to be on. Granting more autonomy to subscribers shows that you aren’t trying to trick them. This is why Ortto suggests that users utilize opt-in forms – see our usage guidelines.
2. Balance promotional content with informative content
Promotional content should never outweigh your informative content. At the very least, subscribers should receive a healthy, 50:50 proportion of these content types. By doing so, you create a sense of desire and expectation with subscribers by becoming a helpful resource worth searching out - rather than ignoring - in their inboxes.
3. Utilize personalizations and dynamic content
Encouraging subscriber excitement and engagement can often be fueled by utilizing zero/first-party data to personalize email content.
Dynamic content allows for elevating activities, products, and data points you’ve obtained as points of interest for each subscriber and elevates it within each one’s email to create a more engaging and desired experience.
4. Create and automate a re-engagement and list-cleanup process
Having a process for regularly re-engaging subscribers and cleaning out the obstinately unengaged is an all-around best practice for maintaining strong deliverability.
But what it also provides is an opportunity for identifying churning practices and getting in front of them earlier to help mediate some of those drifting subscribers.
The best part is that this process can be easily automated in many platforms, whether in keeping a clean list using just a basic re-engage/sunset automation alone or pairing it with a win-back experience before they reach that point of turnover.
5. Trigger sends using user activities
Timeliness can be a game changer for winning subscribers’ business.
Utilizing subscriber actions and activities to trigger and time your content creates a more relevant, engaging, and desired email experience for your subscribers.
By setting up smart automation and utilizing activity-based triggers, you will create an experience that causes subscribers to increase in interest rather than the frustration that leads to burnout.
The long and short of it is that general, un-targeted email campaigns are a thing of the past. Sending the right emails at the right time will provide you with bigger returns in the long run.
Utilizing personalizations, automation, and timely triggers, you can turn your bulk content into a 1:1 experience that changes churning subscribers into long-term purchasers.
Check out my ebook on email deliverability for more information about email best practices.
The guide to email deliverability