Waving Goodbye: an Email Marketing Failure

Dear Technology Company:

Today I opted out of your email newsletter. I had been receiving it for several months but had not had time to read any issues. Despite that, I kept the subscription because I knew your company’s brand and considered you a respected name in the world of association and non-profit technology.

But today, I opened the newsletter. And I couldn’t read it.

No, really; I literally couldn’t read it. The text was all in a serif font, way too small to be legible. It looked like 9-point Times New Roman. The links were blue, but what looked like headlines above the links were in the same too-small, serif font as the rest of the text. I could see the company logos you had embedded; those were clear. But the actual substantive content – the information that I thought I would get in your newsletter – was impossible to make out.

To make matters worse, you didn’t even include a “Trouble reading this email?” link to get me to a legible version online.

I checked out some of the older issues before I unsubscribed, hoping that today’s display problems were an anomaly… but they weren’t. So, in the end, I said goodbye.

I hoped that you would at least ask me why I was leaving, because I was willing to tell you. But you didn’t want to know. Your system just processed my unsubscribe request and gave me a generic confirmation message: “Your email address has been removed.”

Well, actually it wasn’t completely generic. You did include your company logo; so at least I won’t forget who was responsible for my unpleasant experience. Thanks for that.

Just for the record, here are a few things you could do to improve your customers’ email experience:

  • Test your email templates and make sure they display properly in different email clients and on different computer operating systems. (There’s nothing unusual about the system I used to view your email today; if you had tested the most common OS and email combinations, mine would have been included.)
  • Include a link in your email to an online version, which would display properly for me. (I looked at the code behind your email, and you didn’t choose the miniature serif font intentionally; that happened when the email rendered in my system. So an online version would have helped me.)
  • Say something more personal to people who unsubscribe, and offer them a chance to resubscribe – if, for example, they accidentally clicked the “unsubscribe” link. For example: “We’re sorry to see you go, but we have removed your email address from our list. If you didn’t mean to unsubscribe, or you’d like to sign up again in the future, we’d love to welcome you back.” (Be sure to link to your email opt-in page.)
  • Present a one- or two-question survey on the unsubscribe confirmation screen, asking why someone left your email list. This can be a great source of actionable information for you. (If you had done this with me, I would have given you all of this constructive criticism for free!)

Some of these steps could have prevented me from unsubscribing. Others would have left me with a much better opinion of your company even if I did unsubscribe.

Either way, your company would have been better off.




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