VerticalResponse Blog

I work for an email marketing provider, so it’s a given that I get a lot of email. Sometimes when enough is enough, or I just don’t need to receive an email anymore, I click unsubscribe. Often, because I know how hard small businesses work to build their list, I feel guilty. It’s important to remember though, that when someone unsubscribes, it’s not personal.

I’ve been intrigued over the years by the different experiences I’ve encountered with a simple unsubscribe. The unsubscribe process has run the gamut from emails not even containing an unsubscribe link (which breaks the CAN-SPAM law and isn’t legit) to those that make you take 5+ steps just to get off a mailing list. However, there are those that actually do a great job of dealing with an unsubscribe with a dash of wit, humor and some smarts.

Read on to see some top notch examples of what to avoid at all costs and what to start doing today:

Make it Easy, Fast and Flawless: When someone wants off your list, let them get off the list, period. Being able to unsubscribe should be as simple as clicking a link that says “unsubscribe” or replying to an email with unsubscribe in the subject line. Don’t require users to re-enter their email address, passwords, log-ins or account numbers to unsubscribe. Making people jump through hoops will only irritate them further and it doesn’t comply with CAN-SPAM, which could then cause them to report your message as SPAM.

This example from illustrates how to tick off your readers. They’ve buried the unsubscribe in a ton of small print text at the bottom of their email. I had to search for it just to find it.

Screen Shot 2012-05-30 at 8.38.56 AM

Just. Do. It.: Unsubscribes should be processed immediately with no exceptions. In the eyes of the user, they’ve asked to be removed from your list now. If you wait two days and send them something in the meantime, you’re going to be seen as a spammer which you want to avoid at all costs. The CAN-SPAM law permits you ten days to remove someone from your list, but this is the time to deliver immediately without delay.

Appeal to Their Senses: I’ve seen businesses try a last ditch effort to keep subscribers on their list here with a bit of humor, wit or even guilt (tread lightly) with messages such as this one from eBay:

eBay Goodbye EmailI like how they make a bid (no pun intended) to get me to stay with the sniff sniff, but still make the unsubscribe process easy.


Here’s another example from They do a great job branding their page and using a good balance of humor and efficiency. And, they give you a last chance to opt back in, if for some reason, you’ve unsubscribed by accident, or have regrets. Unsubscribe Page Unsubscribe Confirmation Page


Taking it much farther is Groupon, as only Groupon can, with this:

Groupon Unsubscribe Confirmation Page


Groupon Unsubscribe Confirmation Page

This example (from 2009) is extreme, especially when a coworker in the background comes up behind and throws coffee at poor Derrick (the guy getting punished for your unsubscribe). I’m certainly not endorsing this as a best practice, and can’t say I’ve ever seen a call to action to punish someone, but this just illustrates what’s out there. Not good IMHO (in my honest opinion).

It Doesn’t Have to be Ugly: You work hard to provide a flawless user experience and your unsubscribe process should also be on par. Just because your reader is leaving your list (for now), don’t make it ugly. Make the effort to brand your unsubscribe confirmation pages (like the example from above) and emails just like you would your opt-in form and other landing pages. You want this last impression to be a lasting impression in a good way.

Remember, just because someone unsubscribes doesn’t mean they’re a lost cause. Make it easy for people to opt-in to your list on your website, your blog and social media channels like Twitter and Facebook because you never know when they’ll change their minds. You can tweet a link to your opt-in form or have it on your business Facebook Timeline in just a few minutes.

You can expect to lose about 30% of your email list each year due to attrition, so keep in mind that growing your list is an on-going process. Then, living up to the promise you delivered when people opt-in is paramount. Give them what you promised and you’ve won half the battle.

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  • EL


    @Laura – Great question! Auto-responders are also in development currently and they are actually slated ahead of profile management. We’re aiming for an end of Q3 launch, so stay tuned!
    @Nilou – Unfortunately, we are unable to release a sub-set of features for profile management earlier, as you suggested. The entire feature set will be rolled out at once.
    @Rod – Thanks for your feedback. The functionality you are describing will be part of the profile management feature. In other words, your subscribers will be able to specify what lists (if any) they want to unsubscribe from. If they got there accidentally, they don’t have to unsubscribe from anything!

  • Rod


    And there are those that make it too easy to unsubscribe (eg. Vertical Response). One click and you’re gone! How easy is it to accidentally click on a link on a smart phone – I do it all the time and end up somewhere I did not intend ! My thumb is always on links it shouldn’t be I’m sorry VR, you need to get up to speed with Technology!

  • Nilou

    Hi Ellery, I understand we have to wait until end of Q4 this year to have the full profile management feature implemented by VR, but would it be possible to at least have the feature where a customer who unsubscribes by accident has a chance to resubscribe instantly? I’ve noticed almost all the other email marketing companies do have this feature! Many thanks.

  • Laura Hunt

    Don’t we need an auto responder to give that friendly, “so sorry you’re leaving us” message? Do we have an auto responder yet? If I missed the announcement, let me know. I would love to have a branded response for both new subscribers and “unsubscribers.”

  • EL


    Hi John,
    You’ll be happy to know that our product team is currently developing the feature that you are requesting. It’s officially called “profile management” and will allow your subscribers to specify which lists they’d like to be on. There is no official delivery date yet, but we are anticipating that it will be rolled out Q4 of this year.

  • Karissa

    Great article. I’ve had a terrible time with P&G Everyday Solutions. I tried their unsubscribe link and had to enter my email. After I submitted, the page said I don’t have an account. Then I posted to their Facebook. A rep commented and referred me elsewhere. Of course I was never unsubscribed and kept receiving email so I sent it to spam.
    As someone who does email marketing, I can’t take it personally when someone unsubscribes.

  • John Sarvey

    One feature where I really wish Vertical Response would catch up to the competition is to provide the function of allowing a subscriber to “manage their subscriptions” or preferences as an an option rather than just a complete unsubscribe. I notice that other systems have this. Let’s say someone wants to get off a more frequently-sent list but still wants to receive monthly enewsletters or really important announcements. Or let’s say you have different lists for different programs. I’d like to give subscribers the ability to opt in and out of various lists.

  • Steve Sisler CPBA CPVA

    I don’t even use this service, but i stay a part of it because i like the emails and tips. Weird…

  • Al


    One thing that I have experienced is that the “report spam” link should not be close to “unsubscribe” link which is done automatically by some email providers. This makes some people hit “report spam” link by accident, which is not good for you.

  • Hosting en Chile

    Poor Derrick!

  • Ayaz

    Great post Kim and I never thought about this point and you have describe in detail and learned few great things and now on I would consider these suggestions.
    Thanks for sharing!

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