Should I Worry About Unsubscribes? (Naomi’s Answer)

Should I worry about unsubscribes?Some context for the folks at home: The person emailing this question is taking Let’s Fix Your Business. There’s a whole lotta backstory of what happened before she asked this question, and a whole lotta stuff that happened after she asked this question. But for now, we’re going to take it as a little vignette, a slice of the life of an evolving ittybiz owner.

The writer is, at the time of the letter, on the cusp of making SIGNIFICANT changes to the content she’s sending to her email list. It would not be unreasonable to assume a number of her subscribers are going to unsubscribe as a result of these changes. So that’s where we are today.

The question!

Hi Naomi and David,

I’m wondering if you can speak very briefly to the value of people opting OUT of your list.

I’ve noticed that as my business evolves and my message begins to get clearer and clearer, people begin to opt-out of my subscriber list.

Now, I do realize the many reasons WHY this is a good thing for me. As I’ve really used the content in your class to help me get much clearer on who my top buyers are and what’s most valuable for them, I realize that as I tweak my content and make a variety of changes it might not sit will with the people who have just been hanging around but were never going to buy anyway.

Maybe I’m just asking for a little re-assurance at the moment.

I do know I’m on the right path and all your strategies have felt right on the ‘money’ to me. I guess I’d just love to hear a direct comment from you on “the value of people leaving your list!” AND as I”m making changes to content and frequency of my notes to my audience would you recommend calling attention to and explaining WHY you’re making these changes?

Thanks so much!

Naomi’s Answer!

Dear Lovely Letter Writer,

Hi.

You are in a tricky spot, and I’m glad you came to us. We’d love to help.

Let’s go to allegory land for a little while. The muffins are fantastic.

Let us imagine that you were in a close personal relationship – romantic or family or maybe even friendship – and you wanted to make a change in your life. This is not a relationship change but a life change. You want to go back to school, say, or you want to take up whittling. It will be an awesome change. You are excited about it. You think things like, “I’m going to make an awesome change and it’s going to be awesome!”

Now let us also imagine that you, paradoxically, feel a little resistant, a little reluctant. Little places inside if you are whispering that perhaps you should hold back.

When you are thinking things like, “I’m going to make an awesome change and it’s going to be awesome!” you are feeling strong and positive and optimistic. You are possibly also a little bit willfully delusional and only looking at the upsides, because that’s the only way anything has ever been done by anyone. Willful delusion is a necessary trait in both life and in business.

Then, when it’s time to actually plan the changes, your toes get a little chilly. The realities start kicking in. Back when you were feeling awesomely delusional, you said to yourself, “Sure, he might be a little uncomfortable, but it’s nothing I can’t handle!” Now that you’re actually thinking about You Know, Doing The Thing, you’re not 100% sure that you can handle it, actually. Pinterest starts looking awfully good. (Did I mention I finally got a Pinterest account? I signed up for just this reason.)

THEN, when it comes time to You Know, Do The Thing, well, you’re solidly into cold feet territory. Remember that Pin you saw about using Downy Unstoppables in an oil burner? Remember how you meant to try that? You should totally do that.

Now. Right now.

This is what change feels like.

We seem to get that well enough. We say things like, “Change is hard” and we marvel at our insightfulness. (By “we”, here, I mean me.)

But growth is change. And if change is hard, and growth is change, then growth is hard.

Makes sense logically, but when it comes time to You Know, Do The Thing, we see the hard and we sometimes think that because it is hard, perhaps we have made the wrong choice.

We think, what if he doesn’t like the changes? What if going back to school
makes him insecure? What if my whittling guild meets on Date Night?

What if… gasp!… things change?!?!

Thank you for visiting Allegory Land. We hope you enjoyed your stay. Don’t forget to follow Allegory Land on Twitter!

Any time you make changes to what you send to your list, you will lose people.

The ONLY time this is not true is if you start mailing less frequently. Then you will not lose people… until the next time you send an email, at which time you will lose people.

There is no exception to this rule.

  • If you start mailing more frequently, a certain percentage of your mailing list subscribers will say, “Gosh golly, this fool woman emails all the time! I’d better unsubscribe!”
  • If you start mailing less frequently, a certain percentage of your mailing list subscribers will say, “Gosh golly, who is this fool woman? I haven’t heard from her in a month of Sundays! I’d better unsubscribe!”
  • If you start mailing full length articles, a certain percentage of your mailing list subscribers will say, “Gosh golly, this fool woman can’t shut up! How can I be expected to read all those words? I’d better unsubscribe!”
  • If you start mailing snippets with links to longer pieces, a certain percentage of your mailing list subscribers will say, “Gosh golly, I used to like this fool woman, but all she wants me to do now is click links! This is surely a capitalist conspiracy of some kind. I’d better unsubscribe!”

If you make changes, people will leave. That’s it. That’s all. That’s all there is to it. Weird anomalous subscribers become weird anomalous unsubscribers. People leave because they hate change. People leave because they hate you. People leave because they joined the Navy. (That happened on Dave’s old list, by the way.)

Most usually, people leave because they meant to leave before, and they forgot. Now that you’ve made changes, they’re noticing you more than they were noticing you before, so they remember that they meant to get off your list a long time ago. Your changes precipitate the unsubscribe, but they don’t cause it. The causal event probably took place long ago.

Now, knowing this, here are a few things to consider:

What do you want to do with your list?

What feels right for where you want your ittybiz to be in the future?

Can you mitigate the loss somehow by doing this later? (See: Overwhelm fairy.)

Do you believe your list subscribers should have the majority vote in how you run your marketing?

And finally… What will you wish you had done five years from now?

The answer to this last question is almost invariably, “God, I wish I made the changes back when my list was small. I could have lost 50 people instead of 2500.”

Bottom line on personal relationships: If your boyfriend can’t deal with your whittling, you are probably not very compatible. Find a new boyfriend.

This feels somewhere between extremely challenging and impossible while you are desperately holding on to the boyfriend you already have, but it’s surprisingly easy when it comes time to do it.

The longer you stay stagnant, the more years of your life you will lose.

Bottom line on your mailing list: If your list subscribers can’t deal with your new initiatives, you are probably not very compatible. Find new list subscribers.

This feels somewhere between extremely challenging and impossible while you are desperately holding on to the list subscribers you already have, but it’s surprisingly easy when it comes time to do it.

The longer you stay stagnant, the more years of your life you will lose.

PS – In answer to your question at the end, there is rarely a good reason to tell your list members that you will be making changes. Sometimes yes. Usually no.

Making a dramatic announcement that you’re taking up whittling sounds a little… dramatic. Same with your list. Both your boyfriend and your list will figure it out soon enough.

xx
Naomi

(PS – Dave’s answer to your question can be found here.)

About the author: Naomi Dunford started IttyBiz in 2006. In her free time, she likes to… ha! Free time. You’re adorable. Learn more about her here and catch up with her on Twitter or Facebook.