How to Not Feel Bad When People Unsubscribe From Your List

Oren Cohen

Your expectations were just too high

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A few weeks ago, I created a free email course that teaches people how to write fantasy and used Facebook ads to draw people’s attention to its beta testing.

There were well over 250 subscribers during the advertisement period. They started getting the emails, some replied, some joined the Facebook group to mingle in the little community I created there. Others were generous with feedback, making the course better than it was, which was the whole point of beta testing.

But something else was going on that baffled me. People were unsubscribing from the course upon receiving course materials.

Those emails were not spam, or clickbait, those were link-free emails that taught these people something new. And they still unsubscribed. Curious.

Here’s what I think happened.

A Subscriber Is Still a Human Being

You never know what the emotional state of the person you are sending emails is. Are they angry? Calm? Panicked? Something else? You simply can’t know.

But, other than that, you can’t be bothered. It’s easy to consider your email subscribers’ feelings when you only have like two or three. But how will you deal with that when you have thousands? You Don’t. I have a few hundred subscribers, and I don’t have the bandwidth to consider how my words are going to affect these people emotionally.

The thing is, I don’t need to do it because I’m giving value, which we’ll go over later. For now, just realize that people can unsubscribe from your list for the most bizarre reasons when looked at from your vantage point. For them, it’s logical to do what they did, and you are not privy to that decision.

Humans Change Their Minds a Lot

Perhaps they are not in an emotionally sensitive place. Maybe they simply changed their minds.

One thing I liked was that many of my unsubscribers removed their subscriptions in the confirmation stage. I mean, they didn’t even get the content. They just changed their minds, and when it was time to confirm, they canceled.

One possible factor that led to this was me not customizing ConvertKit’s confirmation email. They still would have only needed to click the confirm button, but perhaps it wouldn’t break the flow if I added some text there like,

“You’re one step away from starting to learn how to write fantasy.”

Customizing that email with something like that would have kept the flow of their sign up process. That could have potentially reduced some of those cancellations.

But again, I can only speculate what was going on in these people’s minds.

You Can’t Fulfill Everyone’s Expectations

Your subscribers might expect something entirely different than the content you give them. When that expectation is not fulfilled, they leave.

In this case, you have some work to do. It’s your job to be transparent about what your subscribers are getting when they sign up for your course/newsletter/content. Especially if it’s a paid service like my writing course is supposed to be. (Disclaimer: they received it for free, but I was clear that this is a beta test before I make it paid).

They might still expect something entirely different, even if you were as transparent as you can be, but at least you will know you did your best.

There is this saying: you can’t make everyone happy. That holds in dealing with email subscribers because, in a sense, your subscribers are everybody.

So, what should you do? You can’t fulfill everyone’s expectations, and you also can’t read minds. What is the solution?

Always Provide Related Content They Can Use

For every subscriber that unsubscribed from an email with valuable content, I received at least one or more replies saying how the idea resonated with people.

You can’t read their minds, and you can’t answer their expectations. But, for better or worse, you can always make sure you are giving them something. Give them value.

But what is value? It’s whatever you give them that they can use. Teach them something new, provide them with a PDF, gifts, videos that teach them new things. If you’re creating a course, send them bonus course materials, or related articles, podcasts, and videos. Always provide them with content and never waste their time.

When someone unsubscribes from an email about crafting dialogue without giving me feedback as to why that email didn’t resonate with them, and I also get positive feedback from other subscribers, I know in my heart that I’ve been doing something right. I don’t need to investigate where I can improve when something I can’t control happens.

So, keep that in mind when creating content for your email subscribers: always provide them valuable content that enriches their lives in some way. There will still be people who unsubscribe but far less than if your emails were not informing or entertaining them in a way that keeps them coming back for more.

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I'm a geeky content creator. My content will usually be helpful articles for other content creators like me or some fun geeky articles about shows, video games, and literature. Recommend me a new fantasy book! Also, I'm working on my own fantasy story so stay tuned for that, too.

New York City, NY
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