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There’s no such thing as a free lunch—or so I thought. It turns out membership has its perks, at least at Boston Market.

I signed up for a VIP business account (for free; just provided an email) a few years back to order food for an event. About once a month, an email arrives from Boston Market touting a deal. I’ve used them twice to snag a free chicken pot pie (after purchasing one and a drink) and for a 99-cent chicken (after buying a family meal).

While purging email recently, I didn’t even consider unsubscribing from Boston Market, because:

  • Emails are infrequent
  • Emails are not clickbait (you get what they tout)
  • Emails have provided me value

This cannot be said for emails from all businesses. Plenty of stuff arrives in our inboxes every day that we would rather not see. When we have time, we purge or unsubscribe. Of course, sometimes that is not always as easy as a click, even if that’s not entirely legal or customer-friendly.

Businesses do not want people leaving their email list, but being difficult or tricky about unsubscribing is a shady practice that can cause repercussions down the line. Someone may not want the company’s emails now, but may want them later—and that person may soon come to despise the company if it becomes a real pain to get off the list.

Here’s a couple tips for not pissing off the people you email:

  • Make it simple to find the unsubscribe link. Most people have been trained to scroll to the bottom looking for size 2 font, yes, but don’t hide your unsubscribe link like it’s Where’s Waldo.
  • Please do not send ANOTHER email confirming the unsubscribe. We all hate those.
  • Make it a one-click process, if possible.
  • Perform the unsubscribe as fast as possible. Don’t make people wait days and receive more email before their email is purged.
  • Include a brief survey to learn why someone is leaving your list, but make it optional.
  • Customize the process by giving options for fewer emails, or emails better suited to our wants/needs.

Read on to see how a couple businesses did it all wrong, in my opinion.

I recently started the process of buying another vehicle, and, naturally, did my research online. Using a few auto-specific sites like Carmax, Carfax and Autotrader, eased the process, and those sites used a phone number and email address to reach out to local dealers and specific cars.

Once I purchased a car and continued to receive sales emails from specific dealerships, I politely emailed each saying I had made my purchase. Most of those emails stopped. However, those from Motovy New Car Deals and Autoserv, did not. My guess is my email ended up in their databases from one of the previously mentioned car-finding sites.

Motovy kept prompting me about my new Honda. Not once did I consider Honda or look at one online. So after being barraged with near-daily emails, I scrolled to the bottom of an email and found this:

One click unsubscribe

I clicked and it got me here (not one click as stated):

Autobytel unsubscribe

Why does it take so long to get my email out of your system? MailChimp, a common marketing email platform, does it instantly. Other companies may be deleting your address manually.

My “friends” at Autoserv of Tilton kept sending me emails as well. I don’t actually have any friends at Autoserv, so again, I scrolled to the bottom:

I clicked and got here:

I clicked unsubscribe and got this:

See what they did? The default reason to not receive emails will still get you emails if you hit submit without reading closely. This is another shady practice. Consumers want to EASILY unsubscribe, not be fooled into getting more of what they do not want.

Many small businesses use MailChimp, and that system does unsubscribe right. It’s a one click process, with an option to tell the business why you want off their list. But that is optional. You are off the list with one click!

Oh, I may have typed too soon that Boston Market emails were happily infrequent, as I just checked and there’s a second one this week. On the upside, though, I now don’t have to make dinner as we’ll be enjoying entrees two for the price of one tonight!

If the two auto sites I wrote about above offered an optional, brief survey, here’s what I would have submitted:

Unsubscribe survey option

Remember that in email marketing best practices, making the opt-out easy is as important as getting the original opt-in. Someone may not be ready now, but they could potentially be a prospect or customer later — unless you make them so angry they’ll do anything to avoid working with you in the future.

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