Build E-Zine Subscriber Retention with the Right Exit Message

Sharon Tucci writes an informative and useful article aimed at helping e-zine publishers use their unsubscribes to improve their e-zines and bring the unsubscribers back.

Wouldn’t you like to get feedback from your unsubscribe messages about why people are leaving? Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to resubscribe a large percentage of them?

If you follow these steps, the results will astound you! 1. Make sure you have an EXIT message for your list: a message that people receive when they unsubscribe from your list. (Most, but not all, list server programs will offer this.)

2. Most people who DO use exit messages don’t write them correctly. Normally what they’ll say is something like “You’ve been unsubscribed from such and such a list” and *maybe* it will tell people to visit the list owner’s web site.

Here’s how to change this boring and useless message into a powerful market research and subscriber retention tool:

Part A: They have either voluntarily or automatically been unsubscribed from the list.

Part B: If they have voluntarily unsubscribed, ask them for FEEDBACK. The two simple questions I normally use is “What did you hope to gain from subscribing to the list?” “How did we not meet these objectives for you?”

Part C: Instructions on how to resubscribe to the list if they were automatically removed (for list servers that remove after bounced messages) or if they want to get back on later.

Now, it may surprise those of you who have never done this to know that in some cases ALL of those who unsubscribe will take the time to respond. Our own lists typically average about 2 in 3 responding. What can you do with the responses? Why is this exit message so important? Here is what you can do with the responses and why the exit message is important: 1. If your list server automatically removes bounced subscribers, this can help you make sure that they realize they unsubscribed. Sometimes people go on vacation, get sick or something else and their mailbox fills. A person’s server may be down and mail may be bouncing. And yes, even if regular list messages don’t get through to someone, this exit message CAN. If not, as the list owner, you’ll normally get a copy of it back. So you can queue and resend it for a few days later.

2. Many people unsubscribe from lists when they’re going through busy periods, going on vacation, etc. Providing them with a message that they can save until they’re ready to resubscribe can help make sure they get back on your list.

3. Finally, you get feedback from people who respond about ways you can improve your list or change your marketing strategy. One client I worked with was getting an awful lot of people writing that the list wasn’t at all what they expected it to be. After considering things, we realized that their list’s description in promotion didn’t really give an accurate picture of what the list was about. We changed this description and the results were amazing. Not only did the number of unsubscribes drop, but the number of NEW subscribers increased.

It is also helpful if you hang on to this information. Make sure you keep their original messages. Then if you make changes to your list based on this feedback, let the people know and reinvite them to subscribe. Sometimes, an unsubscribe has nothing to do with content. In our discussion lists, the number one reason people say they unsubscribe is because they find there to be too many messages. This solution is easy – we tell them how to subscribe to the digest version of the list.

Copyright 1999, Sharon Tucci. Sharon is the author of the e-book “All About Lists – How to Publish for Fun & Profit” and the President of, an email list management and hosting company. Visit for information.


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