I recently went on an unsubscribe spree—when I go through my inbox and unsubscribe from any email marketing list that I no longer find relevant or valuable to me. After each mass unsubscribe, I start thinking about what caused me to end the relationship with my email admirer, because the majority of the time, I’ve shown interest and opted-into these programs. But then, sooner rather than later, I end up losing that interest and cutting things off. It’s the oh too familiar initial butterflies and then subsequent disappointment.

So what’s the issue? Is it me, or is it you, sender? If you have a recipient-first mindset, the answer is always you. At some point, you failed to live up to the promise that you made to me, your recipient, when I initially subscribed.

Let’s break down several areas where your email relationship can go wrong, and how you can fix them. Think of me as your relationship expert, here to prevent you from making the same mistakes that made me show so many of my past email suitors the door.

1. You didn’t set the proper expectations at sign up. Maybe you said you’d email me tomorrow, and you end up emailing me every day! Pump the brakes or at least give me a heads up that you’re the type to always be in communication. Don’t catch your subscribers off guard, or they’ll give you the boot. Let them know how much you’ll contact them and with what content from the get-go and get your relationship off on the right foot.

2. You talked about yourself too much. Remember when I said this was all about ME? Ask me some questions in our email conversation. If your content/conversation isn’t valuable to me: personalized, intriguing, funny, thought-provoking, or offer-filled, I lose the connection I once had with you and I start to look elsewhere.

3. You were too needy!

You’re always in my inbox, you always want my feedback, you just won’t leave me alone. No one needs a stage 5 email clinger. Don’t be too aggressive with your subscribers, instead, be light in your asks. If you come on too strong, you’re not going to be asked back.


4. You didn’t introduce yourself. Manners matter. Especially when my inbox is so full. Make sure your friendly from is just that, friendly and recognizable. No noreply@company.com. There’s nothing inviting about that. Get cheeky with it if it fits your brand voice, but at the very least, let me know it’s you.

5. You’re unprepared. If you’re not running your emails through a copy check before pressing “send,” you’re risking turning off your subscribers for good. No one wants to read an email that looks like it’s been rushed to their inbox. Take time to prepare and groom your emails. A little effort goes a long way.

6. You didn’t dress to impress. Show up looking like you want to make a good impression. If you’re dressing your email in the same templates I’ve seen over the last 5 years, you’re not making an effort. Be you, but be the best version of you. Be responsive, well branded, and look great in any inbox. If you do, I’ll open your emails on both my desktop and my iPhone. So you better be looking sharp in both.

7. You showed up late. If you’re an e-commerce site, timing is everything. If you’re announcing a sale, don’t have that sale email show up once the party is already over. Be mindful of your sending windows and pay attention to when your users are most engaging with your email. Stick to those times.

8. You showed up uninvited. Don’t send an email to someone who hasn’t asked to hear from you! The days of buying email marketing lists are WAY over. Sending to a smaller list of quality subscribers is always a better idea than sending to a big list of “excuse me, what’s your name again, do I know you?” recipients.

9. You just weren’t the right fit. And that’s ok!! Sometimes your subscribers’ preferences change, so if they do, bow out gracefully. Make your unsubscribe prominent and when your recipient does say “goodbye,” thank them for the time they’ve spent with you. Honor their decision and be graceful in defeat.

If you’re a recipient like me, who is regularly going on unsubscribe sprees—there is good news…there are SO many other fish in the sea. There are plenty of senders who are hitting all the right notes with their email program and are welcome guests in my inbox.

To find out how to be one of them, take it back to grade school and check out our Recess Rules of Email Marketing or hear tips from email marketing experts from inside and outside of SendGrid in our Expert’s Guide to Email Marketing.

‘Til then, try not to be a part of my next unsubscribe spree. Keep the focus on ME (your recipient) and you’ll never be on the bad side of an email breakup.

As Twilio SendGrid's Sr. Director of Content, Jillian is responsible for ensuring that SendGrid provides valuable thought leadership content through the blog, whitepapers, webcasts, and more. When not writing and editing, you can find Jillian frequenting Denver restaurants in search of the best queso.