It’s Official, Black Friday is my Annual Unsubscribe Day

Posted 11/30/2015 3:10 PM by Jeff Julian

Did you know Microsoft’s Outlook for iOS has a nifty Unsubscribe feature for emails sent from a mailing list?  Well I do now! 

How did I figure it out?  After a few years of being ticked off the morning of Black Friday, with over 100 emails in my inbox, I have dubbed the day my Annual Unsubscribe Day.  I am sure you have seen this same flood of obscure messages with deals too good to be true, right?  Why go out and brave the lines at the stores when I have an inbox that is completely out of control.

In a recent HubSpot article, they cite some research they did on open rates during the holiday season and the numbers are pretty much what I expected They are extremely low during the days before and after the three core holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. 

So here is my question to you, if you know everyone who sells something will be emailing their list and the likelihood of the recipient opening it is far lower than required, is that message worth sending? 

And if you really believe it is, is it worth losing an audience member due to you being guilty by association?

Seriously, 10% Off is not a Black Friday Deal

So back to Black Friday, and while we’re on the topic, Cyber Monday as well.  I don’t know how many emails, well over half, were from people who just didn’t have anything to offer.  Several of these were Free Shipping, 10% off store-wide, or $10 bucks off any purchase over $99.  I even saw a 5% off coupon from a software vendor. 

Come on people, Bed Bath & Beyond gives people 20% off at any point in the year for their customers.  While there are rumors they might end these promotions (sorry for all the ads on this link), the point is 10% is not a significant amount. 

So go back to the meaning of Black Friday when you are considering your discounts, if your company can go from hard times to “in the black” because of this sale, then by all means go for it.  However, if you are just being cheeky and don’t actually plan to see a major uptake in sales due to holiday shopping, then reconsider the offer. I know someone’s mom really wants your great piece of business software for the holidays with your amazing $9.95 discount, but they will probably pay full price for it if it is so good.

What is Your Audience Worth to You?

Building an audience is hard and earning the ability to email someone should be something a brand considers a privilege.  With this privilege comes responsibility.  Just because you have my email address, doesn’t give you the right to use it at your discretion. 

Behind that email is a person who has to spend time sorting through their inbox.  As marketers, we get so caught up in our routines and rhythms that we feel the need to send out an email based on a schedule and not based on the value of the message. 

In that statement lies the problem with probably 90% of the email you received on this holiday weekend, there was no value for you as the audience member within the message. 

As a content marketer, I rely on email to help me get my message out to the closest members of the audience we have, those who provide their email to us and ask to be notified when new content is available.  Sure, I have a few hundred more emails I could technically use, but they have not explicitly said they want to be on my list.  This list is the select few and without email, I would have to find a less measurable and more expensive way to get the message to them.

So as a plea from all of us to value the platform and the responsibility that comes with it, please stop spamming my audience with your messages and in turn making them dislike the medium.  Consider sitting the next one out and celebrate the holiday with your family and friends without scheduling that Christmas Day email offer.

Lessons Learned for Email Marketers

You wouldn’t think with the level of frustration that I would have a positive spin, but when you see so many examples of bad audience treatment, you learn a lot about what not to do.  Here are a few lessons I learned from unsubscribing to over 30 lists on Black Friday:

  • Make the unsubscribe link easy to find – When I unsubscribe to your newsletter, my sensitivity to your brand has risen, but it has not necessarily driven me to dislike you.  However, if you make it hard for me to find the unsubscribe link, or leave it out completely, I start to lean towards dislike.  Most people are used to it in the footer so make it stand out and available.  How many subscribers do you want that wish they could remove you, but they just don’t know how?
  • If your audience member didn’t ask to be on your list, remove them – So I gave you a business card at an event, you gave me one too.  Would you like your email flooded with weekly updates about my family, my hobbies, or my companies offering?  No, you probably could care less and that is how I feel about your products and services at this point.  Make it clear when you are adding someone to your list that they know they are being added to a list.  Give them a quick unsubscribe button and make sure you keep track of the patterns.  If everyone you add to the list ask to be removed in a short period of time, stop adding them.
  • Make the unsubscription process immediate – If I say I want off your list, remove me right away.  That could be a big button at the top to unsubscribe to all or an action before the page loads with a successful unsubscribe message and a button to undo the action.  Remember, I can get your information other ways so don’t think of it as a break up, just an expression of how I want to communicate with you.
  • My feedback is a luxury if I want to provide it – So you want to gate my ability to unsubscribe to your list with a survey?  Why?  If we don’t have a relationship, then just leave me be.  If it is that valuable to you, give me a reason to share my feedback.  This practice is so wrong (CAN-SPAM Act requires prompt removal and ease of access), that you could get you in trouble by the government by not doing it correctly.  If we have a relationship, then continue doing business with me as usual but stay out of my inbox.


I am planning on publishing this post on Cyber Monday.  Since I love my audience, I will promote this one via social media to spare their inboxes one less message on this day. 

If you are dealing with the same question, do you send the email or not, leave it in the draft folder for a few more days and revisit the question on Thursday.  If it is still of value to your audience, hit that send button and get your high five from the monkey!