Does your email marketing team struggle with a high unsubscribe rate? Or worse, not know if your unsubscribe rate is good or bad? If you answered yes to either of those questions, the checklist below will help you gain control of your unsubscribes and improve the effectiveness of your email marketing.

1. Set Benchmarks

Having a benchmark to compare your performance against is essential. There will always be some unsubscribes so what really matters is whether the rate is "normal'. What is "normal'? A good place to start is with industry unsubscribe rates.  For the education industry in 2018, the benchmark is 0.25%, according to GetResponse. But, if you have the data available, what's even better is if you set up your own benchmarks. Use your average unsubscribe rate from the previous year or month to compare against your new emails. Having this baseline to compare against will empower you to make marketing decisions. Your last send had 25% higher sends than average- are there rendering issues? Was the content lackluster? With the data to back it up, you're empowered to make impactful changes to your emails.


2. Optimize Your Unsubscribe Page 

When a student (or inquiry) reaches your unsubscribe page, are they given the single option to stay subscribed or unsubscribe? This is a major miss. Some of these students may want to stay subscribed to some but not all communications. Does your team have emails divided up by topic categories? Do you have newsletters that send at different cadences (weekly, monthly, etc)? Give students the option to subscribe/unsubscribe to these specific communications types. Also, make sure that expectations are met by clearly describing what kind of emails they will get if they subscribe to each category. 

Here's an example of a well optimized unsubscribe page from Litmus:

Litmus Unsubscribe Page

3. Use Targeted Send Lists 

Avoid massive "all audience' sends. An unrefined send list is begging for a high unsubscribe rate. Ideally, your marketing team has established customer personas that detail the type of content they are interested in and their level of engagement with marketing materials. Use these personas to set up persona-specific messaging strategies. An audience that receives relevant, useful, and unique content at a pace that they find manageable stays subscribed.

If your team does not have defined personas, does your platform allow for email engagement filtering (ie. all students who have opened an email in the last 90 days)? Not only do you want to make sure you are not pestering students who have a touch-and-go relationship with email, you don't want to waste resources on an unengaged audience.

By following this checklist, you can help reduce your email unsubscribe rates, improve email engagement, and ensure that your college is adhering to email marketing best practices.

Recommended for you: 5 Ways to Make Sure Your College's Emails Don't End Up in Spam

Resources: Photo Credit.