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But I Thought I Was Interesting. The Antidote To Losing Email Subscribers

losing email subscribers

No one wants to lose email subscribers. There has to be attention in retention.

Whilst we are forever told the ways to get people to click, download and share, the trophy win is when someone has consumed and then wants to stick with you. When the ingredients are out there to gain the attention of someone else, how do you make them stay?

You will never develop trust and people to stick when you put the world through a sales funnel.

The opposite is if you create something that resonates, so it can become scalable.

Attention in retention is when you put just as much focus on keeping people/subscribers, as you do with throwing the net out and seeing who comes back in. An important part of the whole subscriber ecosystem is to recognise the reasons why people unsubscribe.


People Leaving Me

This article has its roots in someone who unsubscribed from my weekly You Are The Media email, last week. This was someone who had been a subscriber for nearly three years. He sent me an email to explain, “I simply found that I have disconnected from all the noise that was going on.”

“I realised from just going through my emails that I have not read anything from June last year!  I dumped my smartphone and got a Nokia 3310 to drown out the noise which also meant no podcasts either.” 

The email concluded, “It simply clogs the machine and paralyses you from doing anything as you get overwhelmed and consumed by everything.  What is required is practical application.”

losing email subscribers


By looking over the unsubscribers since 2013, I put them down to these five reasons:

There was no connection, whatsoever.

I can tell the people who are more likely to unsubscribe than those who are in for the long journey.

When anyone subscribes, they will always receive a ‘thanks for joining the You Are The Media community,’ email (it will always be from me and not an automated message). I will ask someone, where they are based, what they do and how they found out about You Are The Media. Those who are more likely to unsubscribe are those where there is no means of picking up a conversation and engagement is at an absolute minimum.


People signed up for something they thought was different.

If someone read an article that had a heavy skew to a ‘how content marketing works’ type article and then receive a weekly email that has become more focused on ownership and building loyalty, then perhaps not something they originally anticipated. Everything I create, I bring myself to the table so has a clear voice to it. If that isn’t what someone connects with, they are more likely to move on.


It just doesn’t strike a chord.

This all comes down to relevance. What means something to one person may not be what someone else enjoys. You have to be completely fine with that. You can’t treat everyone as your audience. Kevin Kelly told us in 2008 his 1,000 True Fans principal. Kelly explains that where we can create (with a defined voice), it allows us to interact with people directly. He mentions we need 1,000 people to make a living. He states that it is not for everybody as there is a lot of work in servicing and connecting, without the help from outside.


Circumstances change.

What originally starts as flavour of the month, in time becomes out of favour. Whether someone looks at a different discipline, a different role or someone picks up a preferred place to be a source of information things will always change. When the needle is moved, there will always be people who see an altered course of direction as something they associate with or become detached from.


Their inbox is becoming overloaded.

As part of a spring clean or cutting back, as I recognise from last weeks email message (above), keeping things leaner is what people chose when there once was an acceptance to join everything. Are we now becoming more selective of what we chose to subscribe to? If that’s the case, you have to be pretty clear about what you are sharing with others and to have your own stamp on everything that is said.

Unsubscribing is not a negative thing, it is a barometer of how you or someone else has changed. 


When it comes to losing email subscribers, I look at it this way. It is like that one friend you made in the first week of university/college. For that first week, there was someone you hung around but didn’t know too well, but there was someone to hang out with.

As the year progressed, the less you saw of that person as you found the crowd that was the right fit for you. In a B2B space, this is someone who saw something they could attach to, but over time didn’t really stick with it and became distracted by everything else going on, that it just faded into the distance. The connection wasn’t really that deep at all, but that’s ok.


Attention In Retention

As Peter Drucker famously said, “The purpose of a business is to create or keep a customer.” People who find value in what you do will come back. Over the past year, dropout rates for my weekly email are at the lowest they have been since I have been emailing regularly since 2013. Let me share with you why.

You need to focus on retaining and not be in a constant state of acquisition and then do nothing when they are at the party. This is what I have learnt where you put the importance of keeping others ‘topped up.’


Engagement is a real word.

When it comes to buzzwords listen to this You Are The Media Podcast with Ben Roberts. Engagement is when you and someone else feel part of a journey. It’s when you reach out, share, even take the interaction from a digital to a physical space ie. the You Are The Media weekly email to the You Are The Media Conference or Lunch Club. This includes amplification of your message where people feel part of something where they feel they have read something first and then share with their network. Engagement also supports conversion rates, for instance moving someone from a low ticket item (subscribing to an email) to a higher ticket item (buying a ticket for the You Are The Media Conference).


Easier to introduce new media platforms.

Once people are onboard and remain loyal ie. they interact, not unsubscribe, if you can retain an audience it becomes easier to introduce your message to other platforms, as long as it relates to the original message that someone subscribed to. For instance, it made sense to make the next step for the You Are The Media message to introduce the You Are The Media Podcast in 2017. This has meant that those people from the community, now have a voice and now feel part of the ongoing activity.


Celebrate reciprocity.

This isn’t about putting out a request to get people to blog on your site because you’re running out of ideas, but to champion cooperation. It works like this, someone subscribes and then you have an obligation to provide value and also support their development or initiatives that they are introducing.

On the weekly, You Are The Media email, I have helped to promote work from others who are part of the community. From events, webinars, gigs, books to those who are introducing their side project, there is real value in serving others and then your audience recognising others who are part of the wider family.


It’s not about frequency, but quality of output.

I have highlighted the obsession with communication and the places to put your message, rather than the overall message that goes into your communication. Even if you commit to a weekly or monthly email, there has to be a level of consistency that comes back to an underlying theme. Even if you have built a bank of work, better to gradually release on a scheduled basis, rather than throw everything out there and then go quiet.


Get to know people a bit better.

If you move away from the onus to transact to how you relate to others, people are going to stay. I can genuinely say that I have made friends with those who represent my audience. This is a very fortunate place to be. They may not become clients, but they are more than willing to amplify content and even become a sounding board for new ideas and to test as a reality check. It is a way to keep you grounded and recognise that there is more behind an email address.


Treat your audience as VIPs.

There have to be ways to treat those who subscribe as those who are privy to the top table. It doesn’t need to be extravagant giveaways, but treating them as receiving the premium content first. For instance, your email could be an article before it is published. I share the weekly You Are The Media podcast for subscribers to listen to, a day before it’s on iTunes/Stitcher.

When people recognise they are on a different level because they subscribe, helps to create a difference between just consuming content, to being a part of the overall experience.


The strength in thank you.

Even though someone unsubscribed and then spent the time to tell me why, I still replied to thank them for their honesty and for why they pressed that button. To have someone come back to give you reasons and clues are what helps you adjust and make better decisions. For anyone that comments and send an email, they will always receive an email from me and we can pick up the conversation on the points raised. Even if you may not be able to see the whites of someone’s eyes, there is still someone who purchased, commented, contributed and took time. The least you can do is let courtesy be a mainstay in your communication armoury.


Very simply everything I have shared in this section on keeping subscribers is structured by showing up, having a point of view and find a way to become familiar.

You have to move away from the business of telling others what you do and getting them to click, to how you can build their trust. According to the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, trust in businesses in the UK is at an all-time low and is one of the lowest scoring countries in the world. On the plus side, those businesses who are trusted, their relationships and presence can be magnified whilst others slowly get sucked deeper into the quicksand. Depth will always win.


Lets Round Up

Losing email subscribers should not be seen as a bad thing. At the same time, it is important to recognise why they shift away.

What is important is to recognise is the ability to be there for the long-term and finding the right people who can become your allies. When you focus on retaining subscribers, you put the emphasis on others.

What do you want…

Attention or retention?

Transaction or interaction?

Distribution or familiarity?

Reach or trust?

The sale today or the relationship over time?

To have the right people on board and not relentlessly address everyone in the hope that some will pay attention, is the difference in being continually relevant or just a having a place in a moment in time. Attention in retention is a way to always have a place with others.

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