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The True Cost of an Email Unsubscribe

The cost of an email unsubscribe and why ‘re-consent’ is so important to ABM

The idea of ownership of data is a dangerous thing. Data is ultimately the actions of people, and when marketers use the phrase ‘my database’ it sometimes feels like a form of digital slavery (prepare for the dullest episode of Black Mirror ever). That said, marketers must be realists – data has an intrinsic value, en mass people are predictable, and email data as a primary contact field and a unique identifier, has particular value. 

The question of what an email record is worth is largely subjective and akin to the question ‘how long is a piece of string’.

Email data and the information appended has almost infinite variables, but beyond the complexities of variables, the value is different to the organisations using it. In a last touch attribution model it would be possible to calculate the value of data by calculating the cost of data creation (channels, B2B data builds etc) and then attributing back the value of the services sold from a click-thru from your emails.

Once you ‘know’ the value of your data then it becomes possible to understand the value of suppression. 

As an example of the above if you placed a monetary value of £2 on every record and sent an email to 1,000 people then the total value of the data used would be £2,000 (if you’re laughing at this point please note some companies put their data on their PnL balance sheets as an asset). Mailchimp states the average B2B unsubscribe rate for marketing and advertising is 0.26%. Based on that percentage and sending to the 1,000 people above, the cost for a single email in lost data would be £10 and 5 people no longer contactable.

No company uses data just once though – a more interesting perspective is what happens after a year of newsletter sends. Over the course of 12 months 260 people on average would unsubscribe from your communications at a value of £520 on an initial value of £2,000 per year (again if you did come to these financial numbers it would be hugely inaccurate but it is a good way of showing value in data). To be clear if you send a single newsletter per week over the course of a year a B2B database will on average be 25% smaller after 12 months. 

If you consider that 10% of individuals change job every year in Europe and North America and add that number to the above, likely 35% of a B2B database that you began the year communicating with, will no longer be contactable by the end of the year. Knowing this is valuable, even if putting an accurate financial value on these numbers would be harder than convincing Jacob Rees-Mogg to send his kids to the local comprehensive, and would likely be a less enjoyable process.

Accepting that a database has a value, shouldn’t mean wrapping the database in cotton wool and not using it. Most organisations have checks in place to ensure customers and potential customers can only be contacted by email a set number of times per week. This balancing act is an important one as surveys of B2B marketers continue to show the importance placed on email as a channel. This piece from Insights for Professionals gives some insight into why.

As we have shown, statistically, sending a single newsletter per week will likely result in 25% of your database unsubscribing within a year, which is important to consider when using ABM strategies, where the universe size is finite. The prospect of email marketing not being possible to 50% of your audience through unsubscribes after two years should be a daunting one. Email might not be the only channel, but it is one of the most effective and consistently offers excellent ROI. Using sales automation tools to get around unsubscribes is also not necessarily a wise idea as we’ll cover another day. 

The value of ‘Re-consent’

‘Re-consent for the purposes of this article does not mean the crazy type of re-consent many B2B marketers undertook in the run up to GDPR. Many databases were emailed and the recipients asked to explicitly opt in. As such many companies ditched years of valuable data even though GDPR was not retro-active and ICO guidelines stated this wasn’t necessary. 

We’re using the term re-consent to refer to the process of getting someone to re-consent to receive emails from a company,  even though they previously unsubscribed. As a B2B marketer you will likely acquire email data from a variety of sources and it is likely that via your preference centre (ESP, automation platform, CRM whichever you use for master suppressions) on occasion incoming data won’t be useable because those individuals are already unsubscribed. Logically people can change their mind about their communication preferences, but technology is largely built around these decisions going one way – to unsubscribe. 

It is pointless using third party publishers to engage with your target audience (including those who have unsubscribed) if you have no mechanism to make them a subscriber again. As preference centres start to focus on all channels and not merely email you will gradually see your ability to reach an audience dwindle, unless you can overwrite a suppression, based on a clear opt in. 

If the above interests you then you should consider getting a pet. If that doesn’t help feel free to contact someone at Media Forty Two for further details. 

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