Subscriber Fatigue: 7 Steps To Kick It

Mr. Manyhats has much to do – and a cluttered inbox.

When he checks his email, he clears out all but the most pressing messages. Many of them don’t look particularly interesting or helpful anyway, and he can’t afford to waste his time.

Like a lot of people, he is suffering from a case of subscriber fatigue.

In the current economy, many companies are email marketing especially aggressively. Some 247 billion emails are sent every day. In the melee, subscribers often choose one or two emails to open, and delete the rest.

Your goal? Get Mr. Manyhats to choose your email. But how?

Make ’em Love You

Establish brand loyalty.

Your sender name is one of the first things subscribers see. If they already like you, you have a much better shot at that email being opened.

I Will Teach You To Be Rich author Ramit Sethi touts building relationships through personal response. Invite feedback and respond to it, promptly and specifically.

Command Their Attention

The subject line is where many subscribers make the decision to investigate further or toss out the case.

Go for something catchy but not cutesy; something surprising but not sensational. Try asking a question you know your demographic wants the answer to.

Hooking your audience is much easier with an appropriate subject.

Keep It Real

Reading plain English is more enjoyable than slogging through a formal missive or techno-garble.

Write friendly. Write real. Write effectively. Then send it to yourself. Do you want to open it?

Get Relevant

Make sure your emails are as relevant as possible to your subscribers’ interests.

According to The Social and Portable Inbox by Jupiter Research (2008), 50% of email users and 60% of frequent buyers (4+ purchases per year) said that if they did not find emails relevant, they would unsubscribe.

Try segmenting your subscriber list into categories. Alter your subjects and content to be most relevant to each category. If the subscriber is getting information they value, they’ll stick with you.

Balance the Scales

Promotions directly lead subscribers to buy or participate. Too many, though, may alienate subscribers.

Make sure you balance your content to provide enough helpful information that the subscriber experiences a true give-and-take. Try an 80:20 ratio of information versus promotions.

Dam the Floodwaters

The more emails you send, the more effective your marketing is, correct?

Actually, that’s dead wrong. Subscribers may feel like they are drowning in too many emails and choose to turn off the faucet altogether.

Pay attention to your frequency and how changing it affects your unsubscribes. Keep your subscribers swimming in your pond without sweeping them away.

Skip the Mourning Period

You are going to lose some readers in any case. People lose interest, they get busy and they move on.

Keep your subscriptions high by offering them everywhere you can. Keep enrolling new subscribers, and then do your best to create a positive experience for the demographic that is right for you.

Remember, though, that adding subscribers does no good if you don’t keep them. After all, a subscriber saved is a subscriber earned.


  1. Marc David

    12/8/2009 8:24 pm

    "The more emails you send, the more effective your marketing is, correct?"

    While this can depend on the list and how you start it (I’ve got a friend in this niche that sends multiple times a week and is always a promotion) but generally speaking this is so true.

    When I followed the "gurus" in the Internet Marketing field, I started e-mailing my list several times a week. Short e-mails, some stupid story and such.

    I had the most unsubscribes EVER in 5 years of doing this.


    #1 complaint in the "Why did you leave comments box" that you can enable in Aweber?

    Guess what it was… "Too many emails."

    I’ve since gone back to doing one about every 7 days and my unsubscribe rate per newsletter is well below 0.01% on average.

  2. Angela Wills

    12/8/2009 8:56 pm

    Wow, 247 billion is a LOT of emails!

    I’m honored that my subscribers open my emails and have been working hard to build that loyalty. I almost always get up to 40% open rates and I have to believe it has something to do with my name because my subjects are not overly clever or exciting.

    Thanks for all those tips and links, very helpful!

  3. Dave Doolin

    12/9/2009 12:13 am

    This is really timely considered a lot of very high profile bloggers are pitching email lists in general and AWeber in particular. I’ve changed my tactic a bit on the initial signup to account for this.

  4. Nigel Coates

    12/10/2009 5:03 pm

    I give away a free meditation for the subscription. There is always a few who unsubscribe instantly (as if they have got one-up on me:) but most hang in there. Im emailing twice a week, and there has been a few comments of ‘too many emails’, but also, ‘my emails are too long’. I may try emailing a ‘teaser’ with a link to the full article in the blog…

  5. Yee Shun Jian

    12/11/2009 12:07 am

    Nigel, I know what you mean… At my personal development website, I give away free affirmations and yeah, definitely there are some who unsubscribe straight away after receiving the affirmations but the majority stay on my list… most for a very long time.

    It’s all about providing so much value that your subscribers would kick themselves if they even think about unsubscribing.

    I space out my content emails so they get sent out at least once a week and in between I do promotion broadcasts.

  6. Don’t Let Your Opt-In Form Get Out Of Control

    12/29/2009 1:52 pm

    […] may remember Mr. Manyhats, a busy man who suffers subscriber fatigue. His wife, Mrs. Manyhats, has the same problem. She has so many emails, she doesn’t know what […]

  7. David Lindsay

    1/12/2010 6:04 pm

    We have all seen emails that ignore some or all of your suggestions. Your 80 – 20 rule (sounds familiar) caught my eye. Did you arrive at these figures through "scientific" research?

  8. Paul

    9/21/2010 1:55 pm

    I have about a 30-40% open rate depending on the day. I send out an email everyday – It is a Daily Gratitude email. Those that open will often reply to me, so I know people are enjoying them. I have a standard email Subject Line format, very predictable and includes the date. it reads:

    Your Gratitude Burst – 2010 09 10

    Every once in a while, I send out an email with a promotion. For those, I include the subscriber’s first name and usually a question such as:

    Steve – Can I ask you a question?

    Pretty simple, but because of the relationship I have with my list, those specific subjects get open rates that are through the roof!

  9. Isaiaha

    2/9/2013 10:32 pm

    I truly believe in what you are saying – VALUE is just so important… no one wants to be inundated with buy, buy, buy!

    Give first, Ask Second!

    Thanks, Isaiaha