Sending a Post-Unsubscribe Email

One of the requirements of the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 is that marketers must “honor a recipient’s opt-out request within 10 business days.”

But what if, shortly after you unsubscribed from an email list, an individual from that company sent you a personal, one-off email?

Many of the email marketing purists out there would cringe at this “rule breaker.”

However, that’s exactly what happened to me a few weeks ago. While I was doing some research for the new book Jason Falls & I wrote, I opted in to a ton of different email lists. One such list was Wine Library (see opt-in page here). For those not aware, Wine Library is the company where Gary Vaynerchuk began his career. More on Gary in a bit.

After the book research was done, I decided to unsubscribe from the Wine Library emails. I was receiving them daily and 9 times out of 10, deleting without reading. Nothing against Wine Library, but if you know me I’m more of a beer guy. The unsubscribe process was quite simple. A few clicks and I was out … or so I thought.

The very next day, I received an email from Brian S., a “Thank You Department Representative” at Wine Library. See email below.

Before this email landed in my inbox, I’d never heard of Brian S. However, thanks to the subject line – Wine Library Email List – I immediately knew what it was in reference to. As you can see from the email above, Brian did not waste any time identifying himself and explaining why he was emailing me.

To be clear, I’m not an attorney, however, I don’t see anything inherently illegal about that approach. If you are an email deliverability person, please weigh in below in the comments if I’m mistaken. In many ways, I appreciated this personal, “Sorry to see you go. How can we help?” email. I only had two suggestions to improve the messaging:

  1. Get rid of the “how are you?” – Unless I know you, that question seems a bit disingenuous. I understand it’s there to set a more informal tone, but it’s not necessary. Get right to the point.
  2. Instead of just mentioning the “weekly email” alternative, provide an “opt-down” link or at least point folks to the manage preferences page (here). This does a few things – first, it makes it easy for someone to change their email preferences and re-opt in if that’s what they choose. Also, it gives Wine Library some data/metrics to see the number of people who are clicking on that link and re-subscribing. Great data to have, right?

Back to Vaynerchuck. I’ve had the honor of hearing him speak live about a half dozen times. He’s one of the most passionate, engaging speakers I’ve ever heard. On more than one occasion, Vaynerchuck has mentioned that he has a team at Wine Library whose only job is to pick up the phone and call folks who unsubscribe from its email list. Talk about breaking the rules! Vaynerchuck shared that, anecdotally, 30-40% of those people they personally call end up re-subscribing. Wow, right? Wow. (To be fair to Gary, the 30-40% number is what I remember him saying. I’m not certain those are the stats he provided, but I recall them being quite high).

I’m not sure if these types of emails have replaced the phone calls – or maybe they are doing both – but either way, I’m intrigued by this tactic and have yet to hear another company employing it. If you are (or know someone who is), please share in the comments below.

I forwarded this email to my colleagues at Only Influencers (the “Best Network For Digital Marketers”) to see what they thought. He is what a few of them said.

Steve Denner, Owner/Director at Adestra Ltd:

My initial instinct is to say I don’t love it. However, I think if he were to alter the text a touch to re-affirm that, as it stands, “you’re off the list but here’s the route to re-subscribe and here’s some alternative newsletters” I might be warmer to the idea.

Carter Nicholas, CEO at eDataSource:

Agree that it would be better without the “How are you?”.  They have a fairly small list size and if the rest of their customer service is as personal and friendly as their email, then the approach seems appropriate.  Wouldn’t work if they were, say, a cable provider.

Janet Roberts, Owner of Content by Janet Roberts

I don’t hate it, but I am with DJ on the opt-down link. It’s kind of pointless to tell people about your alternatives if you don’t point them in the direction to go. Am I supposed to call him? Email him? Tweet him? Or root through my own email inventory to find an old message with a link to my account? And I would toss the “how are you?” line. The message reads fine without it.

So I ask you … what are your thoughts on this approach? How would you react if you received an email similar to the one I got from Brian S.? Would you re-subscribe? Opt-down? Delete it? Mark it as spam?

Have you (or a client of yours) tested this approach? If so, how successful has it been?

Are you breaking any of the so-called email marketing rules?

The comments are yours!


Speaking of breaking the rules, Jason Falls and I just wrote a new book on that very topic!

In The Rebel’s Guide to Email Marketing: Grow Your List, Break the Rules, and Win, we share with you all sorts of email marketing “best practices” individuals and companies are breaking each and every day … and still finding success.

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I think it's feasible to pursue follow-up if the subscriber is a frequent or sometime customer, and according to my analytics, had usually opened my emails, and even took action on a few of them. An unsub would make me concerned that they'd had a negative service experience, or we weren't meeting their needs in terms of our stock, etc. If they were a subscriber and had looked at 1 out of 10 emails, and had never clicked through, and we had no order information attached to the address, I'd let it be.


If I did follow up, I'd go with something a bit more casual, and totally custom: "I hope you don't mind me sending a quick note, but I was just in the midst of cleaning up our lists, and noticed you in the unsubscribe pile. Just wanted to check in and make sure you hadn't had any difficulties with the site, or with an order, or with the content of our emails. We want to make sure we're providing value, and it's our regular customers that often hold the key to realizing mistakes, and solving problems. Please get in touch if you need anything, and thank you again for being part of the WL family!"


You have to do what works for your customer base, and for each of your customers as individuals -- impossible to be one size fits all with email or any other marketing tool.


djwaldow moderator

Hey @megtripp ! Thanks for the useful, tell-it-how-you-see-it comment. Always appreciated. Great suggestion here: "If they were a subscriber and had looked at 1 out of 10 emails, and had never clicked through, and we had no order information attached to the address, I'd let it be." LOVE that. If that were the case, I would not have received this email. However, that approach also takes a a bit more work (not a simple copy/paste job), but I agree it could be more effective. 


I also love the more personal email copy you propose; however, I'd still provide that link to manage my preferences (and opt-down, if that's what I chose to do).


As far as your last paragraph ... wait. Are you suggesting that not all "best practices" work for all audiences? Sounds like a great book ... Rebel's Guide to ... ha!


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