Why I (un)subscribe

Every few months or so I go on an "unsubcribe bender," where I go through the process of removing myself from nearly every email newsletter I receive. It's amazing how many of these lists I manage to get on, even though I never willingly "opt in."  But there are a few lists that I've decided to stay on.  As I work on my first ever email blast, I've been thinking about when and why I decide not to remove myself. 

First off, there are some excellent data-driven marketing agencies out there who will optimize and personalize every email sent, by which I mean, they will make sure the button on your email is in the location where it's most likely to get clicked and that whatever offer is being made is based on something relevant like, say, the recipient's past  purchasing behavior. These services are useful when you're an automaker or online retailer with a very large subscriber base. But what about the rest of us?

Every month or so I get an email from Tribeca Pediatrics, where I take my daughter. It's clearly the same email that goes out to the thousands of parents who bring their kids to this practice that has offices around New York City. But I usually read it because the newsletter always addresses something I actually care about: the latest weird sickness that's going around the playground and what to do about it.

From the warm greeting and cute picture to  the information about an illness going around and local event, this email manages to be relevant even without being personal.

From the warm greeting and cute picture to  the information about an illness going around and local event, this email manages to be relevant even without being personal.

I get other emails from them leading up to my daughter's checkups that include ge-based advice and tips. The tone is always friendly and many of these messages include something written by one of the practice's doctors. With just a little information about me and the world I'm raising my kid in, and an inclusive, human tone, this pediatric practice manages to keep me interested.

Compare that to an email I just received from Weill-Cornell Medical Center, one of several places I go to for routine medical care. The subject line reads, "Keep Yourself & Your Family Healthy" and goes on to explain to me what a primary care physician is and why I should have one. I realize there are people out there for whom the existence of a general practitioner will be news, but not many. And if someone needs such a doctor and doesn't have one, the impersonal, perfunctory tone of this email is hardly going to persuade them.

The message that this perfunctory email actually sends is how little Weill Cornell cares about me and my family's health.

The message that this perfunctory email actually sends is how little Weill Cornell cares about me and my family's health.

My guess is that the purpose of this email was not to help me at all, but to help some administrator tick a box that reads, "patient education and outreach." So that email I received may have served its purpose, in theory at least, but what I see is a missed opportunity to actually, you know, educate and reach out to patients. Worse than a missed opportunity, the email I got sends the message that, in fact, Weill-Cornell doesn't give a rat's ass about my well-being. It doesn't seem to know anything about me. And, yes, I immediately jumped to the bottom of the email to unsubscribe. 

You don't need rocket science to send out an email that gets read and actually supports your business' goals and mission, but you do need a little information about who you're speaking to and a little imagination to bring your message to life.

Incidentally, if going on an unsubscribe bender of your own doesn't sound profoundly satisfying to you, there are some great online services to do this for you.