"Great news, boss. Our unsubscribe rate was only .2% compared to the last email blast that was 1%." Forget about open rates. 'Unsubscribe' is the new metric.
For years marketing consultants, departments and agencies have measured their success in email marketing based on open and click-through rates. No news there. But just yesterday at HubSpot's HUG conference, one speaker talked about how they look at the 'unsubscribe' as one of their key metrics to see if their email is working or not.
That got me thinking about how I read emails. I use Outlook and I am one of those people who don't like to have too many unread emails, so I just open them all up by just clicking on them. I rarely read corporate emails, but all those companies mark me down as an "open." I'm sure that many 'opens' counted in open rates are similar to me. But I don't unsubscribe, since maybe one day I'll actually read that company's email, unless I feel the information is terrible or the frequency of emails is overwhelming.
I still think that click through rates (or actual number of click-throughs) are the most important of all the email metrics, since it's the one that actually tells you if your email was read and if your call to action actually worked. From a copywriting standpoint, they say the subject line is what gets people to read your email (I think the 'from' line is even more important, but you can't really mess around with that too much), so it's often attached to open rates. But what click-through rates show is the true test of whether the copy worked or not. And if your copy and offer sucks, then your unsubscribe rate will start to increase.
In this age when outbound marketing, like email, is on the decline, I guess I shouldn't be surprised to see that expectations for email have sunk to looking at the unsubscribe rate as a measure of an email campaign's success.