How to Retain Email Subscribers (when they only want a freebie from you)?

How to Retain Email Subscribers (when they only want a freebie from you)?

Let me start with this: Email marketing STILL works! It does work even more effectively than it used to work a decade ago. Email marketing might sound to be an old school marketing tactic – but it does its job much more effectively!

And if you are neglecting email marketing just because you think its old school or that it has become ineffective, you are definitely missing out!

I can go on and on talking about the benefits of email – but here’s the thing. Do NOT ignore email marketing thinking its old school! There might be MANY new and shiny marketing techniques that are introduced. But email marketing is still a way to personally connect with your potential customers. You get to land directly into their inbox! That’s a golden opportunity, isn’t?

Let me briefly point out the benefits of email marketing –

It’s too easy not to try!

Now, tell me – if someone is using the internet, chances are that they have an email account. I’m not saying that everyone can send and read emails but compared to other complicated, tech savvy marketing techniques, email is much easier.


Unlike a common blog post or a social media update you write for the masses, emails can be personalized. That doesn’t mean you have to write 10K emails if you have a list of 10K subscribers. But technology has made it possible to make the emails more personalized. Email autoresponder services like Aweber make it easier to address each person by name while you write a common mail for your list.

Cut through the noise

Social media platforms are quite noisy – your message is more likely to get lost in the noise if not sent out at the right time with the right kind of effort. But the email you send cuts through 90% of the noise and lands directly in the inbox of your potential customer!

You can easily build relationships

Yup! Unlike other marketing tactics, email gives you a greater chance to build genuine connection with your subscribers. However it is sad that most people misuse it or don’t use it at all.

You can target and target even more

You can build specific lists for specific businesses, if you run multiple online businesses like me. So you can send customized, tailored messages for subscribers in each of your list. However, this level of targeting might not be enough for your business. You might want to target even more, say in the lines of sending a specific message to only people who opened your last email, or people who have been continuously opening your emails over the past 2 months and so on.

As I said, I can go on and on listing the benefits of email marketing. But that’s not really the scope of this post. I just wanted to stress the fact that you shouldn’t ignore email marketing no matter what advanced marketing techniques you embed into your business plan!


Why do people unsubscribe?

Alright, now coming back to the focus of this post, before we talk about how to stop your list subscribers from unsubscribing, it would be highly useful to find out *why* your subscribers would want to unsubscribe, right? That makes total sense to me.

Relevancy is missing

We talk about relevancy when it comes to websites, content marketing and SEO. We are so cautious to create contextual content. We do keyword research and make sure we deliver what people are expecting when they land on our websites. We think about relevancy at all these times.

But do we consider relevancy when it comes to email marketing? Let’s get real for a second. You land on a page on some website and you see a beautifully designed sign up form that promises to teach you the ins and outs of content marketing. You are interested and you sign up. So you get a “freebie” that’s related to content marketing and after a week you start getting emails that talk about Youtube videos or Adsense ads or continuous sales/affiliate emails that keep promoting product after product.

Will you stay on that list? No, you won’t. You will unsubscribe, right?

Do to others as you would have them do to you

Long, boring emails

Everyone is busy these days and it is highly challenging to get people to stop and listen to you for a second. That is why you have to be incredibly useful these days. However being a talkative doesn’t help here.

Unless you are delivering a course by email, in which case the lessons have to be longer, there is no reason you should write long emails regularly. First, people won’t have the time. Second, even if they are willing to spend time on emails in general, they won’t have enough patience and/or attention to read your long emails.

By writing long emails you are ruining that extra edge you get via email marketing – you get to land directly on their inbox directly, cutting through all the noise – but then, that privilege goes wasted.


Too frequent emails

Again, just because they gave you permission to land on their inbox doesn’t mean you can hit them whenever you want. You have to be very cautious about timing your emails.

I am sure that you send either autoresponder emails or broadcast emails, or a mix of both like I do. But you have to make sure that the emails don’t hit your subscriber’s face quite often. They say one or two emails per week is ideal. Keep the frequency low and quality very high.

If you are not annoying you can avoid people unsubscribing from your list. I have unsubscribed from a lot of lists just because I get too frequent emails from them.

Too infrequent emails

On the flip side, sending emails very less frequently will make them forget you. Sending one email per month or whenever you feel like it won’t strike it. If people forget you and if they forget why they subscribed to you, whenever they cleanup their subscriptions, they are simply going to unsubscribe.

There are services like (which I use heavily) to bulk unsubscribe – I do a regular cleanup so I stay sane. My email inbox gives me a lot of business/money making opportunities; so it is my response to keep it clean and keep myself sane. I guess your inbox is valuable too. And yes, your subscriber will think the same way too!

Too much selling in emails


Now, I have nothing against selling. Of course, if you are doing business you gotta sell something. And while you build lists to create connection between you and your customers, you also have it in your plan to sell to your list, right? This is perfectly OK.

What I am talking here is too much selling – as if your subscribers are there just to hear you talking about your own products and others’ products that you recommend. There should be a 80/20 ratio here (at the very rough scale) – 80% of high quality, useful, adorable content via email and 20% of your salesy emails.

And in that 20% make sure you don’t sound douchy salesy :)

You don’t make them feel special

This point is getting important by the minute. Earlier you can simply play the king if you have a high quality business set up – people will line up and listen to you. Now there are loads of places where people can get what they want. Unless you make them feel special, they are not going to stay with you.

I can say this from my experience. I ruthlessly unsubscribe from people who don’t treat me special. But I stay subscribed to certain lists just because of the way they treat me.

How can you make them feel special?

Here are some tips-

  1. Be generous in providing value.
  2. Keep your promises – you promise them a download, a freebie, instant access, upfront notification of something etc.? Stick to all of your promises.
  3. Personalize – don’t send emails like they are written by a computer. Be very personal and address them by their name.
  4. Be relevant and timely. If you are sending out an email on Friday, wish them a happy weekend. This is just a very common example.
  5. Appreciate them quite often. If they are staying with you for a long time, you can thank them for that too. For instance, if you are using an autoresponder, you can send a “thank you for sticking with me” kind of email on your 15th delivery.

Make your subscribers feel special

How to stop people from unsubscribing – immediately after downloading your freebie?

I am pretty sure, if you can follow all of the above tips, you can reduce the number of people who unsubscribe from your list. But there are people who already decide that they should click subscribe, download your freebie and then click unsubscribe. It is already written in their book and you cannot change it by being a nice person and by delivering high quality emails or by playing by the rule.

However here is one simple tip to help catch those “leechers”!

Make an irresistible up-offer – OK I made up that word. They says upsells, so why not up-offers? Once they click “Confirm subscription” link, redirect them to a page where you provide them with an irresistible offer.It can be something like an additional e-course that you offer, so they have to stay on your list to receive all your modules.Or it can be a promise for an offer that will arrive in a few weeks.

Just make sure you keep the promise!

Finally, accept and let go!

There are always people who simply want the freebie and then break the relationship with you. There are always people who do not want to stick with you no matter what. Here’s the thing: You have to let go.

Those people, even if you make them stick, are dead weight. They will not be interested in your emails and you probably will be paying to keep them on your list.

In addition, if they have the idea to unsubscribe after downloading your freebie, they are clearly not interested in anything else you are going to offer – even if it is of total value – it doesn’t matter – the fact is that they are not interest and that’s it!

So even if they are going to stay on your list, it is of no use either to you or to them! Part your ways, no hard feelings, and just move on.

Here’s a handy presentation that summarizes this post:

Don't forget to pick up your FREEBIES!

Blogging Success Foundation course (A 20-part e-course that lays the perfect foundation for your blogging success!) and FREE access to the ever-expanding PBS Library of e-books, workbooks and my exclusive newsletter!

Give me my FREEBIES!


    • Jane Sheeba says

      Noufal, well said. With email providers like Gmail making it favorable for their users, marketers don’t have any more shortcuts – only providing value counts.

  1. Chitraparna says

    Hi Jane,

    Thanks for taking up my comment. I started my new blog (mentioned above) and I want to religiously follow email marketing. I have done email marketing before but truth be told, those were affiliate offers on niche sites and I didn’t bother much who was staying and who wasn’t but now, I want to see email marketing as a way to connect with my target market.

    I started with offering a free eBook. It lists 125+ sites to get paid blogging opportunities and I have got good subscription rate in the pre-launch period & good post-launch downloads. I have had just one unsubscription. When I asked him personally on FB, he said he was only interested in the freebie so I guess sometimes you just have to “let go’.

    BTW, I liked the idea of upsell. Will try this out :) Thank you Jane.

    • Jane Sheeba says

      Hey Chitra I used to be amateurish in my very early days and didn’t treat my subscribers well. I still remember how bad I was punching them on their face with my offers and sales pitches.

      Now I value every subscriber as gold – I truly want to build connections with them; not for the sake of quick sales but even if a person is not going to buy from me ever, I will still value every person.

      And, yes sometimes you just have to let go because it is impossible to please everyone!

  2. Catherine Holt says

    It’s a great idea to build a subscriber list and can be disheartening to see people unsubscribe. This is a great list of reasons why people might hit the unsubscribe button and should definitely be kept in consideration. At the end of the day it is important to provide value to the subscriber and not spam them with emails. A happy medium of high quality updates will keep them checking in.
    Catherine Holt recently posted..Reduce The Bounce Rate On Your BlogMy Profile

    • Jane Sheeba says

      Yes value, value and value. Nothing else counts – because people are giving away their email address and they are giving us permission to enter into their inbox. That is not a joke :)

  3. Stuart Davidson says

    Great round up Jane and something that pretty much anyone take learn something from.

    I’ve been training to use Infusionsoft for direct response marketing and email marketing/nuturing. Do you use software and if so, which software?

    – Stuart

  4. Karen says

    All great advice. I try and keep subscribers on my list by continuing to offer more freebies, preferably ones that have some value to me as well. Rebranded reports and ebooks, branded PDFs I create myself or links to free tools, resources and online courses. I collect so many free tools I just compiled them into an ebook as well. I’m still learning but I’m trying to re-purpose my content, create more income streams and provide value in any way I an.
    Karen recently posted..How To Turn Your Blog Posts Into A BookMy Profile

  5. VikasVikas says

    It’s an incredible thought to raise an endorser rundown and could be debilitating to see individuals unsubscribe. This is an extraordinary rundown of reasons why individuals may hit the unsubscribe catch and ought to unquestionably be kept in attention. At the end of the day it is vital to give worth to the endorser and not spam them with messages. An euphoric medium of superb upgrades will keep them weighing in.

  6. Ghulam Mustafa says


    This is fantastic as usual! Just took an awesome post for myself then shared and tweeted. I have just gone through the guide

    and it’s really awesome.

    Really fabulous and awesome post.Thanks for sharing your guide. I always love getting freebies and this one will definitely

    help me out with my own blogs. Impressed me a lot. I like it much.

    I always looking for such great and fabulous posts like this. No doubt this will help me to improve my skills and

    knowledge.Always enjoy your posts.

    Thanks so much.

  7. Samir says

    If they want freebie they we must provide them freebie in either way we need to impress readers by providing valuable content.

    Thanks for tips

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge