This post is republished from the Real Insights Archive.

It sounds simple enough: when recipients click an unsubscribe link, they should be removed from your list. Heck, any email system worth its mettle can do that automatically. The reality is — unfortunately — that it’s not nearly that simple. Should an unsubscriber be removed from the list the message was sent from only? All lists? Some lists? How do (or should) your unsubscribe and suppression programs relate? Is the data being managed properly so that unsubscribers stay unsubscribed? What about data from your subscription management page?

Unsubscribe management can be complex and is critical, so a periodic review of your process to ensure it’s working the way you think it is make eminent sense. And now is as good a time as ever. Unfortunately, some of you may be surprised by what you find.

Your unsubscribe policy should be founded on this key concept: honoring the intent of the unsubscriber. When the recipient is unsubscribed, was it his/her intention to be unsubscribe dto the list the message was sent from only? To other lists like it? To all of your communications? Be realistic in this assessment because getting it wrong will cause other problems (e.g. irritated customers and SPAM complaints).

Here are some other guide posts for your review:

Understand what happens to unsubscribers when they unsubscribe. Are they unsubscribed to the list they unsubscribed from? All lists? Certain lists? Are they suppressed?

Do an analysis to ensure that what you think is happening really is happening. Now that you know how it’s supposed to work, make sure it does so by analyzing the data.

Review how the unsubscribe data is managed.If you’re capturing unsubscribed data in one place (e.g. your email broadcast platform or website) and transferring it into another (e.g. CRM, AMS) review the integrity and efficiency of those processes. Any breakdown means recipients who previously unsubscribed may still be receiving your messages.

If you don’t have a subscription management page, you should. Empower your recipients to select which communications to receive, or not to receive, by creating a subscription/preference management page. Ideally this  page is automatically synced with your CRM and email platforms, which is another huge benefit!

Don’t delay in undertaking this critical review.