I admit to watching the subscriber list to this e-newsletter very closely. I feel good when I see a sudden surge of new subscribers in a given week. I’m disappointed when people unsubscribe, but if it’s not of interest, better to know it.

Things started to get strange about six months ago. Suddenly, I started seeing people unsubscribe who I knew. Even stranger, some of the people had gone out of their way to compliment me on this e-newsletter at various events. Had my topics become too dull? Was my commentary no longer on point? I let the first handful go, but it kept happening. When a few clients showed up on the unsubscribe list, I knew I had to get on the phone.

The story I heard was consistent: they all absolutely wanted to continue receiving this newsletter, and they blamed their clicks on the unsubscribe button on “fat fingers,” “going too fast” and “cleaning up my mailbox.” What became clear to me is a lot of people, reacting no doubt to the avalanche of mail in their inboxes, are aggressively unsubscribing to everything that looks even vaguely promotional, and since they are going for speed and volume, a lot of good stuff gets unsubscribed along with the bad.

I really started thinking about this when several clients began complaining about the same problem: paying customers of theirs clicking unsubscribe to a promotional email, then being lost to them for email purposes forever.

Most of us still utilize this hair-trigger unsubscribe approach: one click and the recipient will never hear from you again by email. That’s a powerful statement that marks you as a responsible online marketer, but the results can badly damage your business. Forever is a long time.

There’s a simple solution that far too few companies utilize: qualify the unsubscribe request. Perhaps the recipient just doesn’t want promotional email from you, but would still be interested in other communications. Perhaps the recipient is very interested in emails about your data products, but not your conferences. The simple point is that by asking, you can often keep the email channel to a customer or prospect open just by asking specifically want they want and don’t want to receive.

One-click unsubscribe sounds great, but it’s a dangerous weapon in the hands of recipients who are, increasingly, just trying to “clean up” their mailboxes. Don’t get swept out with the trash.