How To Lose 1% Of Your Customers With Just 1 Email

About This Blog

This site is for  entrepreneurs.  A full RSS feed to the articles is available.  Please subscribe so we know you're out there.  If you need more convincing, learn more about the site.



And, you can find me on Google+

Connect on Twitter

Get Articles By Email

Your email:


Blog Navigator

Navigate By : 
[Article Index]

Questions about startups?

If you have questions about startups, you can find me and a bunch of other startup fanatics on the free Q&A website:

Subscribe to Updates


30,000+ subscribers can't all be wrong.  Subscribe to the RSS feed.

Follow me on LinkedIn


Current Articles | RSS Feed RSS Feed

How To Lose 1% Of Your Customers With Just 1 Email


The following is a guest post from Noah Kagan.  Noah is the Chief Sumo of, a site with exclusive deals for web entrepreneurs. He previously was an early employee at Facebook and 
On the morning of March 2nd we sent out an email to 40,000 people and subsequently lost 1% of those people over the next 24 hours. 

Imagine... If we sent 100 emails then we’d be out of business. 
How did this happen?
At we do daily deals on tools for web entrepreneurs. The site has been growing steadily and I wanted to automate 100% of the business so I can focus exclusively on scaling it. This led me to find a copywriter friend who is a really funny writer. The writing was not just funny but it “seemed” convincing in getting people to buy things. onstartups heart breakup

The real problem with emails coming from AppSumo was that I hate receiving emails so I always hated sending them to our customers. 

It even became surprisingly funny when customers were asking why we don’t email out about each deal. They actually wanted to hear from us!

After receiving those requests I explained how I personally HATE emails. I dread each time my inbox lights up but recognized that 60%+ of our business is driven through our email list. Our emails for the most part were always short and sweet, just the way I liked them.

Open rates, clicks and conversion seemed satisfactory but I wanted to hire a real copywriter so I can focus on other things in the business. My friend Neville is a funny writer and had been extensively studying / practicing copywriting best practices. We agreed on $50 / email and he would start right away. 

The first two emails worked flawlessly. On one of them I didn't even want to email out but after reluctantly hitting the send button it surprisingly sold over $10,000 for our partner. WOw! (Note: Neville’s emails were the long-form ones you see sometimes on scammy sales pages. The ones that make you think who the heck buys this stuff but it works.)

Personally, I thought the emails were funny and different. We love our customers and try to do right every time and with every person. So we have no intention of ever selling anything we don’t personally endorse.

So I wake up March 2nd when our goes live, email sends out and my inbox starts filling up with death threats.
Here are a few: 
1- “Whatever you were taking when you wrote this, pls send me some, haha.“
2- “Noah, this time you abused your consumers trust in you. We deserve better than this bullshit.
Please take me off your list immedately.”
3- “ Your new emails suck. Too long, too low signal to noise. If you just pasted the contents of, incl. the screenshot, it would have been 1000x better. :)”
CRAP! Then I start looking at sales and realize they are doing okay. (It was a great deal!) But I noticed the unsubscribes weren’t stopping. Usually we see < 0.5% unsubscribe rate from every email but this was one approaching our highest unsub yet. WTF is going on?

I reviewed the emails and wondered why these weren’t coming for the past 2 emails and how do I read the mix messages where people on Twitter were actually saying POSITIVE things about the email: Love--+
“vlaskovits: I nominate @noahkagan for best long-form sales letter ever written with today's @appsumo email. #genius”
“williamsbk: @noahkagan @appsumo I like the long email format, I know what the app does, how I can use it, the "woot" humor is nice.”
Talk about mixed signals! So what do you do? The email unsubscribes don’t lie. What to do in an email crisis?
Here are the things we learned and did:
  • Expectations are key. Short and sweet like my girlfriend. Our emails have always been that way. Then on a great deal we bombarded busy people with 2,000+ words which they weren’t expecting
  • The number of words goes up with the price. Great deals don’t need a lot of words. We shorten emails where deals are < $50 and give stories / explanations on more expensive ones.
  • Balance your priorities.  Given the conversion rate was amazing from the email I hate the fact so many people were upset with us. We are striking a balance of having links and short explanations up top while still having long-form emails.
  • Break some eggs to make an omelette. If we’d stuck with tradition we wouldn’t have learned what works and what doesn’t.
  • Be true. Make sure even if something converts better that it really is what you are happy with. We’ve improved our emails since then and haven’t heard too many complaints :)
The funniest thing about it? This email was our highest conversion to buy ever. =O
Sign up to to see what our new emails look like.
What were some of your big, surprising lessons learned from connecting with customers with email?

Posted by Dharmesh Shah on Mon, Mar 28, 2011


let me get this straight: you "lost 1% of those people over the next 24 hours" and this email "was our highest conversion to buy ever", correct? 
It seems to me you have issues with metrics and you are capturing way too many freeloaders in your email database. Plus, you are are probably not segmenting the list properly. 
Might this be the case?

posted on Monday, March 28, 2011 at 9:57 AM by Raquel Hirsch

Ha.. was that Neville M.?

posted on Monday, March 28, 2011 at 10:11 AM by Todd

I wish you'd taken the time to format this blog post properly, instead of leaving in a slush of weird spacing and "+------------------------------------------+".

posted on Monday, March 28, 2011 at 10:18 AM by Richard

Surely you should never measure the success of a campaign on number of unsubscribes? 
You could get lots of unsubscribes if you had been emailing a whole load of people with a short and very funny joke once a week then asked them if they would like to buy some great software at a very reasonable price. If you had a mailing list of 2,000 people and lost 1,000 people who were never going to buy anything from you and made 10 sales of $100 each, you would surely consider that a success? 
You could also give people an option to keep receiving short meaningless non-commercial emails from you on a separate list. 
After a while, you might decide that one list was more useful to you than the other.

posted on Monday, March 28, 2011 at 10:19 AM by Mark Littlewood

"too many freeloaders" 
Raquel, that's funny! 
Noah, I know exactly how you feel and have the same issue every time I send out an email. Ditto the observations about what you learned. 
Giving your very direct, honest, and respectful of customer attention value communications, it would've been fascinating to try the long letters with a modified opt-out strategy. 
This is perhaps the segmenting Raquel hopes for. The idea would've been to fess up in a brief preamble like Dharmesh does introducing your post that you have a new copy writer and he writes longer copy.  
You'd give your audience the chance to opt-out of the long copy list without having to leave the original list. Plus, you'd have let your customers see you were doing an experiment that you knew not everyone would like, but that you left the customer in control. 
Just an idea, 

posted on Monday, March 28, 2011 at 10:25 AM by Bob Warfield

It would be interesting to find out if those that unsubscribed actually bought anything previously or if they were just clogging up your database.

posted on Monday, March 28, 2011 at 10:28 AM by Dean

"The number of words goes up with the price" yet I've just received a massively long email for a free / $25 a day video course... (PS - I nearly did unsubscribe because of the rambling blurb, but I know I get some interesting stuff every now again, so you have another chance :) )

posted on Monday, March 28, 2011 at 10:37 AM by Tara

I had ignored the new message format in my inbox and just skipped over them. After reading this post, I figured I would go take a look at what the fuss is about. Indeed, I hate the new format too. Unsubscribing.  
[Love AppSumo though, but will just pay attention to twitter from now on]

posted on Monday, March 28, 2011 at 10:42 AM by Jason Kealey

The key is that the unsubscribers were not customers. It's possible a couple of them bought something to try to gain power over you by claiming to be customers outraged by the e-mail, but that's the extent of it. Do not listen to them.

posted on Monday, March 28, 2011 at 10:49 AM by Michael

Folk, relax, relax! 
The whole point here is that you cannot make decisions based on opinions or hearsay. You need data. You need to create a controlled environment and learn what works and what does not. 
Want to learn how to do it? Try this:

posted on Monday, March 28, 2011 at 11:00 AM by Raquel Hirsch

If you feel like you're over-communicating with your audience, you should check out big time Pulse. These guys have created a system where users choose the information they want, and the delivery vehicle they prefer. Plus, it's all trackable. Email, SMS, social media, it's all there. Cool stuff, and it could take away from some of your fear over email unsubcribes. I've linked to it on my name. Check it out.

posted on Monday, March 28, 2011 at 11:17 AM by Dave Duncan

When I start to get too much spam I get pissed and unsubscribe and stop doing business with a company. 
It's also true that most people don't do this and spamming your customers can bring in big bucks. 
So really you can go either way.

posted on Monday, March 28, 2011 at 11:58 AM by Scott

So where is the link to the offending email? It always frustrates me when someone posts a mea culpa, beseeches me to learn from their errant ways, and then doesn't show me their screw up.

posted on Monday, March 28, 2011 at 12:36 PM by Kenneth Vogt

If I give a speech to a room full of 1,000 people... 
...and 10 of them walk out during the speech. 
Is that enough reason to completely change course? 
Maybe some of them: 
-Had to use the bathroom 
-Weren't interested in the subject 
-Are whiny little bitches 
Who knows.  
I believe if you make an email informative and entertaining it will work.  
Sure it may be long. 
But if someone won't take 2.5 minutes to read it....they also probably won't buy your $99 product. 
Nev (the guy who wrote the email that pissed off a whole 40 people). 

posted on Monday, March 28, 2011 at 12:39 PM by Neville

The underline text at the end, probably should be a link "Sign up to to see what our new emails look like."

posted on Monday, March 28, 2011 at 12:45 PM by Dave

"lost 1% of those people over the next 24 hours. Imagine... If we sent 100 emails then we’d be out of business. " 
No. Afther that, ((100 - 1)/100)^100 * 100 = 36.6% of your custumers will stick with you.

posted on Monday, March 28, 2011 at 1:32 PM by Anderson Sanches

I am surprised that a professional writer, such as yourself, would throw around misogynistic insults on an employer's web site.

posted on Monday, March 28, 2011 at 2:22 PM by Meg

The copywriter Nev now weighs in. This is getting interesting. Nev, just for the record, I have no opinion about your email itself. After all, as noted above I have not seen it. I think you make a good point about the meaning behind the numbers. I am not exactly sure why an email would offend someone merely by being long. That's why I wanted to see it, to see if it was indeed offensive. I can see why a long email might prompt someone to opt out but that is another matter. Any email sent will result in opt outs. The example here is (if I understand the numbers correctly) that 0.5% more than "normal" opted out. If you spin it another way, double the normal number opted out. Which is a fairer assessment? Likely the former. I love a provocative discussion but let's get the truth out there.

posted on Monday, March 28, 2011 at 3:15 PM by Kenneth Vogt

One other minor point: 1% of 40,000 is 400, not 40. Ok, maybe that isn't minor. ;-)

posted on Monday, March 28, 2011 at 3:18 PM by Kenneth Vogt

What's funny about Noah is he is a huge spammer, and he's now extolling as if he's only just realized people hate him for it.

posted on Monday, March 28, 2011 at 3:51 PM by Olga Bigtitsova

I call B.S. on this article. I think the metrics are BS and the tweets are BS. Unsubscribing.

posted on Monday, March 28, 2011 at 4:13 PM by zaphod

Is it really accurate to say that something that costs $0 is good signalling as the best deal ever?  
Yes. I would wholeheartedly expect that giving away something for free will outperform all your sumo deals that cost even a dollar. Think about the penny barrier on the web... 

posted on Monday, March 28, 2011 at 4:37 PM by Jason

The high unsubscribes and highest conversion ever can't really be both attributed to the long text.  
The conversions could have been due to a whole slew of factors, probably the deal?  
A better gauge would have been the obvious A/B test (with the same deal). Would be interested to see how that works.  
And really.. 1% isn't that bad an unsubscribe rate... People love AppSumo..

posted on Monday, March 28, 2011 at 10:04 PM by Ryan Lou

If we are sending back responses to emails what was requested then we may lose customers.

posted on Tuesday, March 29, 2011 at 1:44 AM by Sample Emails

If we are not sending back responses to emails what was requested then we may lose customers.

posted on Tuesday, March 29, 2011 at 1:45 AM by Sample Emails

Interesting that this was your most successful email ever, despite losing many subscribers. I have a daily email with currently about 6,000 subscribers on my list and I have noticed a similar phenomenon: 
I have Facebook and Twitter share buttons in my daily emails, and the ones that are shared the most are also the ones that trigger the most unsubscribes. Of course those shares generate more new subscribes so I'm still not sure what to make of this. 
Maybe it's better to be both loved and hated than ignored?

posted on Tuesday, March 29, 2011 at 4:56 AM by Karl Krantz

Here's the message in question, gathered from HackerNews: 
I don't know about "offensive", but calling your audience a bunch of stalkers isn't necessarily the ideal way to make friends with everyone. I suppose it does select for a certain type of audience, which probably happens to include a bunch of testosterone-fueled, amoral, grammatically-challenged startup folks.

posted on Tuesday, March 29, 2011 at 11:34 PM by Susan

You know, this is great work. If you're not getting anyone unsubscribing, you're probably not writing anything that moves people. To maximize the result you need to be seeing higher unsubscribe rates and the quality of your list will get better and better. 
If no one is unsubscribing it's probably because people don't even bother to open your emails ... dull, boring and ineffective! 
Keep your friend as your copywriter ;)

posted on Wednesday, March 30, 2011 at 3:28 PM by Hjortur Smarason

This whole post was confusing... doesn't show the actual email, and this guy Noah Kagan needs some writing lessons. In the end it sounds like it was posted here to get exposure for his website. But I still don't know what it does. Waste of bandwidth.

posted on Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 11:17 AM by Richard

I'm the CEO of GoSquared - the company that this wonderfully controversial AppSumo email was promoting. 
Just to clarify, we never saw the email before it was sent out, but I remember at the time that Noah and my whole team thought it was an amusing and light-hearted take on our service while promoting just how unmissable the deal was ($50 for $300 of service? That is a crazy bargain!) 
Perhaps the email was longer than it needed to be, but it evidently helped get the idea of our service across to an overwhelming majority of the audience. All in all, if we did another AppSumo deal I wouldn't have any complaints if Nev wrote the email again :D 
Fascinating discussion.

posted on Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 5:38 PM by James Gill

::room suddenly quites to hear what he says:: 
Thanks James! 
Yes the emails are long, because I had a lot of good things to say about the service. 
I could've said: 
...and got a bunch of CLICKS, but it wouldn't be enough to get people reaching for their wallets (however it wasn't A/B'd so I can't say that with absolute certainty).  
Some people read FULL emails. Like when I'm on the toilet reading long-ass emails (pun intended) on my iPhone...I tend to read the whole thing. 
Some people SKIM through the parts they like. Just because someone doesn't read LINE BY LINE everything I wrote doesn't mean they won't buy. 
They may read the intro, some of the middle, then skip to the deal....however they still were conveyed a good amount of info if I did my job correctly. whiny bitches in the back of the room...can you please keep quiet as you leave? 

posted on Sunday, April 03, 2011 at 9:04 PM by Nev

Interesting look at your experience here...always a good idea to analyze the data and adjust accordingly. I tend to agree, however, with those who said that most likely the unsubscribers were "freeloaders" or those who haven't bought anything and were unlikely to do so. Better off without them.

posted on Tuesday, April 12, 2011 at 9:13 PM by Stella

Noah did a decent job apologizing to those offended by your email in a sincere, humble way. Now you've gone and blown it by commenting on this article in a way that is arrogant, misogynistic, and offensive. You should be fired.

posted on Friday, April 15, 2011 at 1:36 PM by HateAppSumo Now

i appreciate your write up.

posted on Sunday, April 17, 2011 at 3:42 AM by rajiv

This is really good tool for email marketing.Thanks for this tool.

posted on Tuesday, May 17, 2011 at 4:47 AM by Elizabeth Cooper

Comments have been closed for this article.