Can you send emails to unsubscribed contacts? It depends on your content.

Send emails to unsubscribed contacts

“How to send emails to unsubscribed contacts?” is a common question our users ask us. But sending emails to contacts who unsubscribed defeats the very purpose of allowing contacts to unsubscribe in the first place, doesn’t it?

Actually, it depends on what it is you’re trying to send to your unsubscribed contacts and how this fits within your broad email subscription strategy. 

If you want to send marketing emails to contacts who made it clear they don’t want to receive marketing emails from you then the answer is simple: you shouldn’t do it and you can stop reading this article.

Mailchimp and other email marketing platforms have a clear policy that makes it impossible to send bulk email to anyone who is marked as unsubscribed. They won’t even talk to you about the possibility of sending emails to unsubscribed contacts or suspend your account if you try some clever workaround. Understandably, they are protecting the unsubscribe status because the overwhelming majority of their clients send marketing emails exclusively.

But what if your email is not a commercial message? 

What if you need to reach everyone on your list with an important message even if members have unsubscribed from newsletters? 

There are plenty of use cases where you can send emails to unsubscribed contacts.

First, let’s define what a subscription is: A subscription is a content preference so contacts can choose what type of information they want to receive from you. Classic examples are event invitations, newsletters, promotional content, surveys and so on. This means that “unsubscribed contacts” by definition means “unsubscribed from optional content.”

In the offline world subscriptions are the email version of a magazine subscription. You can subscribe to magazines about fishing, model trains, fashion or pet snakes and you can unsubscribe when you feel like it. But should you still receive your voter registration information even if you aren’t subscribed to magazines? Of course!

This brings us to mandatory emails that cannot be managed using subscriptions by contacts self-serve. Most email marketing software only supports management of optional subscriptions and this is a challenge for organizations that need to send non-commercial, mandatory messages. For example:

  • Company information to employees
  • Safety recalls to customers
  • Emergency or public health notifications (think Covid) to residents
  • Program changes to students
  • Changes of your terms of service to users

Some emails simply need to go out even if members aren’t subscribed to receive optional messages from you.

Workarounds to send emails to unsubscribed contacts

There are a few workarounds. The most obvious one is to temporarily resubscribe your unsubscribed contacts, then unsubscribe them back after you send your mandatory content. This is error prone and clumsy at best. And most email platforms won’t let you resubscribe contacts at all, let alone in bulk.

The solution? The “mandatory email” setting!

At Envoke we had a lot of demand for sending mandatory or regulatory messages because many of our customers are communicators not marketers. So we released a setting that lets our users mark emails as “mandatory” and it was a big hit! FYI Envoke is an email marketing and communications company with an emphasis on advanced compliance and subscription management. We’re similar to Mailchimp but more customizable and the software is a better fit for non-commercial customers.

With the mandatory email option any email can be designated as “mandatory”, which means sending will bypass the standard “Are contacts subscribed to optional content?” check and anyone on the list will be sent the mandatory email.

When your contacts receive such mandatory emails there is a note in the footer of the email that explains why the message was sent and a link to review communication preferences.

Send mandatory emails to unsubscribed contacts

The link to review and change communication preferences is critical – you can’t remove this and you shouldn’t. Without it emails may be classified as spam by spam filters before they even arrive at inboxes.

Related post: Why you shouldn’t remove the unsubscribe link and what to do instead

When contacts click through they are taken to the email preferences page where they see a note about the type of messages they can expect to receive, an area that indicates that there are some emails they can’t unsubscribe from and the list of optional subscriptions they can opt in and out from any time. This customizable email preferences page is another feature available for Envoke customers.

Customize the email preferences page

The mandatory email setting is not enabled by default to reduce the potential for abuse – it’s turned on after a review of use cases that necessitate sending mandatory emails. 

So there you have it: A simple yet powerful solution to send emails to unsubscribed contacts is to use Envoke’s mandatory emails setting if you have a good use case for it and your emails are non-commercial.

About Envoke

Envoke is an email marketing and communications platform for sending bulk emails. We’ve been around for 15 years and work with small and large organizations alike who value security, compliance, customizability and great support. Get a free trial to find out if Envoke is a fit for you.

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