You can keep the conversation going, without violating any government regulations on commercial email, and maybe even salvage a stronger relationship on new grounds. Here are five ways:
1. Let subscribers choose how often they want to get email from you.
Sure, you've heard this advice before, but if Chad's statistic is correct, only 16 percent of you have taken it to heart and actually give subscribers a chance to receive fewer emails. So you send offers two to three times a week? Offer a weekly alternative if the links stay active that long. Think of it as a cheap way to repurpose your daily content and keep the clicks coming in.
2. Let subscribers pick the content they really want, not just what you think they like.
Another not-earth-shattering suggestion, but again, one that only a few email marketers have taken to heart according to the research. You don't even have to have a fancy content-management system that generates dynamic content down to the most granular level. Just create a new list that spins off one segment of your market and could appeal to a lucrative niche in your subscriber base.
3. List all the ways subscribers can receive information from you.
Sure, I love email, but I know it's not the only way people want to receive information. Today, your subscribers have so many communication channels open to them that if one doesn't work anymore, another one surely will. RSS feeds, blogs, podcasts, IM deals, even old-fashioned paper catalogs are all ways you can keep the relationship alive if email no longer works.
4. Tell them in each email message how they can change or update their subscription records.
Think of this as a pre-emptive strike. Assuming they still open their email messages from you, you can put this important information where they'll see it quickly, no matter whether they see a truncated version of your email in their preview pane or on their cellphone, or the whole message in all its HTML glory on a 21-inch desktop monitor.
Not everybody who unsubscribes really wants to leave. They might just want to change an email address because they're switching email providers or dumping their current address because of spam from other senders. (Certainly not from you!)
5. Wrap it all up with an easily accessible subscriber page that loads with their data and lets them update with just a few clicks.
This means "no passwords." If their records include sensitive data such as credit-card numbers or bank accounts, save that information on a separate page and restrict access to it there.
Look for other barriers, too. Do you still force confirmation on opt-outs as well (I hope!) as on opt-ins? Drop that barrier too. Instead, put a resubscribe line in a follow-up email or a confirmation page on your site. If they really did screw up and unsubscribe when they just wanted to change, they can resubscribe there.
If you spend even half the time on the back end of your email relationship with your customers as you do on the front end with acquisition, you'll find you keep more of them around, and they'll be a happier group.