Email is great, isn’t it? You can contact as many people as you want at virtually no cost!

That attitude gets a lot of people in trouble. When you’ve been given someone’s email address, it is because they trust you. Don’t break that trust by spamming them.

This past week I received an email from someone I don’t believe I’ve met before, and I know I hadn’t signed up for any email contact from him. In a nutshell, he asked me to help him sign up a given number of new clients for his company’s services so he could win a trip. The tone of the entire email surprised me. It was almost as if he was doing me a favor by remembering to include me in his spam distribution.

I actually made contact with this salesman and found he had a bunch of old cards from networking events another person in his office had attended, so he added them to his email list. First of all, that’s not how it works. Secondly, even if he had met me once at a networking event, I’m certainly not his instant advocate and, therefore, willing to help him win a trip.

Here are a few guidelines to follow when starting up email-based communications campaign when someone has not specifically signed up for a specific newsletter, coupon mailing, etc.:

:: Make your contact valuable
Provide your audience with information that is timely and useful.

:: Don’t jump into sales mode
If your first contact says, “Buy from me,” you’ve missed the boat.

:: Personalize
Don’t lump everyone into the same category. Communications with those who know you well can be different from general email messages for your broader audience.

:: Prepare your audience if necessary
If it’s been a while since you met the person, a phone call before adding them to your email list can go a long way to having your email messages read and not simply discarded.

:: Allow for easy opt-out
If an email is personal, using your email account to send it is fine. If it’s part of a large distribution, use a system that allows for simple management of one’s email preferences including opting out of the email list.

Email is wonderful. I thoroughly enjoy being kept up on what’s happening with the people and companies I choose to follow. I know many people feel the same. So let’s be part of that group that builds strong relationships through proper use of email instead of turning off our audience with unwanted messages.

Here’s to your marketing success!

Bryan Waldon Pope
America’s Chief Marketing Officer