You've probably heard the saying, "It's better to ask for forgiveness than permission." All too often I hear from marketers and business owners—those either just starting their email marketing programs or trying to build their lists—who find themselves considering such an unfortunate choice.

This month's email marketing conundrum explores the problem of how to begin sending to a "never been emailed" list, especially if it contains email addresses that may have been obtained without clear permission, such as from LinkedIn, or gathered offline, such as from business cards, membership lists, contest entry forms, prize drawings at events, etc.

My purpose is to present an approach for successfully emailing such a list while avoiding rookie mistakes and pitfalls.

Next time, I'll explore the more complicated conundrum of how (and whether) to email an opt-out list—i.e., a list of people you have no current or past relationship with at all.

For now, let's start with this well-intentioned but short-sighted approach of seeking forgiveness rather than permission.

The Scenario: A 'Never Been Emailed' list

I come across many small-to-midsize business owners actively collecting email addresses from prospects, networking contacts, and clients alike—only to seemingly be saving those addresses for a rainy day.

The problem is, if you don't already have an active email marketing program in place, new additions to your list (or those addresses you obtained months if not years ago) can easily go stale precisely because you're not sending communications on a regular basis.

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image of Karen Talavera

Karen Talavera is the founder of Synchronicity Marketing, a company specializing in digital marketing training, coaching, and education.