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How do you ask for permission?
Both your website and your physical store should make it easy for people to "opt-in". Your website should have a prominent link or button for visitors to sign up for your newsletter and promotions.
The right technology can facilitate signups. If you're embarking on your first email marketing communication, it's okay to send it to your pre-existing customers. Good marketing practice is to put a "permission reminder" at the top of your first email communication: "You received this email because you're a customer of Business XYZ. Click here to unsubscribe."
There are other great ways to obtain permission and email addresses. You may have a guest book or a fishbowl for business cards on your counter with a "Join My Email List" sign. You should encourage your staff to verbally ask customers to sign up. The more explicit your request for email contacts, the better.
Permission isn't just polite...it's the law.
Please note: Shared affiliation isn't permission! Just because you have a directory of Chamber members doesn't mean you have permission to add those names to your emailing list. Prospecting isn't illegal; putting someone on your emailing list without asking and repeatedly emailing them is.
In other words, one-to-one communication is fine; one-to-many without permission isn't. Do reach out to fellow professionals with personal email or a telephone call, asking if they'd like to join your emailing list. Do not send a mass emailing to everyone in your business directory. That's spam. The federal CAN-SPAM Act protects consumers against unwanted mail.
So attend those networking events, collect those business cards, and build your email marketing list. Just be sure to get permission before emailing your new contacts. Then you and your small business will be on everyone's "A-List".