This is important. You need to ask all the people you meet or contact for their permission before you add them to your list. Your contact manager database should have a field to indicate whether you have permission to email someone. If you don’t, use direct mail to communicate with those whose permission you lack. Make sure you have a call to action when you send snail mail to get people to come to your site or blog and subscribe.
Just because people include their email addresses on their sites does not translate to an invitation to send them unsolicited email. This applies in particular to broadcast (all-subscriber) email. A single thoughtful message to someone regarding something other than a blatant solicitation to buy your art is acceptable as standard business correspondence. However, it’s not a license to build a form letter and robotically insert names in fields to give the impression of personal communication.
Permission Is Required – Be Respectful
Unlike postal mail, you cannot send mass email without each recipient’s permission. It’s illegal (see the CAN SPAM Act for details), and everyone hates spam. So don’t do it. If you’re sending email to Canadians, even from outside Canada, you must abide by CASL (Canada’s anti-spam legislation).
Unless you have a trusted personal relationship with someone, do not add their name to your list no matter how promising and tempting it might be. Business cards casually collected and email addresses found on the internet don’t give you permission to add someone’s address to your email marketing list.
In the U.S., you can send a single, personalized email to someone who’s not on your list. Canadian email laws are restrictive. If you are mailing to Canadians you must follow the laws there regardless of whether you reside or send your email from outside the country.
Keep in mind, even if that recipient replies, you can’t add that person to your email marketing list without permission. Make sure all your emails include an easy-to-use opt-out link.