It is illegal to send unsolicited email messages except in limited circumstances. If customers have consented to receiving information from you in the past, ie opted in or signed up to your email marketing list, you can send them information on other things you think they might be interested in.
However, you must give these people the option to opt out of or unsubscribe from receiving any further messages from you. Read more about email marketing list opt-ins and opt-outs.
Using incentives to get email sign ups
People are more likely to sign up to your email marketing list if you give them a useful incentive. For example, you can offer special services or discounts on selected products to customers who sign up for your email updates. It's even more effective when you make offers available exclusively through your email marketing. You can then be more confident that recipients will check for the latest email from your business.
You can also offer things like exclusive online content and entry to competitions in exchange for email sign ups.
Capturing customer data for email marketing
There are a number of ways, both online and offline, how you can capture customer data to be used for your email marketing lists. A common method is to encourage email sign up through your website. It's always worth highlighting the benefits of subscribing to your email service and providing an online form to register.
You should make this process as quick and as easy as possible for the customer by capturing only a small amount of data initially eg name and email address. You can then follow this up with an email where a customer can inform you of other preferences or areas of interest. It is also best practice to inform customers what they will receive by email and how often they should expect to receive your emails.
See an example of the sign up form nibusinessinfo.co.uk uses to capture customer data.
Ways to build your database offline include asking customers for their email address when they are at an event you are running or in-store. For example, some retail businesses capture customer email addresses by offering to email electronic receipts when a purchase is made in store. You can also offer a small discount or free gift as an incentive.
Email can be a very cheap and effective marketing tool if you can get customers and potential customers to request updates from you by email.