The more crowded our inbox gets, the more selective we are about who gets access, right?

How do you feel when someone barges in uninvited?

An irritated friend reports that she got a generic email this week, proclaiming, “I BELIEVE IN THE POWER OF RELATIONSHIPS.”

“I’ve never met this woman. She hasn’t come up to me and welcomed me to the chamber. She hasn’t called or emailed to welcome me and introduce herself. Why did she think it would be appropriate to send me this template email?

She says she wants to connect with me? It doesn’t feel like it. She understands relationships are important? Not buying that… and why is she yelling at me in all CAPS?”

Can we all agree that it’s bad form to pick up someone’s business card someplace and start sending them marketing email?

I’m surprised at how many people still do that. And a lot of them are people who should know better.

I got a newsletter from a north suburban training company recently. And I wrote back to them. “I don’t know how I got on your list. But I’m happy to hear what you’re up to. I assume you’re just as interested in what I have to say? Please let me know that I have permission to include you when I send my newsletter.”

Do you think I got permission? I did not. I also never got another mass-mailing from them.

Permission really is the key here; that’s why they call it “permission marketing.” Seth Godin coined the term and wrote a whole book about it way back in 1999.

Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them… It realizes that treating people with respect is the best way to earn their attention.”

Sixteen years later, you’d think everybody would be on board with the idea of marketing to people who’ve given us the green light. You’d be sadly mistaken.

I’m delighted by you who read my weekly message, and even more so when I hear back from you, which happens more and more. And I’m very careful not to bombard people who aren’t interested.

You’re reading this because you heard me speak and said, “Yes, Catherine, I’d like to hear more from you.” When I ask for permission to keep in touch at a speaking engagement, I actually say, “If you don’t want to hear from me again, don’t give me your card.”

Or you may have raised your hand and said “write to me” by “opting in” on my website.

Maybe we met at a networking event and I asked if the No-Buts Action Guide to Getting Up and Getting Your Message Out would be useful for you. Or I sent you a personal follow-up and said I’d like to stay in touch by sending my newsletter if you’re interested.

I don’t want to discourage you from writing to people once you have permission.

You hear every so often that email is dead as a marketing tool, replaced by some social media flavor of the month.

I don’t believe it for a minute.

I encourage my clients who are building their business to start communicating with clients and prospects by email and to do so regularly. The person who’s not ready to say yes now may need your exact service down the road. They’re more likely to choose you if you’ve stayed in touch and developed a connection with them.

And Twitter, Schmitter – email’s still the best way do that.

Besides, you have valuable information to share with people; your newsletter or blog is one way to do that. And it’s just plain fun to keep these connections going.

Now’s the time I turn the figurative floor over to you. Couple of questions to answer. How do you use email in your marketing? And if you have a story about an unwelcome inbox incursion, I’d love to hear it.