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

How do you feel when someone barges in uninvited?

Today, it was some stranger promoting “transformational philanthropy.” Last week, a newsletter showed up from a woman I know, but who never asked me if I’d like to get her mail. And who, tellingly, has never subscribed to my ezine.

It irked me. And didn’t surprise me much. I’ve heard the stories about the same woman showing up at other people’s events just to promote her own similar work.

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 individuals who should know better.

When I got a newsletter from a north suburban training company, 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.”

Seventeen 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 that you read my weekly message, and even more so when I hear back from you; that happens often now. And I’m 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 if we can 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 definitely don’t want to discourage you from writing to your potential clients or customers once you have permission.

You’ll 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” today 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 to 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 in the comments below. How do you use email to promote your work? And if you have a story about an unwelcome inbox incursion, I’d love to hear it.