When it comes to emailing private individuals, as opposed to
businesses, the law in the UK is pretty clear. You have to have
permission. There are a number of good factsheets available
which explain what 'permission' means in this context - for
example this one from Scottish Enterprise.
But what about business-to-business? Is it really true that
anything goes? According to the law, yes. With one or two
The other day I was at a business networking meeting, and
during the free exchange of business cards somebody asked
me if they could add me to their mailing list. It was a
polite request so I said yes. Then I thought about how
infrequently this happens - the courtesy of requesting
permission where none is legally required.
When a new B2B client asks about emailing to a 'grey' list
(addresses acquired from business cards, brochures or websites,
for example) I advise them to tread carefully. Firstly, if
any of those businesses are sole traders or partnerships,
then legally speaking they are treated as private individuals
and B2C regulations apply. Secondly, business relationships
are generally about more than just a quick sale. So it's
important that the tone of an email approach doesn't annoy,
and that the message really is relevant to these people.
At the moment, B2B email marketers have it easy, but it's
not always so great when you're on the receiving end. And
if enough people complain, who knows, we may end up with
an email version of corporate TPS.