Do people want your email (spam)?
It's 2009 and if you don't have an opt-in email list and want to start sending out an email newsletter what should you do?
Seth Godin has a great post this weekend on Email Campaigns. The take away:
"The problem with believing that just because you have access to an address you have the right to mail is that there is no friction with email. It's free. You can email a million people in a heartbeat, costing the recipients time (and thus money) and you not much of either. The recipient knows this, and feels exploited or cheated. It's not fair, and so the lack of friction backfires. The very ease of interruption makes the interruption more annoying."
If people haven't signed up on a sheet in your tasting room or through an easy to understand subscribe form on your website, they probably haven't given you permission to send them email. You can't just import the list into a system and start emailing them. Having an 'opt out' policy on your spam (sending them spam with an easy unsubscribe link) is also not a great policy.
So to answer my opening question, if you don't have an email list and want to start, go at it the hard way. Don't take short-cuts. Have people subscribe on a form on your website. Have people give you their email address in a tasting room. Make sure they know what they are subscribing to. Also it's a good idea to let them know how often they will receive your message.
Read another great post on email marketing by Inertia Beverage.