The other day, Mark Brownlow tweeted a link to an older MailChimp blog post, touching on the perils of trade show email lists. In that post, MailChimp's Ben Chestnut touches on the do's and don'ts of email best practices when it comes to trade shows.
Instead of assuming that everybody who gives you a business card at a tradeshow wants to be on your email list, here's what Ben suggests. "If you operate a booth at a tradeshow, and you collect business cards from people who visit the booth, send them a personal, one-to-one email ASAP! (use your Crackberry or laptop) with whatever sales pitch you want to give them, and provide a link to your email subscriber form, so you can stay in regular contact. Actually, don’t just give them a link to your email signup form. You know they won’t subscribe (what’s in it for them?). Give them a link to a landing page on your website with a valuable whitepaper, which also contains a link to 'receive our newsletter, which contains even more valuable research.'"
See what he did there? Asked, instead of assumed. Inviting people to sign up, instead of assuming that they want to be on your email list.
"If you operate a tradeshow booth, and the tradeshow host offers to give you an email list of all attendees, that is NOT a list that you can import into your mass marketing list." [...] "I can't tell you how many accounts I’ve had to shut down because of improper use of a tradeshow email list."
Ben is spot on; I'd highly recommend listening to this good guidance.