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E-mail marketing

I own a small business and we'd like to start marketing via email, sending coupons, advertising sales and specials, etc. With all the things in the press about spam lately, we want to be very careful to avoid this. Where can I get the most up-to-date guidelines on this? Any advice would be appreciated.
E-mail marketing, or the practice by which a company uses outbound e-mail to inform consumers of its message, is an important component of e-marketing. Used properly, e-mail provides a real-time data collection entry point and communication tool between the marketer and the customer. Research shows that response rates on e-mail campaigns can outshine traditional direct mail and online advertisements - 15 percent or higher for well-crafted, permission-based e-mail, compared to below one percent for banner ads.

Used improperly, e-mail is nothing more than spam, alienating all those who receive it. Marketers must, as a baseline, have a good idea that the content will appeal to the recipients and must be sure that the recipients can opt out of receiving e-mails that don't appeal to them. Marketers are still often missing the basics of building on relationships by sending unsolicited mass e-mail. With a customer relationship management (CRM) strategy in place, marketers can use information from a variety of sources to add context and personalization to the message to make it more relevant (and therefore more appealing) to the targeted audience.

By 2003, the e-mail volume is expected to grow to 36 billion e-mails sent per day worldwide, more than triple the nearly 11 billion e-mails sent per day worldwide in 2001. As a result, people are annoyed not only with spam (basically, e-mail sent without permission), but even with permission-based e-mail - there is just too much. E-mail for marketing purposes must become more customer-centric and be carefully managed if enterprises want customers to respond.

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