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No discussion of e-mail marketing can avoid the dread spam issue. Spam- -the electronic equivalent of "junk mail"--is still a red flag to a small but passionate group of privacy advocates. Invade their e-mail in-boxes without the appropriate "permission" and they can create great mischief, ranging from nasty letters all the way to full-blown lawsuits. As e-mail becomes increasingly popular for marketing purposes, moreover, it's inevitable that even more consumers will get ticked off by the glut of poorly-targeted, tasteless e-mails they receive every day.

What's the solution? Shannon Kinnard, author of Marketing With E-Mail, offers several common-sense suggestions:

* Start with a true opt-in list: The safest way to avoid spam complaints, says Kinnard, is to make sure everyone on your list has actually asked to get e-mail from you. "Even customers should have the choice to add themselves," she says.

* Avoid trickery: Adding people to a list without their explicit agreement--for example, by making permission the default on order forms--is a "bad idea," Kinnard warns. "You'll annoy people--perhaps not as much as if you were a true spammer, but you'll get flack from recipients who feel tricked."

* Re-introduce yourself: "Don't assume that, just because you've exchanged e-mail with someone before, that person automatically knows who you are," she says. "Introduce yourself the first few times you e- mail someone (even if they contacted you)."

* Provide an easy unsubscribe option: "Make the directions for unsubscribing as clear and prominent as the directions for subscribing. Honor those requests immediately. Many people get nervous when they can't find unsubscribe instructions alongside the subscribe instructions."

* Make friends with your ISP: "Because of the spam backlash, many ISPs will close you down first and ask questions later," Kinnard points out.

Shannon Kinnard, president, Idea Station, 814 N. Franklin St., Chicago, Ill. 60610; 312/337-0747. E-mail: Marketing With E-mail, Maximum Press, $29.95.
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Date:Nov 15, 2000

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