I made some discreet inquiries here and here which you are welcome to read.
First, the "bad" news.
The plan you described for using addresses from the web would violate the policy of any hosting I can find for you, and they have good reasons for having such policies. If just one recipient complains, any email host will drop you, AND your website host will drop you, too, even if you didn't mail through their server. That means if you are perceived to be a "spammer", your site goes down. If you host it yourself, sending the mail from your home PC, your home ISP will shut off your Internet access! If you can find a host without this attitude toward spam, it's also likely to have other antisocial aspects, be located offshore, and charge more for less service. And this is by far not the only reason unsolicited email is a bad idea, but it's a big one. Here's a typical UCE policy:
Abuse and SpamNow, the good news!
The transmission of unsolicited or prohibited advertising or other content through electronic mail or inappropriate Usenet postings is forbidden. The use of pair Networks for unsolicited mass mailings or postings (commonly known as "Spam") by any customer will cause that customer's services to be terminated immediately and without warning, and the customer will be held legally responsible for the damages to pair Networks, both monetary and in reputation. The use of any other service to make such a mailing or posting, with any reference to pair Networks services (including but not limited to mailboxes, autoresponders, and Web pages), shall also be grounds for account termination and/or other actions as described above.
This is the first policy we ever published, and it is the most strictly enforced. Abusive behavior can severely damage your online reputation and business. We will not tolerate such incidents.
There's a lot we can do. Here are some alternatives and recommendations.
Credibility is very important to a small business. People will be impressed/reassured/more likely to buy with these signs of seriousness in place:
- Yellow pages ad
- BBB & BBB Online membership
- Austin Chamber of Commerce membership
- Austin Chronicle ad
- get an entry-level answering service
- Use Google adwords
- a one-page site on Austin Citysearch
- talk about it to people you meet throughout the day
- offer free or discounted promotions
- loyalty/referral discount programs
- offer extra-special deals to friends for making referrals
- place ads in local groups' newsletters
- sponsor local theatre and arts
- Exchange web ad placement with other local websites
- flyer apartment complexes (edgy but usually tolerated)
- bulletin boards at coffeehouses and local businesses
- instead of email, send a regular e-newsletter to your mailing list
- from people responding via email to your ads
- from current customers
- from your website (see TRUSTe's suggestions)
- from people in person
- from explicit, named referrals (should be discount both for referrer and recipient)
- as a last resort, buying local opt-in lists