E-mail marketing is still a great way to connect with consumers, but there’s a fine line between being informative vs. being overbearing.

As technology continues to advance, do-it-yourself e-mail marketing has become more and more popular. And with the advent of e-mail access on mobile devices, you’re able to reach your consumers in a highly personalized space. Rather than being perceived as intrusive, you want your subscribers to invite you in, and it’s important to understand the basics before connecting with your audience via their inboxes.

Whether you’re interesting in starting up your own eCRM program from scratch, or if you’re looking for ways to revamp your existing program, keep these seven tips in mind while you evaluate your e-mail marketing strategy.

Cover the basics:  One of the most easily avoidable mistakes is making sure you’ve laid down the foundation for your e-mail marketing program by covering all of your bases.

Do you have an easily accessible unsubscribe link? If not, you can annoy your existing subscribers in case they want to remove their e-mail from your list. This can potentially hurt your campaign performance with higher unsubscribe rates and spam complaints if you’re not able to cut the unengaged off of your lists.

Does your e-mail contain your company name, address, and phone number? Does the “from” line easily identify who the e-mail is coming from? These little details help in legitimizing your e-mail, but failure to include them will leave your e-mail in the Spam folder instead.

How did your subscribers get onto your list? Are they opted in? Did you use a double opt-in? Like it or not, you still need permission to e-mail, and if you don’t have your subscribers’ explicit consent, you could get in more trouble that you’d like. If you make sure your lists are clean from the get-go, you can maintain high deliverability. One of the most common ways of doing this is utilizing a double opt-in sign up form that requires subscribers to validate their subscription after receiving a confirmation e-mail.

If you’re not familiar with the CAN-SPAM act, make sure you’ve reviewed the requirements thoroughly, as it will detail all the elements you’ll need to keep in mind before you hit “send.”

A summary of these regulations can be viewed here.

What’s considered TMI? : If you’re asking your e-mail subscribers for their information, make sure you’re leveraging it effectively (and legally) to bring some personalization to your communication. Customizing your content to your consumer enables you to take a step further than your competitors in showcasing that you know your audience and understand their needs.

An Experian study showed that 70 percent of brands are not personalizing emails sent to their subscribers. If you have the information handy, use it, but just make sure that it’s accurate. Otherwise you may do more harm than good if you mishandle personal information.  Show that you know your audience and that you want to establish a relationship with them. This will help keep your engagement high and keep your unsubscribe rate low.

If you find that you’re collecting more information than you need, cut it out from your sign-up form. This will at least help optimize the user experience.

Stay relevant: With a world of people looking for real-time information, you need to make sure your content speaks to your audience. At the same time you always want to make sure that you keep your content fresh and that you’re not hitting subscribers with the same information over and over. If you’ve got access to some data, take a few minutes to analyze the content that users are most engaged with.

What e-mails had the highest open rate? What links saw the most click-throughs? Did you see a bump in website traffic on a specific day?  Asking these questions and evaluating your e-mail performance periodically will help you optimize your content and keep subscribers’ attention and far away from boredom.

Don’t be afraid of testing different elements as well. When you find that you need to mix things up, think about testing your subject lines or different lifestyle images. Also take a look at your content. If your e-mails are text heavy, shorten them, have larger call-to-actions, include an offer, or move links around. Minor tweaks can make a world of difference. Just make sure that you don’t test everything at once- otherwise you won’t be able to figure out what worked!

And if you’re staring completely from scratch, think about the purpose of the e-mail. Is it to sell a product or to be informative? How frequently do you want to engage your subscribers — weekly, monthly, quarterly? Do you have existing content that you can repurpose, or will you need to produce it all? Have you examined the content on your website that is getting the most engagement? Would you be able to use that content in your e-mails?

Answering these questions from the get-go will help you get your campaign organized before you set the expectations with your subscribers about the information that you’ll be providing them.

The year of mobile responsive: eMarketer recently noted that by 2016, 62% of the U.S. population will be on smartphones thus increasing the need for marketers to make sure their content is primed for mobile. To determine how much your audience is accessing content through their mobile devices, take a look at your website stats.

If you have Google Analytics on you page, you can gauge whether or not you need to make that move to make sure your content is mobile-responsive. Chances are with the way technology is moving and the increasing consumption of mobile content, you’re going to have to take the initiative sooner rather than later.

Not only do you need to think about your e-mail rendering in a readable format on a mobile device, you’ll also want to remember that the click-through should also lead to a mobile responsive page. There are still some big brands who still make this simple mistake and lead customers to the desktop version of their website. When you’re designing for mobile, keep these tips in mind:

  • Single-column layouts no wider than 500 to 600 pixels work best.
  • Keep messaging concise and place important elements above the fold.
  • Links and buttons should have a minimum target area of 44 × 44 pixels as this helps prevent accidentally clicking  of tiny links on touchscreens.

ESP — Having a sixth sense for the right e-mail provider: Depending on the size of your list and your e-mail marketing needs, there are plenty of e-mail service providers that you can utilize for your program. If you need a robust CRM platform or something on a smaller scale for smaller lists, you’re sure to find one that will help you comply with CAN-SPAM regulations and meet your goals. Some ESP’s offer free trials as well so that you can test drive platforms to see what they can offer you.

The costs and hassles associated with switching to another supplier can be challenging depending on the size of your program. When you think about your ESP, think about what you need for it to deliver.

Do you need something that will manage your e-mail lists for you, or will you require something that will allow you to upload a list when you’re ready to send? How often does your database change? How robust of a reporting do you need to analyze your programs?

Exploring these questions and carefully reviewing what each ESP will provide will help you ease into finding the right platform to execute your campaigns.

A list of ESPs you can check out to get started include: AWeber, Campaign Monitor, Constant Contact, Emma, Epsilon, ExactTarget, GetResponse, iContact, Lyris, MailChimp, mailVU, Return Path, Silverpop, Swiftpage, and Vertical Response.

Sharing is Caring: If you’re providing relevant content, chances are that content will speak to prospects who haven’t quite made it on your e-mail list. If that’s the case, make sure you’re making your content sharable across social networks. You can accomplish this by adding ShareThis button which will allow your subscribers to login to their preferred platform to circulate content within their networks. “Forward to a Friend” has typically been the method to encourage sharing. However studies have shown that this link receives less than a one percent click through rate.

Keep in mind that placing the share links in your e-mail might not be enough, so you will also need to encourage your subscribers to share. Include call-to-actions to get people engaging with your content and with their networks. It may also be worth identifying the high influencers and reaching out to them. Not only will this help increase the distribution and reach of your content, it will also help you identify potential prospects to build your mailing list.

Keep it Simple: As consumers are saturated with a barrage of information on a daily basis from all different types of channels, it’s important to stand out despite the noise and to keep your e-mails concise. The first chance at grabbing the attention of your audience will likely be the subject line as they quickly scan through their inbox to prioritize the information that they want to take a look at immediately.

Make sure to keep your subject line under 50 characters and related to the content of your e-mail. Research has shown that shorter subject lines typically tend to outperform longer ones. Some have also found success by including localization to make it more personal and relevant to the recipient, while others have also used the method of asking a question. Typically trigger words to avoid include “free,” “buy,” “winner”

Once your subscribers get past the subject line and open your e-mail, make sure the reason why subscribers have signed up for your e-mail is prominent. If you’re selling a product, put the offer front and center. Or, if you’re providing tips and advice, make sure you’re encouraging your audience to share the content or to engage with you.

E-mail marketing is a great channel to reach your consumers as long as you follow the regulations to avoid spam. Make sure that you’re grabbing your audience’s attention and giving them a reason to engage with your e-mails. Establishing relevance at the start will help you retain and acquire a more involved audience.

To stay updated on all things social and mobile, be sure to stay tuned for more 60 second marketer blogs.

About the Author: May Advincula is a marketing enthusiast and graduate of the University of Georgia She has worked on B2C campaigns for primarily service clients (healthcare, financial, and IT) and is currently looking for opportunities to continue to expand her knowledge of all things marketing in the Atlanta area. Connect on LinkedIn

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