It may feel as if email marketing has been around forever. In the 40 years since the first marketing email was sent, we’ve amassed countless email best practices. Some email marketing professionals have even been working in their field longer than many high schoolers have been alive. In other words, email marketing definitely can’t be considered a new tactic by any means.

But it’s also safe to assume that it’s not going away any time soon. No channel that is used so regularly by consumers can be ignored. And the majority of marketing organizations still say email is the channel that produces the greatest ROI. However, with the number of emails sent and received every day skyrocketing, it has become more and more difficult for businesses to stand out.

Marketers today need to work smarter to make an impact with their email programs. To give you a little email inspiration, I’ve compiled a few tips from the email experts that you may want to keep in mind going forward.

Don’t Assume You Have the Basics Covered (Focus on the Building Blocks)

Your list, your messaging, your follow-ups. Those are the fundamental components of an effective email strategy.

Within that framework are the building blocks: List sanitation, your content strategy, your campaign automation. Every piece is critical. Every piece leads prospects along the journey from interest to purchase. Every piece must be in place.

If you’re not taking email marketing seriously right now, if you haven’t covered the checkpoints outlined above, then email marketing may be a gold mine waiting to be tapped.

Don’t assume your team has the basics covered. Go look. Go ask. Get on your own email list and make sure the mobile effect is powerful. Use the tools and systems you already have set up, but use them better.

That’s the secret to explosive email marketing. Keep it simple.

—Jon MacDonald, Founder and President of The Good (from The Good blog)

Don’t Be Self-Centered (In Other Words, Actually Deliver Value)

Only send emails where there is more value for the recipient than for you.

In most cases, your subject line should pinpoint the greatest value your recipient will receive if they open the email.

In the copywriting world, this is referred to as the WII-FM (what’s in it for me) statement.

You may think it’s really important that people upgrade to the latest version of your software or shop your Fall 2012 line. But chances are that, in comparison to the many other things in their inbox, that doesn’t sound that great to them.

What do your customers and prospects want?

What pain is grating on them that you can solve right now?

What was of such immense value that you had to email them RIGHT THIS SECOND to share it with them?

—Joanna Wiebe, Founder of Copy Hackers (from the Copy Hackers blog)

Don’t Overdo It (One Email = One Message)

The key is understanding the one thing you’re trying to convey. It should only be one thing. You shouldn’t have four or five calls-to-action, and if you do, you should really go back and reconsider sending only one email.

Every email should have just one key point. Boil down your message, not only to an elevator speech, but literally a tweet. You should be able to convey the key idea in just a word. That doesn’t mean that every email has to be that short, of course, but I think the key idea behind it should be very succinct.

I make a habit of writing the key idea behind anything I write in bold at the top of my draft. This way, I can refer back and ensure that I’m always staying true to what I’m trying to convey.

Once you get clear about what it is you’re trying to say, building a short message around that and not wasting the audience’s time is much easier.

—Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs (from the Litmus blog)

Don’t Focus Solely on Open Rate (It’s About Building a Relationship)

If you pursue an open at all cost, you just might get it…along with a serious case of “opener’s remorse.” The majority of consumers report having felt opener’s remorse, according to a joint Litmus-Fluent consumer survey. So getting the subscriber to open an email that was irrelevant to them could cost you future opens, clicks, and conversions by causing the subscriber to ignore subsequent emails, could cost you the ability to reach them via email if they opt out or complain, and could cause you brand damage if your tactics generate negative social media buzz or word of mouth.

While email conversions should be the primary goal of your emails, the secondary goal should be to maintain your relationship and keep the email channel open as way to communication with customers and prospects.

So instead of taking a short-term, company-centric approach where you try to manipulate, trick, and perhaps even mislead subscribers into opening an email, take a long-term, subscriber-centric approach with your subject lines. Respect your subscribers’ time and try to serve them by writing a descriptive subject line that allows them to decide whether opening a particular email is going to be worth their time. That approach will result in better, longer-lasting relationships.

—Chad S. White, author of “Email Marketing Rules” (from the Litmus blog)  

Don’t Be Generic (Personalize, Personalize, Personalize!)

“One size fits all” emails cannot be nearly as relevant — and therefore never as engaging — as they might be if they were individualized. You have an excellent, one-to-one channel that allows you to reach out to a particular person, to appear in their inbox (the same place where they communicate with friends, colleagues and customers), and to begin a conversation with them, but instead, you sent the same communication to a million other people.

Using machine learning is the best way to return your email to what email is meant to be — a meaningful conversation with a person. And by meaningful, I mean truly personalized. This doesn’t just mean mail merging a person’s first name or company name into the email. Real personalization means tailoring the content of an email dynamically for each individual: the message, the offers, the recommendations.

If you use email marketing, now is the time to begin transitioning from the outdated batch-and-blast method to emails triggered at the optimal moment and mass-personalized at open time. True one-to-one email will enable you to unlock the full potential of the most effective engagement channel for businesses.

—Karl Wirth, Co-Founder and CEO of Evergage (from Entrepreneur)

Final Thoughts

It’s easy for email to become just another line on a marketing checklist. You’re launching a new feature or running a new promotion. You send out an email. You include the standard messaging. You don’t think too much about it — because sending emails is such a routine course of action for your marketing team.

But as these experts make clear, you can’t phone in your emails. Ask yourself: Does my audience really care about this message? How does this help foster the relationship with the customer? How can I make this message more relevant so the recipient will actually care? In other words, put yourself in your audience’s shoes and don’t send them anything you don’t truly think they will care about.

To learn how Evergage can help you send more relevant emails (and if you want to know what we mean by relevant, watch this quick video), request a demo today.