Facebook and other social media platforms may be the preferred form of online communication in the 21st century, but web users have been checking emails on their computers for more than two decades now. We can all remember the familiar dial-up noise as we waited for our connection to the web to successfully complete. For those of us with America Online during the 1990s, there was that unforgettable “You’ve Got Mail” to greet us when we logged in.

Younger generations may no longer converse primarily through email, but that doesn’t mean it has been abandoned altogether. Billions of people communicate through email on a daily basis, making it a powerful marketing tool for businesses. As you try to devise a successful email campaign, you may find it difficult to determine what approaches are going to work best. In this post, we’re going to lend a hand by identifying the best practices to use in starting your email campaign.

Every Good Message Needs a Reader

Whether you have created a great email message to spread the word about your brand, or put together an altogether unattractive marketing email, you won’t know the difference until you have a list of email contacts to send your message out to each week. There are a lot of different schools of thought when it comes to building a contact list, but Salesforce pardot points out that a clean, short list is more important than a long list.

What does all of this mean? Well, it means that you can improve your response rates and conversions by focusing on quality more than quantity in your contact list. It would be great to send your email out to millions of people each day, but is it worth sending emails to people who aren’t reading the messages or no longer active users on the account you have listed? Not only does this waste time, it can actually get you blocked by ISPs. If you continue to send your emails to inactive accounts, you may find your account blocked and all addresses on that ISP will be off limits to your message.

Subject Lines Lead to Opens

The content in your email is irrelevant if readers aren’t sufficiently convinced to open the email and read it based upon the headline you chose. Even the greatest offer inside could be ruined by a lame subject headline such as “check out this offer.” Marketing Profs highlights that there are some 122 billion emails sent each day. How many of those billions of emails do you think have lame headlines like “check this out” or “you have to see this”? Lame headlines like this are sure to be skipped by readers.

As you take time to craft a good headline for your email campaign, follow these general details for creating an engaging subject line:

  • Punctuation is unnecessary: no one is grading the use of periods, commas, and exclamation points in your subject line. In fact, excessive use of exclamation points (in particular) is bound to prevent people from opening the email for fear of useless spam on the inside.
  • Capital letters help: using proper capitalization, or even all caps, can help lift engagement by readers.
  • Control character counts: readers aren’t interested in reading the whole message in your subject line. Keep it short and sweet. 50 characters is a good range to shoot for, but shorter than that is fine too.
  • Personalize your greeting: using the reader’s first name increases open rates by as much as 22%.

Get Creative

Assuming you get people to open your emails, you want it to be the first of many that they take a few moments to read. If they open your first email and find dull or otherwise boring content inside, you can rest assured it is the last time they will open one of your marketing emails. The following tips will help you generate quality content that encourages readers to continue viewing your emails in the future:

  • Use clear language and avoid coming off as pushy or too heavily focused on closing a sale.
  • Fulfill your promise: in your subject line, you have made the reader a promise that got them to open the email in the first place. Once they open your email, you need to carry through on that promise and deliver content that matches the subject line.
  • Ask questions: data has consistently shown that questions in the subject line or internal content can grab the interest of readers and boost CTA.
  • Use colors: black-and-white text is boring. Many of your viewers probably spend their work day looking at a black-and-white Word or Excel file at work. Give them some color to help peak interest.

Test Your Campaign

Assuming you’ve followed the steps to this point, you are probably confident that your message is ready to go. Try not to trip over that confidence. A/B testing is key to constantly improving your campaign’s performance over time. Conduct tests that compare email A to email B, and measure the metrics that result. This allows you to identify the messages that your readers connect with, and those which fail to make a connection.

Get Mobile

The days of reading emails on a desktop or laptop alone are long gone. Users check their email constantly throughout the day, whether they are sitting at their desk at work, sitting in a restaurant on their lunch break, or riding the bus home. Your email messages need to have a responsive design that optimizes its appearance across multiple platforms. This ensures your viewers can easily read your email marketing whether they are on a smartphone, tablet, or desktop.

Last but not least, keep in mind that your message must constantly evolve. Tinker with different color schemes, mix in promotions with informative content, and never stop trying new approaches. Even if a new approach fails, it serves to solidify the factors that are critical to the success of an email marketing campaign that attracts to your contact list.