Over the past few years, research has continued to prove the benefits of email marketing for business: Low costs, high conversion rates and detailed tracking are all notable features.

Consumers are becoming increasingly savvy on the differences between spam and permission-based emails, and more and more of them are accepting permission-based email marketing as a positive replacement for direct mail.

The best news is that the majority of people who receive permission-based emails open, on average, 78% of them.

Jupiter Research reports effective email marketing campaigns can produce nine times the revenues and 18 times the profits of broadcast mailings.

Crafting an effective business email is both an art and a science. Here are 6 tips that will help you make your email marketing to your current and potential clients and customers more effective:

1. Spam!

The average consumer receives more than 300 emails a week, 62% of which are spam. No wonder there’s such hostility towards the industry. But spam filters, bulk folders and “report spam” features are helping consumers become more at ease about the perils of spam.

So as a permission-based business email marketer, what can you do? One tip is to remind your subscribers to add you to their “safe senders” list. The second, and most important, tactic is to make sure your email service provider (ESP) has a good relationship with Internet Service Providers (ISPs). This will ensure that your email marketing campaigns go into your subscribers’ inboxes, not their junk mail folders. When choosing an ESP, make sure the company has strict anti-spam policies and complies with the guidelines of CAN-SPAM.

2. Images and Formatting: Why do my emails look broken?

Broken email campaigns are an increasing concern among email marketers, especially since several companies and web-based ESPs now block graphics as a measure to combat spam. In fact, according to ClickZ, 40% of email marketing messages delivered to in boxes are “broken” – or have issues with the image display.

When configuring your email messages, you often want to use your own custom images and photos.

When you create your email content, you can use HTML tags to display images within the email body. If you’re unfamiliar with HTML, you can quickly upload and embed image files into your email using the HTML Editor on your ESP’s configuration page.

In order to avoid issues with the image files, keep this tip in mind: while image files with spaces or punctuation (%, #, &, !, etc.) can be uploaded to your ESP, the links created using that file name may prevent your recipients from viewing the images. For best results, you should always name your image files without using spaces or punctuation so you won’t need to rename them if you decide to use them in an email or newsletter.

For example, the following file name may cause problems: my email newsletter banner.jpg

So you should rename it as: my_email_newsletter_banner.jpg

It may also be worth considering organising a Free Mail Flow Monitor, as you will be notified as soon as your mail flow has any issues or isn’t working correctly. If your emails aren’t sending correctly to the right person/people, you need to be notified as soon as possible. There are multiple companies that can offer you this service, so look around for the one that offers the service closest to your businesses needs.

3. Personalization and Relevant Content:

In a business email, one size does not fit all. In a recent study by DoubleClick, email users were 72% more likely to respond to a business email if its content was based on the interests they had specified. That number points out the absolute importance of allowing users to choose their own interest groups and have control over which business emails they receive. The most popular interest categories, according to the study, are coupons and household goods.

But your coupon is no good unless the user opens the email. Users in the study said the most compelling reason for them to open a business email is the name in the “from” field. So it’s a good idea to make sure your company name is clearly stated there. Another major factor is the “subject” line. Users cite discount offers and interesting news as the most compelling subject lines, followed by new product announcements and free shipping offers.

4. Click-through and Conversion: Show me the money!

So the user has opened your email and read the content. Great. But where’s the sale? There’s good news here. For one, consumers are increasingly likely to make purchases as a direct result of a business email campaign. One-third of users in the DoubleClick study had purchased something by clicking a link on an email. Another 42% clicked on an email link for more information, then purchased the product at a later time. Second, online couponing is booming: 73% of consumers have redeemed an online coupon for an online purchase, and 59% have redeemed an online coupon offline.

In terms of industries, the top performers are travel, hardware/software, electronics, apparel, food, home furnishings, gifts/flowers and sporting goods. All companies sending business emails in these categories said between 71% and 80% of recipients have purchased their products because of an email campaign.

There’s no need to fret if your company doesn’t fit in to one of those industries. The overall landscape for email marketing conversions is looking brighter every day. The average click-to-purchase rate has increased nearly 30% since 2004 and the average orders-per-email-delivered rate has increased more than 18% since last year.

5. Stats tracking: Who are my real consumers?

Email marketing is an increasingly popular tool in effective Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and more businesses should use this. Your ESP should include detailed, real-time tracking, of the emails that you send out. Real-time tracking is now an industry standard, and it’s highly valuable, as it allows you to see the exact moment a user opens your campaign, clicks on your link and makes that purchase. Studying your users can help you improve your communications efforts, so each campaign performs better than the last (several ESPs also let you compare the performance of your campaigns).

But many marketers are still in the dark. According to a recent WebTrends research, only 5% of marketers are very confident in the measurement of their online marketing efforts, while 26% admit they’re “flying blind.” WebTrends says the low confidence comes from arlack of knowledge when it comes to measurement, which means there’s still a lot of work to be done.

This is an example of a high level real-time tracking dashboard from an ESP. You should also be able to get much more detailed tracking as well: country, device, links clicked, etc:

6. Mobile, Tablet or PC: How are people reading my email?

Make sure your email is mobile and tablet friendly. Your ESP should also provide you with a mobile friendly version of your email, that renders well on all mobile and tablet devices: iOS, Android and Windows.

In just the last two years, smart phone usage and tablet usage have skyrocketed. The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism recently released a report with some amazing statistics: Half of all U.S. adults now have a mobile connection to the web through either a smart phone or tablet, significantly more than a year ago. 44% of U.S. adults now have a smart phone, which is up from 35% in May 2011. 25% of U.S. adults own a tablet computer as compared to just 4% in September of 2011.

With these numbers expecting to grow in 2012 significantly, having a mobile friendly version of your email marketing is going to provide you with a valuable edge over your competition.

Here’s an example of this email on an iPhone – it renders very well:

Mobile Rendering of Blog

Your email marketing is a critical component of your business. Following these guidelines will allow you ample opportunity to expand your existing list, as well as your business opportunities, however if you are still unsure that you could handle this on your own or if you have questions that remain unanswered then consider speaking to a Marketing Consultant as they will be able to answer any questions you may have and offer your more advice should you need it.

Also, check out my blog on 22 Simple Tips to Grow Your Email List Organically.

As always, comments welcome!

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