You can do effective email marketing in 6 simple steps

Email continues its dominance as the digital outbound communication platform with the greatest reach and the best return on investment. As of 2013, there were 3.6 billion email accounts and 91 percent of consumers check their email at least once a day.

And it’s not just for young adults, Boomers and up use email regularly. As of August 2011, 86 percent of Internet users 65 and older use email.

6 Step Email Marketing Guide

This 6 Step Email Marketing Guide will help you set up a successful and cost effective email marketing program that helps your organization reach its objectives.

Step 1: Ask Permission

The key to email marketing is permission. The reason 77 percent of US consumers welcome marketing communications through email is because they have control of their inboxes. Attempts to artificially grow your subscriber list through purchasing email addresses can lead to all sorts of problems. Instead, use prominent places on your website and give form to encourage people to signup for updates from you.

Set expectations: When asking for someone’s email address, always make it clear when and how you will be communicating with them. Setting the right expectations lowers the chance that they will be surprised by your emails and unsubscribe.

Step 2: Get Personal

Email is a relationship tool; you should communicate with your subscribers in a personal way that reminds them they have started a relationship with your organization.

Check your From line: No one wants to read an email from Make sure the name on your From line is an actual person, with a title that makes sense for the content of your email.

Make the content personal: Using someone’s name in the subject line will get attention. Using it in the salutation will get respect. Talking to your subscribers about the things they want to hear about will get continued engagement.

Step 3: Send as Often as You Need To

Sending too infrequently often hampers email marketing campaigns. People get concerned about information overload and fatigue. But minimizing frequency doesn’t lessen your communications with subscribers in any meaningful way; it simply lowers the chance that they’ll see (and act on) your communications.

Be relevant: Studies show that people will welcome messages from an organization—as long as they are relevant. I’ve written before that Unsubscribes can be a good metric; it indicates that people have looked at your content and decided it wasn’t relevant to them. Make your content relevant to what your subscribers care about, and you can send as often as you need to.

Step 4: Ask Early and Often

No one reads emails. People skim emails. You can’t expect subscribers to know what you want them to do, so make your Calls to Action clear and get to them right away.

Ask early: Our testing has concluded that the earlier you make it clear what you want people to do the better. Subject lines that make a request have a better conversion rate than sensational ones that get more opens. Heat mapping shows that CTAs near the top of the email overwhelmingly get the most clicks.

Ask often: Some studies have shown that the optimal number of CTAs in an email is nine.

Step 5: Design for Readability

People don’t read emails, but they have to be able to skim them on any type of device. Make sure your email uses fonts large enough to be read by weak eyes on a mobile device. Use descriptive headlines, hyperlinks and lists to break up copy and highlight the most important things. Use photos and buttons that add to the message and beg to be clicked (people love clicking photos).

Responsive design: In our experience, it’s very difficult to design the perfect email for all the crazy email platforms and devices in the world. The easiest solution we’ve found is a single-column, aligned-left design that will automatically size to every viewport.

Do one thing well: Skimming isn’t conducive to absorbing several subjects. Make the time count by focusing the content and CTA of each email on one thing.

Step 6: Test! Test! Test!

But don’t take my word for it. Test all of these assertions on your own email marketing program. Testing in email is relatively inexpensive and you really shouldn’t send an email without testing something.

Know your analytics: Testing only works when you know your email analytics. Pay attention especially to clicks and conversions. And don’t think of a single email independent of the whole marketing program.

Test for impact: What optimization to your program will have the biggest impact on your bottom line? That’s the first thing you should test.

Next: Paid vs. earned media promotion