After 40 years, email remains a powerful marketing tool for many companies. In fact, it continues to be one of the most cost-effective marketing channels available, delivering the highest ROI of any channel for many advertisers. However, creating a successful email campaign isn’t as simple as throwing together a bunch of haphazard content and sending it to the widest audience possible. Like any marketing channel, being successful in email marketing involves a number of factors across planning, execution, and monitoring performance. While not exhaustive, here are 5 key factors that, if addressed properly, can lead to a high performing email campaign.

  • Know and Follow the Rules

Before you add email to your marketing program, make sure you understand the rules of the road. In the U.S. this means becoming familiar with the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003. This law sets up the rules that marketers need to follow in order to send marketing messages via email. While there are a number of rules included in CAN-SPAM, the first one to understand is that you must provide email recipients with a method to unsubscribe from future campaigns and you need to honor those requests. You can find more information about CAN-SPAM in this post. Make sure your campaigns are fully compliant with CAN-SPAM, as a starting point for your email program.

  • Identify your Audience

This is marketing 101, but if you don’t know who your audience is, how can you create an effective marketing message? Chances are you can’t. Having a full understanding of who your target audience should be one of your first steps. After that, you need to determine how you can reach them via email. You may have your own customer and prospect lists to start with, but leveraging email for customer acquisition may involve using third parties to power your email program. Performance Agencies, Networks, and Affiliates are just a few outside partners you may consider engaging with to reach more of your target audience through email.

  • Write Engaging Email Copy

Part of identifying your audience is understanding their challenges, pain points, needs and desires – and how your product or service can help them address those factors. This understanding is a key to writing engaging email content that connects with your audience. If your content doesn’t resonate with email recipients, they are less likely to respond, leading to poor performance. Alternatively, writing content that recipients can relate to and that communicates how you can address their needs will almost always lead to better performance, more responses, and eventually more sales.

  • Focus on your Call-to-Action

Some marketers have their audience dialed in, create engaging copy and attention grabbing design in their email campaigns, but still don’t drive response. In this case, the culprit is sometimes a poor call-to-action. Just like a salesperson who delivers a knockout sales presentation, but forgets to ask for the business – if you neglect your call-to-action, you won’t close many sales or inspire email recipients to click on a link or otherwise respond to your message. Pay special attention to how you explain what you want them to do after receiving the email and your performance will reward your diligence.

  • Track your Performance

Performance tracking is a hot topic in the digital marketing industry these days, as advertisers face ongoing challenges in effectively measuring campaign performance. If you can’t tie a sale back to the marketing initiative(s) that the prospect received, it’s extremely challenging to create an effective marketing strategy in any channel. Make sure you evaluate a variety of tracking mechanisms for your email campaigns and ensure you can see more than simply open and click rates.

There are many other factors that play a part in a successful email campaign, but these 5 should give you a good place to start.