Email marketing is a tried and true method for engaging customers and attracting sales. It’s cost-effective and easy to use; it’s no wonder that it has remained a top marketing asset for businesses large and small. Yet, like every marketing endeavor, email adapts to changing customer preferences year after year. Now that we are well into 2017, it’s time to address the latest email marketing best practices.

While email marketing is iterative and certainly subjective based on a business’s industry and niche, there are five email marketing best practices that every small business needs to be aware of.

Customize the “from” line

With how advanced personalization has become, it’s about time the people get rid of “do not reply” email senders and replace them with personalized and branded addresses. A real name, such as John Smith, or a Customer Service at Vistaprint Digital, shows the reader an email is from a trusted or valued sender. That’s half the battle to get someone to open your email.

If you are uncomfortable using your personal business address, create one that is linked to all email marketing campaigns. This way, you can monitor responses and reply from that account without giving a direct link to your inbox.

Remember, you have a few seconds to make a good impression and motivate people to open your emails. Take every step necessary to encourage that action instead of sending you to their trash folder.

Use branded, responsive templates

This should come as no surprise, but responsive email design is a must in 2017. People are using their smartphones and tablets more than ever, so having an email template that adapts to different screen sizes is key.

Your email template also needs to be branded. Ensure you are sending a clear message every time by using your brand colors, logos, fonts, and images to convey your brand promise. You may have multiple templates depending on your email needs, but they should all have a consistent feel to them.

Lulu & Georgia has an incredibly recognizable and branded email template. Whenever you view an email from the company, the brand aesthetic pops for the reader. Even when they feature sales (as seen in the third image below), the template is consistent. Even better is that all of their templates are responsive, so you always get the best viewing experience.

images courtesy of Lulu & Georgia

With these two aesthetic pieces in order, your email marketing won’t disappoint.

Think about subject lines and preheader text

Much like the “from” line, your subject line informs whether someone will open your email or not. Punch up your subject line savvy this year as it’s getting easier and easier for people to unsubscribe or trash your emails before opening them.

Think about how you can differentiate your brand against the clutter of people’s inboxes. What is your email offering that they can’t get elsewhere? Include snippets of information that intrigue readers and move them to click “open.”

The same goes for preheader text (the short summary that follows the subject line when an email is viewed in the inbox). It provides more context and additional information to further persuade the reader to open your email. In the image below, the subject lines (in black text) pique the reader’s interest, while the gray preheader text gives more information about the benefit to the reader.

Being succinct and personalized are two important pieces of strong pre-header text. You have limited space and attention time to make your case, so ensure you use the field wisely.

Interactive email is tops

If the rise in videos and GIFs is any indication, interactive email is here to stay and conquer your inbox. However, an interactive email goes beyond videos; it allows people to make purchases, click on different tabs, and see an image move or rotate. These are all dynamic, personalized, and very in demand for 2017.

While the technology to make purchases through an email may be beyond your technological scope, you can incorporate dynamic features and components that give your emails a kick. Try adding GIFs and see how your audience responds. Once you have a handle on those elements, expand your repertoire in dynamic ways that serve your business.

If you have our email marketing tool powered by Constant Contact, you can easily add GIFs and other dynamic components to your email templates.

Personalize, personalize, personalize

When we say, “personalize,” we mean more than just included a person’s first name in the email. You have valuable data for your distribution lists subscribers, so put it to good use. Pre-populate customer information wherever possible, such as account number and customer anniversary date, and send emails that are specific to their buying patterns.

Some simple segmentation work can help you figure out these nuances, and from there you can save mailing lists based on those criteria. The best way to get through to readers is to show them you know who they are, what they want, and that your business has products or services that complement their needs.

Incorporating personalized information in your emails makes the reader’s experience as useful and pain-free as possible, and that’s a winning combination for email marketing.

Email marketing is a fruitful marketing endeavor when done well. Consider these best practices when planning your email campaigns. These small changes can revamp your email marketing and yield significant returns. Do you have other email marketing best practices? If so, share them in the comments section below!

Read more: How to Send Personalized Email Outreach at Scale