Email is sill an excellent platform to reach customers and an email address is the most valuable of any contact information. The trick is to make sure you are using email marketing effectively. Below are five tips regarding how to get the most out of your email efforts as part of your overall digital marketing strategy:

Build a list: Having up-to-date contact information of your customers is something many companies struggle with, but it is a critical part of any business strategy. If you’re not collecting email addresses, start first thing tomorrow. The best place to start is either your address book or accounting records. Create a spreadsheet or utilize email marketing software to record emails of prospects, customers, and partners.

You can also purchase lists, but an organically developed list will usually be higher quality. Start creating the list with existing customers and then add new subscribers by offering a contest or giveaway in exchange for their email. Just remember that with a great list comes great responsibility; ensure it is maintained and never abused.

Put your audience first: Always respect your audience and give them a reason to want to read your messages. Resist talking about yourself (I.e organizational news, promotions, events, etc.) and instead lead with information that will provide value such as content that informs, educates and entertains. Of course, you will need to throw in promotional items and company news occasionally but just don’t make it the focus.

Be considerate of your audience by not bombarding them with messages since this will dilute the effectiveness of your efforts. If you have a blog maybe email subscribers once a week and if you put out a newsletter maybe do it once a month or quarter. Research what makes effective subject lines; typically “how-to”, “x tips”, and “best practices” are good at grabbing attention and also consider posing a question as your subject line since it will intrigue people.

Utilize email marketing software: I’ve mentioned the benefits of using email software in previous posts and can not stress enough how important it is to use a specific platform separate from your email client for sending bulk messages. Using your email client (Outlook, Mail, Gmail, Etc) to send bulk messages looks unprofessional and it can also subject you to penalties from your internet service provider. Bulk messages from email clients are more likely to get flagged as spam or plug up your email server preventing other mail from functioning properly. In addition, sending from an email client does not help you understand how many people open your message or allow you to easily analyze bounce-backs.

Consider affordable solutions like MailChimp, ConstantContact, Emma or Aweber – They are are feature rich and allow for professional looking template based emails. They will also allow you to schedule emails, provide forms you can embed on a webpage so people can subscribe to your list automatically, and provide reports regarding opens, clicks, bounces, etc. In addition, reputable email marketing software will often have controls to keep you on the right side of the CAN SPAM act.

Encourage engagement: When sending out emails try to include ways for people to forward the message, and also provide links back your website or social media spaces so they can connect with you in other ways. If you are using email software you will be able to host a version of the email as a webpage, so also consider sending out an update across Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to the hosted page where others not on your list can read it and possibly sign up for more. If you are using HTML templates for your email you may also want to include a picture of yourself or the authors since this helps personalize things.

Constantly grow your list: As mentioned earlier, an email address is the most valuable piece of contact information you will have for a client/prospect so set some goals and create initiatives to help encourage the growth of your list. Keep in mind that despite the best promotions to grow your list it will be the value of the content that will make people want to read it and share it with others. Stay golden.