Email marketing is a form of digital marketing that reaches businesses’ existing or prospective customers via their inboxes. It’s cited as a top channel for low-cost marketing ROI, and 2012 email marketing budgets are poised to exceed $2.1 billion, according to Jupiter Research.

Strong email marketing campaigns target online audiences with customized, relevant messages and are sent to opt-in recipients who have subscribed to a company’s email newsletters.

Email Marketing Best Practices

Email marketing is especially popular because of its low cost and potential reach. However, as the channel has become more popular, the rise of inbox spam necessitates best practices among businesses that hope to stand out in cluttered inboxes.

The CAN-SPAM Act outlines mandatory business practices to ensure email deliverability, and these parameters should also help brands see higher open rates. For example, CAN-SPAM prescribes that promotional deals must be clearly marked as an advertisement, and marketing message subject lines must provide an accurate representation of what the email itself contains.

The best practices associated with content marketing increasingly apply to email marketing.

Demand for original, fresh email content

Well developed email marketing campaigns contain compelling content that is often seasonally focused or created with a certain demographic in mind, much like other forms of content marketing. Email campaigns in different industries may spike throughout the year according to seasonal needs, and almost all sectors use emails during the holidays, when consumers are certain to be looking for the best deals or most convenient shopping options. As such, timely content is key to generating click-through rates.

Moreover, marketers frequently require subscribers to indicate their birth date, allowing a company to take advantage of the prospect’s birthday and send exclusive content.

Regardless of the season or occassion, businesses must work to include fresh and engaging content in each newsletter they send to subscribers. According to ExactTarget, 93 percent of Americans willingly receive email newsletters and the primary reasons people opt to stop receiving these messages are boring content and repetitive information.

Email marketing success metrics

Metrics, such as open rates, click-through rates and unsubscribe rates, help marketers monitor the success of their campaigns and gauge which content is the most effective in conveying their message and drawing conversions.

Additionally, tracking codes allow businesses to monitor which recipients of their email marketing material ultimately convert – and which online conversions come from email. Tracking codes are typically very small and often invisible graphics written into email newsletters that alert the sender when the message is opened.

Many marketers consider email an underused channel in terms of generating leads, with more than 20 percent of marketers saying their companies do not use email effectively, according to Many marketers believe effective integration of email marketing with other campaigns is key to maximizing email ROI, with research from eMarketer showing that 68 percent of businesses using both email marketing and social media marketing plan to integrate the campaigns to create more interaction opportunities with prospects.