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2014 will be the year of email marketing, the eighth annual Email Marketing Industry Census suggests, with 68% of companies now rating email as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ for ROI. This now ranks it higher than SEO. Furthermore, 83% of marketers believe email will be their most effective distribution channel, a Regalix study revealed. Meanwhile, 77% believe it will be the second most important driver (after websites) of revenue growth, lead generation and prospect nurturing over the year ahead. But effective email marketing only comes after thought and planning. To capitalize on its potential, marketers should look closely at their current approaches and tactics, to ensure their email marketing strategy is the best it can be.

9 questions you should ask about your company’s email marketing:

1. Am I taking my email list for granted?

Nurture your list. Build it carefully, edit it regularly – filtering outdated and invalid data – and segment it to enable content targeting. 60% of marketers admit the biggest barrier to effective email marketing is the quality of their email database.

2. Am I taking my audience for granted?

Get personal – tailor messages to different audience segments. Ensure you send relevant, targeted email at all times to maximize audience engagement. 33% of companies using advanced segmentation as part of their email marketing rate email ROI as ‘excellent’ – compared with just 13% of those companies that don’t.

3. Can I do more to improve open rates?

Ask yourself: are my subject lines engaging? According to our 2013 Subject Line Report, subject lines should be kept below 130 characters in total. Avoid phrases like ‘B2B’. Include action words, such as ‘Alert’ and ‘Free Delivery’, or words that convey value, such as ‘Savings’.

4. How can I improve my timing?

Advice about the best time to send emails ranges from ‘only send during work hours’ to ‘only send at weekends, late at night and early in the morning’. Confused? Don’t be. As working hours expand and more people use smartphones and tablets, no rule is ‘one-size-fits-all’. So test, test, and test again to find out what works in your industry for your readers.

5. Can I do more to improve click-through?

Include a clear ‘Call To Action’ in emails to capture reader attention by highlighting your offer and actively encouraging them to click your link. You should keep your CTAs to a focused minimum so your readers do not become confused and do click on the CTAs you have offered.

6. Is my email marketing mobile-friendly?

41% of emails are now opened on a mobile device, indicating that using a mobile-friendly email template is best practice. It is always worth researching what clients your customers open your emails in, and how many open emails at all, in order to tailor to your audience.

7. Can my images be seen?

Images in email marketing are often not displayed by default. One option is to insert ALT text for all images in your emails, though many clients – including Outlook – don’t display the ALT text either. A better solution is to include a good mix of text and images. This way, a recipient who doesn’t have images turned on still has an incentive to download the entire message.

8. How does my email marketing reflect on the professionalism of my business?

Emails are seen by a wide audience, so it is important that your marketing is consistently professional. It is vital to proofread your emails, but you need to go further than just checking for grammar and spelling mistakes. Email campaign links need to go to the right places and you need to check that your emails are functional on a variety of devices. You can use the content preview functionality embedded in MessageFocus. It is also worth ensuring other team members and stakeholders have reviewed and approved the content and the way in which it appears.

9. Do I spend too much time on design and content at the expense of planning, data, and optimization?

It is as important to spend time planning, gathering data and making sure your email campaign is optimized, as it is to work on your content and design. Your email campaign ought to be balanced on all levels, as this will best engage your audience, encouraging them to click your CTAs rather than click away from the email. Get it right, and email marketing can deliver more in terms of ROI.

Want another 9 ways to improve? Download 9 Tried and Tested Tricks to Reduce Email Unsubscribes.