Do you remember the last time you actually enjoyed opening an email? Chances are, most marketing emails you get aren’t emotionally compelling enough for you to remember them or more importantly, take action. Today, to create a successful email marketing strategy, it’s about finding out what your audience wants and how you can target them with authentic and engaging content.

Here are five ways you can improve your email marketing.

1. Use an email distribution service and segment your audiences

If you don’t have an email marketing campaign currently set up or simply don’t know where to start, that’s OK, that’s why I wrote this article—I want to help you.

So where do you start? Below are some of the email distribution services we recommend. Most of them are based on the number of contacts you have, so the more contacts you have the more you pay. General ballpark, you can get started for around $15/month. Don’t worry, you won’t have to type in tons of email addresses, it’s easy to import your current contact lists using Excel.

Constant Contact: Easy to use, good customer service, offers social media integration
MailChimp: Heavy focus on authentic email addresses, good for auto responders
Emma: Focused on high level of engagement and relationships, automated welcome notes, birthdays, nurture series and more
Other email marketing service providers include HubspotBenchmarkMailAway and dozens more. Once you decide on a service, be sure to segment your lists and your content based on your audiences’ interests or geographic location. If the subject line and content don’t resonate with your audience you won’t have many long-term subscribers.

2. Connect with your target audience.

You can have more than 20,000 people on an email marketing list, but if you don’t captivate them with useful and engaging content, chances are they won’t open your email or, even worse, they might decide to unsubscribe.

The best way to know your emails are connecting with your target audience is to track your open rates, click throughs and engagement. This will help you evaluate what is most important to your audience and measure the success of your email. Many email marketing providers, such as Constant Contact, MailChimp and Emma, allow you to instantly track how many people opened the email and clicked links. This is a great way to learn about what type of stories your audience is most interested in, but let’s take it a step further.

In the email, give the reader useful and valuable content. Answer a common question using a short video clip, give them tips for ways to use your product or service, or share a recent customer experience that will relate to your audience. With content like this, they will likely continue to open your emails because they are more engaging and useful.

Want to measure your success even more? Encourage the recipient to take immediate action to take advantage of a special offer, and the only way to get the offer is to mention the email. This will allow you to measure your success and get more word-of-mouth input about the value of your emails.

3. Build a relationship with the recipient so they know, like and trust you.

If you aren’t providing a warm and authentic welcome to your subscribers with an initial email, you’re missing an opportunity to connect with the customer and create a positive first impression about what type of emails they are going to get from you. You can set up automated emails to go out to your new subscribers instantly after they subscribe. Even though the email will be automated it shouldn’t sound like a robot wrote it.

Here’s what to include:

    • Thank them for visiting your website and subscribing. This should be genuine and authentic, for example:We’re excited that you want to learn more information about us. We think you’re pretty awesome too. We value our relationship and we promise not to share your information or email address with any third parties.Again, thank you connecting with us so we can share with you the latest fun and exciting news about our (company or organization). If at any time you feel we can do something better, or have an idea for us, please let us know.

      We’re dedicated to you,
      (Name and title) and our dedicated team

    • The automated email could come from a manager of your customer service team. If you’re a small business it could come from the president. If it’s a larger business, it would be unrealistic to have it come from the president of the company (that would be unauthentic). Be sure to include a head shot and signature of the person that the email is coming from. This is an important part of relationship building.
    • In a sentence or two, describe what they can expect in your emails and how often they can expect them. This sets the level of expectation and builds trust.
    • Ask them for their candid feedback about your product or service. This can be as simple as sharing your social media sites and letting the recipient know you value their feedback. This indicates this will be a two-way relationship and they can continue to be engaged with your brand outside of just your inbound hiding behind his keyboardDon’t hide behind the keyboard. Using pictures of your employees or videos in your emails is also a great way to build trust. It can even be as simple as including a head shot photo of the person that is providing the content—this can go a long way in growing a relationship (just like I did in this article). People always want to put a face with a name; it builds trust and shows accountability.Think about who is the face of your company or organization and what role they can have in your next e-newsletter.

4. Continuously grow your email contact list

Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is a good email database. Successful email marketing is largely dependent on the interest from the audience. It’s important to provide ways for your target audience to subscribe to your emails or e-newsletter. In your emails, don’t hesitate to encourage recipients to share your awesome email with a friend.

Always be sure you are capturing emails of people when they:

    • Come to your website (include an email sign up on the Home page)
    • Visit your booth and show genuine interest in your company or organization at a trade show (have an enter-to-win contest that clearly states you will add the entrants to your mailing list)
    • Use their social media accounts (use your Facebook, Twitter, etc. to remind people about your e-newsletter or exclusive email offers)

No surprise that in retail, consumers are far more likely to subscribe or want emails from a business that has special deals and new information about a product or service; the ultimate goal is to get the consumer to take action.

5. Mobile compatibility is a must.

2013 study found that among U.S. adults, email is the most popular activity for users to do on their smart phones. Of mobile phone users, 78% of the respondents in the study revealed that they check their email on their phone.

The good news is, most of the email distribution providers offer mobile capability. The reason is because, just think about how many people are likely to open your email not only on a computer, but on a cell phone or tablet.

When sending out your email, think about when your target audience is most likely to open their email or be on their computer. For example if you’re a restaurant, sending an email at 9 p.m. with a coupon for a dinner offer isn’t going to give people a chance to take instant action. Instead, send the coupon at 12 p.m., giving your audience time to get the email and claim your offer and food by dinner time.