Email marketing is one of the most effective ways for a business to promote themselves and increase sales but it must be done right in order to be effective.
In this article I will touch on the art of email marketing- (What works and what does not) and how you can get more bang for your marketing buck when selecting an email marketing service.
A word about spam.
Unsolicited email or “Junk email” also called “Spam” is living proof that email is a powerful way to reach an online audience. Spammers know that for all the emails trashed in every bulk mail out, they will still get a few unsuspecting readers who will click on their links and make a purchase. While their shotgun approach is annoying to the majority of us they still persist because of that reason. On the other hand, email marketing should not involve spamming a harvested collection of email addresses, but rather contacting a list of individuals who have actually said yes to receiving your material.
How to get people to subscribe to your mailing list.
Here are some of the ways to get people on your mailing list. 
The first and most obvious option is that they fill out a form on your website specifically designed for the job. You can add a special offer such as a free report, a tutorial, discounts or even a prize draw in exchange for their contact email.
The second way (if you are a local business) is to have some printed material such as a flyer with a special offer, competition or similar that people can fill out and return to you.
Hint: In all these cases, it is worth adding a note to your forms telling people that you will not share their email with other companies and that you will not swamp them with emails either.
The third way to get more subscribers is to actually purchase a list of verified email addresses from a reputable provider. They must be interested in your subject material and have opted in to receiving emails from you.
There are a number of companies that specialize in providing leads, but it is worth doing some homework to find out what value this method will give to you.
What works well in emails.
These items are very effective in encouraging readers to continue to look at the emails they receive from businesses. 
How to’s and tutorials. 
People love do-it-yourself articles that show them how to solve a problem. The added advantage of posting material like this is that you are not only helping existing customers and encouraging loyalty (and repeat sales) but you can use opportunities such as this to address potential issues before they happen and so reduce calls for customer support.
Video and Audio content.
This is the best format for the above, as well as tours, list goes on. Video gets noticed and is highly memorable in comparison to text. Audio sessions are great for podcasts too which means your listener can take your article with them. 
A pleasant layout with some color.
This will help make your email stand out from your competitors and add to the reader’s enjoyment. You can incorporate a template and produce something really effective.
Nice pictures that are both relevant and of good quality.
A picture paints a thousand words – so make sure you include at least one to illustrate your point. Include photos (they need not be professional) but in focus and a reasonable size. Hint: not too large though so they do not take several minutes to download.
Humor (in good taste).
A laughing reader is likely to be a repeat one. You might want to enlist the help of a cartoonist to create something original. Add a funny video, quote or even a brief story.
Relevant news . 
keep your readers informed on new products and developments and how improvements to your offerings will help them.
Competitions (with a nice prize).
You can gain a lot of interest from readers simply by creating a competition. 
An opportunity to share an opinion.
People will often happily share their thoughts if you ask them to because it gives a sense of belonging and community. It is also a very cost effective way of finding out what your customers want. Make it fairly short and offer a prize draw or other incentive as a token of appreciation.
What Does not.
Hard sell – “buy now!!!” will soon become “Bye now.” from your readers.
An email every day.
This is the death knell for emails via annoyance and plain overkill – try and control your enthusiasm to market by limiting your email frequency. This will give you time to produce quality content too. Quality beats quantity.
Bad layout (such as none).
Lots and lots and lots of text with poor spacing all crammed up with no places for the eyes to rest. (and besides who has time to read a newsletter that is 149 pages long during their morning break)?
 Lots and lots and lots of banners.
“Ohhhh my eyes my eyes!” Save the flashing logos and bright colors for Las Vegas.
Poor writing skills and grammar.
Forgetting to check for spelling mistakes is more than just another annoyance (believe it or not, but people are influenced by this). Poor spelling and grammar presents an unprofessional / lazy  picture for your readers.
What to look for when choosing an email marketing service.
A good email marketing service should have a number of features that will allow you to tweak things so you can get the most bang for your marketing buck. Here are a few features to look for… 
Firstly there needs to be flexibility and creativity to get your message across. 
This includes the ability to combine text with pictures and video as well as some html so you can make your message stand out. A good email is more than just a page of text – it needs to be memorable and the way to do that is by being visually creative. 
Secondly there should be a way to find out if your email marketing is being received and read. 
This feature is called tracking and basically means you should have a display somewhere that will show you exactly where your emails are going, what addresses are incorrect (your emails are undeliverable and bounce back) and what emails are actually being delivered, clicked on and read. 
Thirdly you must be able to automate and adjust everything so once you create an email you can set it to deliver to your recipients at a set time.
This can also include auto responders (An email that goes to a visitor as soon as they fill out a contact form or make a purchase from your website) which help you communicate with your potential customer when you are not online. You should be able to do split testing too (in other words create two different emails and send them to selected groups so you can find out which one works best).
Fourthly you should be able to see how your email list is growing over time.
Data like this is not just for statisticians and geeks who like to crunch numbers – it will help give you an insight into what is working overall so you can refine your marketing.
Marketing is an art, but with the right tools and know-how it can work for you.
Here’s to your success.

By Smiley