By Tim Norman, director at SDL Web Content Management Solutions

Despite predictions to the contrary, email marketing is not dead and is still one of the easiest, cheapest and most effective ways to get marketing messages to many. What has changed, however, is the need for email campaigns to be relevant and engaging.

In an effort to avoid the spam folder or the delete button, email marketing is still very much in the game and best practices have emerged - employing email as a way of creating relationships with prospects and customers.

Content matters most

The last decade has featured a lot of discussion about choosing the right channel for your content and deciding which channel should go with which message. This conversation has changed, since audiences have become increasingly channel-agnostic.

Swamped by content, people are increasingly looking for ways to filter it. More specifically, they want to make sense of the information so that they can easily identify what is relevant and what is not. So publish your content sensibly. Creating high-impact, compelling and relevant content is far more important than selecting the channel.

Create flow through all channels

Your corporate website, print campaign and even social media presence should reinforce one another and provide email recipients with a unified experience. This means that email marketers need to take an integrated approach and align with the strategies of other departments too.

Recipients are less patient, so delivering relevant, targeted content based on customer information is even more important. It is not about delivery rate, but about click-throughs and conversion rates. One message can’t possibly fit all. A free scarf won’t raise a lot of excitement in Melbourne in December, but it just might be the perfect offer in Seattle.

You can send targeted email even if you don’t have enough data. For example, an email may contain three distinct offers for three different target groups. By tracking click-through rates, you get to know something new about these unknown audiences. These emails also give marketers the opportunity to create distinct landing pages that match the targets for whom the content was written.

Mobile phones challenge your email real estate.

Accessing email using mobile phones has changed the face of email marketing. Messages need to be shorter and more to-the-point. Complicated, graphics-driven emails are often unsuitable for mobile displays. Make every pixel matter.

Your reputation precedes you.

For better or for worse, a positive audience perception is based on multiple interactions

with brand and product in multiple channels–not just email. Creating engagement depends on everything your organisation does, so it needs to be integrated and strategic.

You can recapture the attention of subscribers who habitually click “Delete”. Try different things in the subject line and different offers in the body to re-establish your value.

Test your assumptions and measure response.

Calls to action can take any number of forms–from links to microsites to special offers to buttons. By testing these approaches, you can find out what works best.

Nurture the relationship.

Continue to stay in touch with your audience, trends in the marketplace and future opportunities. Never let your email marketing become “more of the same” since this is the quickest way to lose customer intimacy and miss future opportunities. Your value to the customer is based on a relationship, which requires care and attention.