Your customer list is among your company's most valuable assets.  By signing up for your list, they are expressing curiosity and/or trust in your offering.  Don't let them down.  Your list is your gold, so treat it with the care it deserves.

Before anything else, make the goal of every outbound email to provide value to your client.

Think about the email you receive that you hate.  Why do you hate it?  Chances are, it falls into one of these categories:

1.  You can't immediately recognize the sender or subject.
2.  It's not from a retailer but includes a value-less sales pitch.
3.  It's loosely related to something you already receive and an obvious clue they got your name from another vendor.
4.  You didn't sign up for it.
5.  It's "broken" in some way.
6.  The message adds no value.  For example, you live in an apartment and someone is trying to sell you vinyl siding.
6.  There isn't a relevant "Call to Action."

On the day you send your email campaign, every person on your list will receive a lot of other offers.   Here's how to improve the chances of yours being the one they read and take action on:

  1. It's clear who it is from.  Something in the "from" line conveys relevant meaning to your list.  Avoid generic senders like "me, customer service, postmaster" - these can be captured by spam filters.
  2. The subject line is relevant to the value added, for example "10 Tips for Reducing your Tax Burden" sent to a list of business people.  I recommend running possible subject lines through Spam Assassin and split testing a couple of different ones to your list.  
  3. The offer to buy products or services comes after the value but there is a clear call to action, for example "Sign up for our next class on tax savings for small business."
  4. Use a reputable email service provider.  You must build trust with your list so they need to have an easy way to opt-out of your list, forward the email to someone else or change their subscription.  The opt-out process should be immediate.  The more steps someone has to go through to leave your list, the angrier they will be.  And, you need to be compliant with the CanSpam law, even if everyone else isn't.
  5. If someone replies to your email with a complaint, resolve it promptly.  Make sure your subscribers know that real people are behind the email and they are valued as a member of the list.
  6. And… test… test your email in various email clients and browsers.  It may look great in Firefox 3 and IE7 but it could be a disaster in another browser or email client.  I like MailChimp's Inbox Inspector.  Submit your email to the inspector and in an hour or so, you'll have a great report on how it looks in a wide selection of email clients.  It's a small investment to make to deliver a better email.  
  7. Provide a feedback link in the email.  You never know when someone will give you an excellent content idea.
  8. And the most important tip, segment your list by product or service and only send people content that is relevant to their needs.  

It's challenging to communicate with clients and prospects because humans are blasted with more information in any day that we can possibly address.  Now, more than ever, the content of your communications needs to be high quality and client-focused.

If you need some inspiration, here are a few newsletters I receive personally that I think add value to their clients and prospects:

Music:  iTunes - New Music Tuesday
Cooking:  All Recipes - Daily Dish
Web Development:  Sitepoint Community Crier

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