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Email marketing is one of the most important vehicles for reaching new and existing customers. Companies utilize email marketing to showcase new products, introduce new promotions and re-engage customers who haven’t shopped in a while.

According to Aberdeen’s Marketing Executive’s agenda, 90% of companies allocated marketing budget for email marketing in 2012. Since then, companies have not only been expanding transactional email programs to further engage users, but more than 60% are planning to increase marketing email spend in 2015.

Additionally, the Direct Marketing Association reports that for every dollar spent, $42.08 is the average return on email marketing investment; it’s no wonder email campaigns can deliver such massive financial gains. Unfortunately, many email marketers don’t see ROI anywhere near this average because 20% of legitimate marketing emails never even reach the recipient’s inbox.

With rapidly evolving “spam traps” and increasingly clogged inboxes, CMOs should consider the following tips for how to keep their company’s email out of the spam folder.

1. A/B Test Email Campaigns

A/B testing is a great way to measure the success of your email campaign. Try creating two or three different email campaigns, then send them out to segmented groups. Based on click-through rate and engagement, pick the most well received email campaign as the winner for your full email campaign.

2. Prevent Spam Complaints

All the discounts, sales, special offers and product launches can actually be exciting to some recipients. Unfortunately, the deluge of emails can also be overwhelming for most consumers. Don’t be shy about making the unsubscribe button more prominent. If a consumer has to look for the unsubscribe button, they can easily find the spam button. An unsubscribe isn’t the worst thing that could happen to your email list, a spam complaint is much worse and can ruin your sending reputation.

If you don’t feel comfortable with making the unsubscribe button more prominent, offer recipients a chance to “down-subscribe” or opt-out of your emails in your preference center. This removes recipients from the extra emails during the specific seasons or situations, rather than unsubscribing all together.

3. Focus On Formatting

Today’s email recipients access their accounts via a range of devices, so it’s vital to cater to smartphones, tablets and desktops to avoid being redirected to spam. Include a plain text version in HTML email and make use of responsive design templates. In general, .jpg, .gif, .png and .pdf attachments are safe to send, provided you include some content in the email as well. However, executable attachments such as .exe, .zip, .swf, etc. should be avoided entirely.

If you need to email a large attachment or an attachment type that usually can be flagged as spam or trigger virus scanners, we recommend a service such as DropBox.com. If the attachment contains sensitive data, you may consider using your company’s secure FTP server.

4. Don’t Overuse Images

Marketers are often tempted to go big on visuals for their email marketing campaign, but forget that – they increase the risk of emails being classified as spam. Do not send an image-only email and optimize your images the best you can. If images are unavoidable, emails should be sensibly balanced with at least two lines of text per picture.

5. Make Data Your New Best Friend

Good email deliverability comes from knowing how to send the right message, to the right person, at the right time, with the right frequency.  Dig deep into your engagement metrics to determine if you are sending to the right person. If someone hasn’t opened an email you’ve sent them in months, it’s time to cut the cord. If you see a big spike in your unsubscribe rate after a specific campaign, that’s your data telling you that your message wasn’t what recipients were expecting.

Performance metrics, on the other hand, don’t have to stop at the click. Integrating your email data with your web analytics tools is essential to getting an understanding of how email visitors engage with your site after the click. It’s also pretty easy. For most of you, it will be as simple as adding a parameter to the end of your links.

You’ll be surprised how influential a really well executed email can be in motivating a user even after they’ve reached your site. And these data insights can have a much greater impact on your bottom line than paying for additional features from your email marketing service.

Follow these tips and your streamlined approach will help turn your email campaign into a springboard for increased sales in 2015.

aaron beachAbout the Author: Aaron Beach is a data scientist at SendGrid with experience in email services, energy systems, privacy, social networks, mobile apps, natural language processing, recommendation systems and Big Data. He has a PhD in Computer Science and has published over 25 research papers.

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