Email marketing is still a worthwhile marketing tool for small businesses, even in this day of social media. In today’s guest post, Wikus Engelbrecht of GraphicMail shares the first of 10 tips for making your small business’s email marketing more effective.

1)    Choose the Best ESP for Your Needs

An ESP (Email Service Provider) hosts email marketing software online, which is specifically optimized to do the heavy lifting for bulk newsletter sending. Before you start emailing, it’s vital that you choose the best choose the best ESP for your business.

An effective service provider should offer both online and telephonic customer support / training, and provide all the tools and tutorials necessary to help you easily create a campaign. Your ESP should also offer a pricing plan that fits your budget, and have a reliable sending infrastructure with multiple high-speed connections and hardware redundancies, so you can send at any time or volume.

2)    Build a Relevant List of Contacts

The mailing list is the most important element in the success of your email campaigns. Responsible email marketing is based on permission, and a permission-based list built by yourself always yields the best results since you’re providing people with content that’s relevant and interesting to them.

Permission provides a foundation for delivering value, because the people on your address list have raised a hand and said “I’m interested in the emails you send.” What you really want is the biggest possible list of individuals who have asked to hear about what you offer – not just a lot of random email addresses.

3)    Leverage Contact Data for Better Targeting

Sending irrelevant or generic emails can be risky, as these may provoke recipients to ignore your messages or mark them as spam.

Since subscribers have individual likes, as your list grows it becomes important to identify groups that share similar interests and use segmentation (the practice of clustering addresses) to improve your results, by sending appealing content targeted to their specific wants.

In addition to studying campaign reports to see what people tend to click-through on; consider using a service that gives you access to subscribers’ social profile data – which lets you more relevant information. This in turn is likely to increase your open and click-through rates, improve website conversions and even sales derived from promotional mailers.

4)    Use Proper List Hygiene to Increase Delivery Rates

Internet service providers expect senders to keep their email lists “clean”—that is, clear of nonexistent or defunct addresses and full of real, active email addresses. It’s a sign of a good sender, since spammers typically don’t trouble to update their lists.

The higher the proportion of emails you send to “dead” addresses, the more your sender reputation suffers.

Habitually remove bad or regularly bouncing email contacts. Eliminate duplicate addresses manually if your ESP does not do this automatically as well as fake accounts, addresses that were entered as a prank, or ones that look like bogus usernames. Also search for and correct simple data entry mistakes like misspelled domains ( or, for example).

5)    Design Newsletters With Mobile in Mind

With email inboxes more crowded than ever, at least half of the battle is in finding ways to stand out from the masses with the quality of your design. And with the growing number of people checking emails on mobile devices there is also an increasing need to optimize emails for the small screen.

Subscribers tend to connect visually with an email newsletter and size up whether they want to read and act it in a matter few seconds; so let simple, direct and to-the-point rule your design – with appropriate image use and balance and a few bold elements to help arouse more interest.

Accommodate mobile subscribers by having single column design layouts, tighter subject lines, bigger buttons for links and an overall narrower message width that allows for easy up-down scrolling. And, of course, test to make sure the email renders on popular mobile devices.

Check back tomorrow for the rest of the 10 tips.

Wikus Engelbrecht is a writer, journalist and digital writer at GraphicMail, an international email and mobile marketing service provider. His professional career in language and media has traveled the film, print advertising, magazine publishing and online content industries since 2003.