Email marketing campaigns are one of those things that you either love or hate, and you’re more likely to hate them if you don’t really understand how to make them deliver. Even though the keys to email success aren’t exactly secret, an email campaign can seem overwhelming to the uninitiated.

Start With a Plan

Every great marketing campaign starts out with a plan and a goal. Do you want to get people to sign up for something, visit your site, give you information or to simply see you as an expert? Establish your email marketing goal before you move forward so you can design the right type of copy the first time.

For example, if you’re trying to establish your authority about a subject through email, you might offer a newsletter with a sign-up through your website. Another good use of email is to sell something new to an existing customer and may take the form of an announcement of the latest and greatest products at your online shop or of a monumental sale you’re having.

Write Compelling Copy

When you write any sort of marketing copy it needs to excite the reader, but with email this goes double. Think about how much email garbage you get every single day — your own inbox should tell you that the competition is fierce. That means you’ve got to really understand your audience. Start by segmenting them if you need to, dividing along useful metrics like existing or new customer, or along age and gender lines.

Once you’ve got your email list into a manageable form, you should target your copy to your audience to the point that they each ask themselves “was this written just for me?” Address a problem your segment is facing that your product or service can handle or give them an incentive they’ll appreciate (like a coupon or a preview of a new product line).

Adopting a relaxed writing style, to the point of being truly casual, is more likely to get results with email. You still want to keep your message clear, be that “buy these pants!” or “this newsletter is about pants,” regardless of the writing style you choose. Emails with concise subject lines and a message that’s to the point are exactly what it takes to increase your email open rate.

Just like with social media, you’ve got to do more giving than receiving with email campaigns and leave the hard sales messages at home. The days of pushy marketing are over, even for email, now we do our best selling with a light touch that makes customers wonder if they were sold to at all.