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Email is the most important channel of communication you can establish with your target audience. When a person provides you with their email address, they are inviting you into their sacred space. Seth Godin refers to this as “permission marketing.”

Email is digital marketing customized and delivered to an individual instead of a mass audience. Social media is mass marketing. Email is customized for an individual around their particular stage of relationship with your business. Even better, email enables your business to interact with customers in a very measurable way.

There’s much more that can be said about email marketing, but here are three basic principles to get started:

1. Capture Email Addresses

Email marketing isn’t effective unless you have a growing list of email addresses from prospective customers. How do you capture email addresses? Ask for them. It sounds simple. Don’t steal them or buy them. Ask for them.

Your business website needs to prominently and persuasively invite people to opt-in to receive regular communications from your business. Type “grow your email list” into your search engine, and you will discover countless ways to entice people to provide you with their email. You must continually grow your email list to be effective.

2. Deliver Compelling and Relevant Content

How many times have you hit the “unsubscribe” button at the bottom of an email? I do it at least once a month. Why? The content isn’t relevant or compelling enough to keep taking up space in my inbox.

Email is compelling when it is simple, practical, and actionable. Email is relevant when it touches upon a problem or goal of interest to me. If your business sends me compelling content about the effectiveness of billboard advertising, I will likely unsubscribe. It may have been compelling, but it wasn’t relevant. I’m interested in digital marketing channels not traditional marketing channels.

Unlike social media, email can be customized based on the stage of relationship the recipient has with your business. They may be a cold contact, lead, an actual customer, a lapsed customer, or any other category fitting your business model. Your business can use email to move them forward in the sales process with content relevant to their stage and category.

3. Track and Adjust

Email enables you to track the interest of a customer through clicks and conversions. You can know who opened your email, and who clicked on your action button.

We’ve helped our non-profit clients improve their fundraising efforts through email marketing. People who continually open their organization’s email move up the ladder of priority for contact from a fundraiser. People who open and click on the action item get even higher priority. Why? Because the analytics indicate these people have a keen interest in the work of the organization compared to others.

If the open and click rates aren’t good, then your business or organization needs to adjust. You need to experiment with a better subject line or more compelling content. Email is agile. If it doesn’t work, you can make changes until you get the desired results.

Digital ads and social media enable you to talk to your target audience as a crowd. Email enables you to talk with your target audience individually. Like any aspect of marketing, email is more complex once you get into it. Hubspot and MailChimp have great resources to help you with the various aspects of email marketing campaigns.

Email is the most effective form of content marketing. It enables your business to move people forward in the sales process in a customized and measurable way. Make a plan, get started, and make adjustments until you get the desired results.