The arrival of a new year can help motivate us to set goals that prompt great results. While eating healthy and getting more exercise are admirable New Year's resolutions, I'm thinking about something a little different: making the most of your e-mail marketing efforts. Why not set a goal to reach your personal best as an e-mail marketer in 2008?

This month I'm highlighting some e-mail marketing best practices to help you get started. I encourage you to pick at least one that you aren't doing and hold steadfastly to it this year. By doing so, you will find that e-mail marketing can make even more of a positive impact on your business or organization than it has so far.

  1. Grow your list at every turn. Every day there are opportunities to add someone to your e-mail list. Train yourself and those you work with to take advantage of every opportunity to grow your list. If you haven't added a sign-up box to your website, now's the time. If you have a store front, keep your e-mail book on the counter and ask every customer to sign it. Consider setting a goal to grow your list by a certain percentage this year.
  2. Spend more time on e-mails. If you want your e-mails to be valued by those on your list, put more time into them. Are you giving yourself enough time to think about what you're trying to accomplish? Are you giving your best effort to creating content that is interesting and useful to your list members? Do you have great ideas for e-mail promotions that you haven't put to work yet? Let this year be the year. The little bit of extra time and energy you spend on creating your e-mails can get a big return.
  3. Keep a clean list. Doesn't it feel great to sleep in clean sheets, eat in a clean kitchen or put on a clean shirt? We love when things are clean, but it takes work to get them that way. It's the same with your e-mail list. It might take some work to get rid of old e-mails and hunt down the issues for those being blocked, but it's worth it. And once you've spent the time to do a deep cleaning, the upkeep is easy. Make it your goal to give a little bit of time to list cleaning each month so you can get that good feeling that comes from having a sparkling list made up of people who want to hear from you.
  4. Test, test, test. Testing is the best way to determine what you can do to get optimal results from your audience. By testing, you can learn what day and time of day to send, what subject lines get the most opens, and what topics, promotions, offers, and calls-to-action get the best responses. Your open and click-through rates will give you the answers. By testing and using your findings you'll be better equipped to create highly effective e-mails. Make sure to take good notes.
  5. Segment your list. Dividing your list into categories based on interests, shopping habits, geographical locations or any other criteria you choose is an excellent goal for this year. Targeted marketing can make a huge difference in the responses you get from your e-mails. If you can communicate with your contacts about something that you know is of interest to them, you have a much better chance of getting them to open the e-mail, read it and act on it. The more targeted the message, the better the response.

I hope that one--or all, if you are ambitious--of these resolutions works for you. Tap into the potential of e-mail marketing and let this be the year that you reap the best results ever. Happy e-mail marketing!