Email marketing is a very effective way to keep your core audience engaged. Forget about an auto responder that fires off a prewritten sequence of emails to every subscriber on your list – or that continues to hammer a subscriber until a purchase is made or he or she opts out.

An email newsletter should be designed to provide useful information on a regular basis, keeping readers interested in and engaged with your brand.

1. Set a clearly defined goal. Before starting to build your list and sending out emails, determine a more specific goal for your newsletter than securing opens and clicks -- such as generating leads or sales, or directing traffic to your website or other online content.

View an email newsletter as part of your overall content-marketing strategy. rather than as a stand-alone marketing segment. This will help with identifying  goals and analyzing effectiveness.

Related: The Generic Email Newsletter Needs to Die

2. Establish a frequency schedule. Determine how often your newsletter will go out. Some businesses need to be in touch with those on their list multiple times a week, while a monthly or weekly newsletter suffices for others. Once the frequency is set, the delivery should remain consistent. Failing to deliver on time can result in subscribers’ opting out and losing interest in your brand.

3. Create a newsletter template. Brand your newsletter in some way, so it stands out from all the “plain” emails out there. Before you send your first dispatch, determine the layout.

Think about readability: Readers should be able to quickly scan a newsletter to identify points of interest and then easily read and engage with them. Don't worry about making your newsletter flashy or fancy. Instead consider how to make it easy to read, especially on mobile devices. A large percentage of your readers will probably access your newsletter via a mobile device.

Related: 7 Tips to Make Your Email Marketing More Mobile-Friendly

4. Create your newsletter content. You don’t want to just send out prewritten messages; create content for each newsletter. Don’t compose it too far in advance so the content will be as current and fresh as possible.

Every “issue” should provide recipients with information of value. Introduce brand-new content in your newsletter or recap content produced since the last newsletter with brief overviews and links to it.

Whether you succeed in bringing your readers value will be reflected in your newsletter’s unsubscribe rate.

Give the newsletter  a “personal” feel so it won’t seem like an overly promotional advertisement. Readers will interact more with a newsletter if they feel that it is  intended to truly benefit them and not just sell something. The text in the body of your email and what you share will help brand you and your business.

5. Proofread your newsletter and visually enhance it. Take the time to read the text to ensure it’s free of spelling or grammatical errors. You don’t need flashy graphics or images, but style the email text so that it is easy to digest. Establish calls to action and make them easy to identify and access.

6. Create your subject line. While this is just one line of text, your subject line can make the difference between a high open rate or a low one. There is no “one size fits all” solution.

Test different subject lines for each newsletter. Over time you will see what readers on your list respond to. Continue to optimize and test things until you reach the desired open rate. Try very descriptive subject lines, then subject lines that reference your brand and even very simple subject lines such as “Open me.”

Related: Why Marketers Should Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Unsubscribe Button

7. Be sure your email marketing complies with antispam legislation. Only email those who've granted you permission to email them and include an unsubscribe link at the bottom of the communication with your address.

Use of an email service such as AWeber, MailChimp or Constant Contact is a good way to ensure antispam law compliance.

8. Mail, then review your email data and goal conversions. After you've crafted and emailed the perfect newsletter, wait a few days or even a week to dive into the data. It can take a while for some people to get to their email and a few may glance at your newsletter on a mobile device and return to it on a computer days later.

See what your open rate was for the newsletter overall and which content drew the most interaction. All this data can be used to plan the next issue  Craft your next subject lines keeping in mind the previous one with the highest open rate and include material related to content with the most clicks and engagement.

Related: How to Create a Successful Local SEO Strategy