This is a guest post from Denise Gabbard. It is part of The “Bad Ass” SEO Guest Blogging Contest.

Most people think that spam, Facebook, blogs, and other social media like Twitter killed email marketing as a means to communicate online.  However, most people are wrong. Businesses today engage in email marketing because it gives them a return on investment hovering over $40 per $1 spent, and outperforms all direct marketing channels. In a Forbes Media survey in the February/March 2009 issues, it was reported that business owners and executives say email marketing is second overall to SEO when it comes to converting lookers into buyers. Impressive, and tells you why businesses use it—it just works!

An email campaign is an ongoing marketing venture whereby you send out regular communications to customers and potential customers. The traditional email marketing approach was to build a huge list and push lots of messages out to the masses. This doesn’t work anymore, as it brands your company spammers, and can get you booted from your domain, and facing government sanctions.

The new way of doing things is targeting those who want to hear from you. Put together your list by asking your customers if they’d like to receive ‘newsletters’ from you on a periodic basis. You can ask them in person, over the phone, or on your website by embedding a “Sign Up” button for convenience. When you invoice a customer for a project or product sale, always include a CTA (call to action) for them to sign up for your newsletter, and even put a sign up link in your email signature. You can convert that happy customer into a lifetime customer if you keep in touch regularly. The point is making the effort to create a targeted, personalized list for your company will pay big dividends.

There are a number of online business tools that are useful for your email campaigns. Sites like Mail Chimp, Constant Contact, and Campaigner can help you set up your campaigns quickly and easily, and most offer a free trial so you can compare functionality.

When designing your email templates, readability should be your priority. Keep your paragraphs concise, with just a few sentences for each, and write compelling contact to encourage them to finish reading.  Another great idea is to keep your design less than 620 pixels, so that it can be viewed in email preview windows. (Also, large images take too long to load and can be abandoned easily.)   An important step is validating your code before mass mailing it. Email types interpret code differently, and you want to be certain there will be no glitches on their end and they can open and read your message.

Clearly, increased sales, brand loyalty, and reputation are the goals of email marketing campaigns. Your aim is to have a high percentage of recipients open your email and click-through any links that you placed in the email. Average rates of opening marketing emails have been shown to float around the 20-30% range, so do not expect everyone to open your mail. However, do continue tweaking your messages to appeal to more people and get a higher open rate.  For instance, a great graphic and web design company can create and execute a stunning email campaign that will make people take notice.