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While it's easy to fall into e-mail marketing traps such as lackluster content, sending too often or neglecting to test or segment, these are all digital crimes our industry needs to avoid. Here are four rules to help guide you:

Develop your e-mail strategy to look and act like a loyalty program. Consumers want discounts and exclusive, “in the know” content.

Offer your e-mail subscribers easy to produce yet helpful and timely content and information. Let subscribers hear about an upcoming event before anyone else.

Don't e-mail too often. High frequency is one of the biggest reasons for declining response rates and increased unsubscribe rates.

Use your metrics to guide you. Tailor follow-up content and future campaigns based on what subscribers are clicking on to ensure you are delivering what they want and respond to.

One of our clients, Chick-fil-A, recently reinvigorated its e-mail program to help drive sales, brand awareness and conversations. First, we defined what its customers wanted to receive in their inbox by surveying their e-mail subscribers, known as the E-mail Insiders. Chick-fil-A wanted to break away from the typical strategy of using e-mail only to broadcast its promotions and coupons to subscribers.

The overall approach combined product announcements and promotions with broader, brand-related content to drive customers both online and offline. The new strategy included increased ways for subscribers to interact with those messages through new social sharing features, store locator buttons and online event reminders.

In the end, more than 75% of Chick-fil-A e-mail subscribers said an e-mail inspired them to visit a store and more than 70% said they read every e-mail the brand sends. It also helped drive the growth of its Facebook fan page.

The E-mail Insiders program has quickly evolved from a list that was used on an ad hoc basis to promote a specific promotion or event to a program that became a digital communication hub for the company and its subscribers.

Simms Jenkins is CEO of BrightWave Marketing. Reach him at sjenkins@brightwave marketing.com.

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