Effective email marketing campaigns are part art, part science, and a hefty part understanding your target. The best ones inspire readers to take action: whether that action is to visit your website, reply to a survey, forward to a friend or make a purchase.

Figuring out how to make that happen is often a highly customized approach, but here are some tips for sending emails people actually want to read.

Be Consistent With Who You Are

Your business has a “personality”. That personality may be based on your own personality or it may be a combination of your values and goals for your business. As you figure out the personality and voice of your business, it is important that all of the marketing materials and communication you create is in line with that personality and voice. One way to ensure that all of your materials have the same personality is to establish a checklist that you will run all of your email content through before you send it to your mailing list.

How will you address the individuals receiving your email? Will you be quirky or serious? If the finished content of your email reads a bit boring, you may want to go back through and “add in” the personality to make it more interesting to read. Create a checklist of items to check before sending each email and you’ll maintain a consistent voice that will strengthen your brand and encourage repeat readers.

Create and Use an Email Template

Regardless of what software or web-based program you use to manage your mailing list and create your newsletters or emails, there are probably templates that will help you create visually-pleasing emails. Look for a template with a layout you can use for each of your emails. It should have a place for your logo and a few places to add your email content. The goal is to create a few pieces of interesting content that will link back to your website or blog in several places so people can take action from your email.

Print out a blank template and use it for planning and organizing your email ideas. Whenever you think of something to include in your weekly or monthly emails, you can jot it down on the template until you’re ready to work on it. If the idea doesn’t quite work for the current email, you can hang on to it until it better fits the message of your content.

What to Write About

Understanding the importance of sending emails as part of your marketing strategy is one thing, knowing what to write about is another! You want to avoid sending emails that simply talk about your products or services with a link to buy every time, since your subscribers will quickly remove themselves from your mailing list or stop opening your emails if that is all you send out. Know who your reader is, what sort of problems they experience, what questions they have, and what information they want to know – and then create emails that address their needs. Focus on providing valuable information, and as your relationship with your mailing list grows – so will their trust in you and eventually – your sales.

When you are on your computer, always keep an eye out for possible topic ideas for your own newsletter or emails. If you see people talking about a certain topic on Facebook or Twitter that relates to your services or products, make a note to include an article about that topic. If there is something in the newspaper that somehow relates to what you do, jot it down. Whenever you can provide “timely” content to your readers, you will have an increase in the number of people who read and take action based on your email. Keep a notebook or word document on your computer handy to add ideas as they come to you – then when it comes time to create your email, you can simply refer to your constantly growing list for ideas.

Include an Offer

Every email or newsletter you send should have some sort of offer, incentive, or reward for your subscribers. It can be something as simple as a $2 off coupon or promotional code to redeem on your website or by printing and bringing into your business. You can change your offer for each email you send out, and tie it into any promotions or themes going on with your business at the time, but you should include some sort of offer to email subscribers each time you send it out.

Keep track of all offers you include in your emails and see which ones are most effective in generating visits to your website or retail location – and which offers result in sales. That will help you see which types of offers work best in terms of generating revenue so you can repeat them in the future.