Email, the Internet's first killer app, remains an essential tool in the modern marketer's arsenal. Whether it's to introduce a specific product or service, burnish and validate a brand's offerings, or follow up post-purchase, email remains one of the most popular and effective channels for connecting with customers.

It's a noisy world, though. Consumers are bombarded with information at every turn. And vendors looking to reach a global audience (in today's economy, that could be any of us) have to exercise caution: Many countries have enacted stringent email-related policies to better protect their citizens' privacy. Canada's recent anti-spam law, for example, has effectively ended the longstanding practice of batch-and-blast emails, sent to prospects en masse regardless of their consent or opt-ins.

Creating lasting connections with powerful, personalized emails has never been more challenging.

Here are six tips to help you cut through the clutter while adhering to ever-changing government regulations and convincing your subscribers to stay loyal.

1. Get creative in eliciting opt-ins

Sending one-off blast campaigns to people who have not opted in carries the potential to reach more prospects only theoretically. Because those recipients aren't expecting your message, you run the risk of getting those messages flagged as spam. And if you continue sending to unengaged, random recipients, you're asking for an abuse complaint. Plus, purchased lists often have high bounce rates. Even worse, purchased lists may contain spam traps, which could get you blacklisted.

Building an opt-in email list from scratch can be tough, so it helps to get creative:

  • Send a postcard with a special offer, and encourage customers to go online to redeem it.
  • Make the option to opt in more prominent and accessible—say, with buttons or links on landing pages.
  • Promote your e-newsletter on your physical mailings, such as bills, account statements, or flyers.
  • Host an in-person event or a customer appreciation party and ask for email addresses as part of a drawing or raffle. Be sure to include opt-in language on every entry form.
  • You can also try your hand at content marketing: Offer compelling e-books, infographics, and videos, but gate them with a registration form of some sort to ensure a mutually beneficial exchange (contact information in return for high-value content).

Many marketers are hesitant to deploy humor in their missives, and they are cautious about addressing hotly debated issues and anything else that distracts from their product. Yet, often, those are the things your audience cares about most, so don't shy away—but do be tactful.

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image of Linda West

Linda West is the group manager of demand generation at Act-On Software.

Twitter: @misslindawest

LinkedIn: Linda West