As March Madness gets into full swing, there are lessons that email marketers can learn from watching the games. This March, college players are hoping their hard work, preparation and practice will pay off with a NCAA title.

Marketers, like the college teams, can use these five winning strategies to improve their email marketing game:

1. Study your competition

Research the email activity of other organizations in your industry. Some may not be sending email at all, giving you a significant competitive advantage.

If they do have an email marketing program, what are they doing well that you could incorporate into your efforts? Alternatively, what aspects of their game need work that you could capitalize on? Maybe the signup is hard to find on their Web site, or perhaps the opt-in form is too long. Is their content any good?

What's the value of your competitors' email offer vs. the value that you can offer your subscribers? Make sure you're offering a better value and communicating it clearly.

2. Make sure your uniform is clean and your shirt is tucked in

You don't want to look sloppy to your subscribers. Make sure you've tested your email in multiple email clients to ensure that it looks good to everyone. If you're using images, make sure that your message still comes through loud and clear in email clients that disable images.

Be careful of fancy footwork and hook shots. If you're using Flash, video, form fields, or other rich media, make sure it's going to work in all email clients. If it's not, maybe it's safer to just take the lay up: Include a link in the email that takes recipients to a landing page where they will be able to view these media.

3. You must make your free throws

There are shots in every game that you have to make because they're easy and they can make a big difference in the overall outcome of the game. Your welcome message is an easy shot, yet it's very important for the future success of your email campaigns.

This message should set the tone for your overall email marketing strategy: What emails should subscribers expect to receive from you and how often can they expect to receive them? It should also reaffirm that you do not share personal information (provide a link to your privacy policy) and give an easy way for recipients to manage their mailing preferences

Do all this with a style that is consistent with the rest of your email efforts—no granny shots! Too often, welcome messages are text-based poor attempts that barely bounce off the backboard.

4. Practice new plays before every game

Keep your strategy fresh by testing a different element of your message. It could be the subject line, landing page, offer, call to action, long vs. short copy, image-only design vs. text-and-image combo, etc.

Don't blindly accept the latest report of what helped one organization's email efforts. Test it yourself to be sure your recipients will respond in a similar way. Tests can be run as simple A/B splits or n-th level splits if your list is large enough to create a statistically relevant test split.

5. Stay out of foul trouble

CAN-SPAM violations, such as not having a working opt-out mechanism or physical postal address, can get you a seat on the bench or a league fine, or they can result in your ejection from the game.

Simple moves can pay off in points: Simply make sure that recipients have stated they would welcome email from your organization and take steps to ensure you don't wear out that welcome—so send relevant content and keep a close eye on frequency.

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Jordan Ayan is the CEO of SubscriberMail (, an email marketing services and technology provider.