If you bought a nice car two decades ago, would you expect it to still run well if you put in minimal maintenance?

What about that house you bought two years ago? Lots of work, right? But if you've put time and care into it, you are likely proud to show it off when friends and family come over in the summer to eat hot dogs and burgers.

Then why do you not put in this same time and effort into your email marketing?

It amazes me that some companies drop email marketing because it doesn't yield results or because it's too time consuming or expensive. Yet, they'll waste time and money on print ads... and wonder why their sales are stagnant.

It's pretty simple: Your email marketing is insufferable because you don't care about it.

If you do care, you'd do the following five things.

1. Use a real ESP (email services provider). If you're still sending emails from Outlook, give up. That is the equivalent of using dial-up for your Internet connection—and you'll deal with all manner of deliverability issues, lack of metrics, and blacklisting problems. Yes, you'll have to pay for a real ESP—but it's worth it.

2. Build a real template using a knowledgeable HTML pro. Generic templates often look like generic templates, so why are you using them? Your business is unique, so why squeeze yourself inside someone else's creative box?

Whether you find an email services company or an HTML freelancer who knows his or her stuff, building a custom template allows you some freedoms and puts some polish on the email delivery of your content. You can reuse the content to publish the newsletters on your site, a bonus for search optimization.

3. Send out regularly. If you don't send emails regularly, people are more likely to forget that they signed up and so might flag your emails as SPAM. That doesn't mean you should email every day; but, depending on your program, keep to a regular schedule. The response to your campaigns and resulting metrics will help guide you on how much is too much.

Which leads me to...

4. Look at your reports often. More than any other marketing medium, email has the power to tell you everything you need to know—and then some—about how your campaign performed. Open rates, click-through statistics, number of shares—it goes on and on.

But when was the last time you really delved into your reports to see what's working and what isn't? If asked what's moving the meter and what your top performing links were from your last campaign, could you answer?

How much you can do with the information found in reports is astounding. Chances are, you're not reviewing this information enough to make decisions on what to try next.

5. Ask what else you could be trying. Three quick-hit examples:

  • Cart abandonment. If your site uses shopping carts, you could send emails to those who abandoned their carts, to offer them a chance to purchase with a discount.
  • Split-testing. Send out two versions of an email to see which performs better. It could be a subject line, a different header image, or two completely different sales approaches. Try both, and learn from the outcome. (Try doing that with a print ad!)
  • Targeting. A hot word in marketing is geo-targeting, but you've always been able to do it with email marketing. In fact, if you have the data, you can target however you'd like (gender, location, company, etc.). The sky's the limit.

I understand that in a quick-post world of social media, keeping up a high-performing email marketing program may seem like too much of an effort. But much like any other communication strategy, it takes time and effort to make it work—and, more important, make it profitable.

Trust me: You can find the time, and it will perform like the No. 1 pick in your fantasy football league. The technology is there, the capabilities are there, and pros are available to help enhance your email marketing. No more excuses. The next move is up to you.

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The Real Reason Your Email Marketing Is Insufferable

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Josh Nason is the inbound marketing manager at Dyn Inc., an infrastructure-as-a-service company that specializes in enterprise DNS and email services. Follow him at @joshnason, @dyninc, and @sendlabs.