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Social media is the darling of digital marketing these days. With so many platforms available to interact with clients and consumers, it's not surprising that many communications strategies are focused around tools such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

But in the rush to stay on-trend, companies might be skipping the only digital outreach method they have complete control over: e-mail. The now somewhat old-fashioned communications tool is seeing a resurgence thanks to its inherently opt-in nature, with readers weary of information overload eager to let someone else do the curation. And a bonus for marketers: Unlike third-party platforms, which hold the keys (and charge admission) to a company's list of hard-won followers, e-mail lists and statistics remain fully on their side of the gate.

Ready to build – or revive – your e-mail marketing? Follow these steps to success.

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Build your list

E-mail campaigns don't work if you've got no one to send them to. Even if your company's still in launch mode, it doesn't hurt to add an e-newsletter sign-up to your website placeholder. Already established? Make sure your registration form is easy to use and easy to find. Incentives such as free e-books or coupons can help encourage people to subscribe.

Keep it legal

Canada's anti-spam legislation (CASL) introduced last year spells out serious penalties for organizations who misuse e-mail. Keep it above-board by only contacting people who have requested your e-mails, and always offering an easy way for them to opt out. Major e-newsletter tools such as MailChimp know the ins and outs of the rules and make it easy to manage your lists legally.

Think quality over quantity

Bigger sign-up numbers don't mean bigger return on investment. Better to have a smaller list of people who really want to hear from you than a larger list of the disengaged. Similarly, a more-frequent newsletter isn't necessarily a better one. E-mailing customers too often – especially with messaging they find annoying – is a sure way to provoke them to unsubscribe. Tie frequency to something relevant (such as product drops or event registration), and be clear to anyone signing up what they're getting in for.

Have a plan

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Before you start sending e-newsletters, know what you want to achieve with them. Is it product awareness? Branding? Sales? Attendance at events? All of the above? Set out some goals and plan how you'll measure success.

Remember mobile

With so many consumers accessing their e-mail via smartphones, it's essential that your messaging look good on every kind of device.

Put yourself in the recipients' shoes

Rather than deciding what goes in the e-newsletter based on sales goals, think about what subscribers might like to see, click on and engage with. Write subject lines that are informative, not vague. In choosing which products or content to promote, think benefits, not features.

Be interesting and on-brand

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A successful e-mail campaign is a well-read e-mail campaign. Interesting means different things to different audiences – new product or service announcements, relevant articles or even funny videos might be right for your subscribers – but above all, e-newsletters should contain content that's on-brand, keeps people engaged and makes them look forward to the next instalment.

Kat Tancock is co-founder of Tavanberg, a Toronto-based content agency focused on helping brands connect with customers through standout storytelling.

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