Earlier in the year, email marketing solution firm Return Path released its Global Email Deliverability Benchmark Report, 2H 2011 which examined the deliverability rates of “over 1.1 million messages across 142 internet service providers (ISPs) across the world from July 1 to December 31, 2011 using data from our Mailbox Monitor product that tracks if mail is delivered to the inbox, spam folder, or never delivered at all.” The study’s results do not bode well for the industry. Here are the most notable findings:

  • Worldwide, emails not delivered increased 20% when compared to the first half of 2011.
  • Almost 25% of retailers’ emails never reach the inbox.
  • Only 8% of all messages delivered to the inbox at Gmail are considered a priority.

Regardless of these findings, a MarketingSherpa survey cited by HubSpot revealed that email marketing is a top priority for companies. “‘Delivering highly relevant content’ ranked first among large and mid-sized companies (70% and 62% respectively), and second among small businesses (71%),” the survey disclosed.

The high prioritization of email marketing is understandable. With mobile technology expanding at a remarkable pace, email is still the primary mode of communication for millions of people around the world. A Comscore study from January showed that “89.6 million Americans access their email through their phones” and “64% of these users check their email everyday through their smartphones” — a number that is growing by 30% every year, says SmallBizTechnology.

Is email marketing dead? Absolutely not, but it does appear to be losing its effectiveness.

So, what can companies do to tilt the scales back in their favor?

There are a number of (generally obvious) pros and cons of email marketing. On the positive side, e-mail is cheap, it saves time, and it’s traceable. The flip side is that filters can make it unreliable and, if overused, emails can be damaging to a brand’s reputation.

Without diving into metric analysis techniques, here are a few easy tips to maximize those pros and minimize the cons.

1. Make it easy to subscribe – Less is more with sign-up forms. Don’t expect users to fill out pages of information fields just to get a newsletter. For the information you do request, keep it simple. Do you really need to know the name of the subscriber’s Grandmother’s three-legged dog’s favorite chew toy? I didn’t think so. That said, at least ask for a name. Nobody wants to be identified by their email address.

2. Use a recognizable email address and “From” name – Subscribers signed up for YOUR emails, if they don’t instantly know that it came from you, chances are they won’t open it. Emails from “offer[at]mxpp322ochat.com” will immediately end up in everyone’s trash if they haven’t already been sorted as spam.

3. Keep the Viagra lingo to a minimum – Don’t fill the life-or-death subject line with phrases like “Make More Money Now!!!” or “Free Designer Bags!!” As true as either of those statements may be about the content of your email, people don’t want to feel as though they’re being misled, duped or scammed.

4. Personalize the email – Put the name you requested to good use. One of the most talked about trends in marketing right now is the user-brand relationship. Adding a name to the top of the email helps strengthen that.

5. Let the subscriber contact you – Again, this helps build the brand relationship. Readers don’t want to be told what to buy or do, they want to create a dialogue about their interests. Don’t come across as a pusher.

There are countless useful websites, books, studies and publications about email marketing, so if you’re looking to boost the effectiveness of your campaign a little research can go a long way. HubSpot, which recently partnered with analytics company Performable, is a great place to start.