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Keep a clean layout
Make it spaceous and uncluttered with plenty of border. Place your logo in the top left corner followed closely by a headline which explains your message.
Use colour! But avoid red text as this can increase your email's spam rating.
Include links to your website
Pictures speak louder than words. Including attractive images will save you the trouble of long descriptions. Give all images a relevant name with Alt text. This will be useful if your recipient is blocking images. That way the name of the image at least will be displayed.
If you are an html designer, forget coding your body tag, as Hotmail, Gmail and Yahoo mail will strip any css from here. Use a 100% width table coded with inline css. Borders will not display in many email clients either, but you can work around this by adding a 1 pixel column on either side and setting its background colour, or by nesting one table inside another larger table and giving them two different background colours.
Update your email contacts
Spam Filters are constantly adapting to an ever changing email environment. Some filters learn from what the recipient classes as spam. Every time they find something that looks spammy, they assign a score to it. For instance, the words "Click here!" might get you 0.7 points. Using bright red fonts might get you 2 points. Including the word "mortgage" might get you 1 point, but using the word "Viagra" will get you 5 points. Once an email exceeds a certain limit (set by the user), the email is classified as spam and thrown into the junk folder.
The Subject line of your email is the single most important line of your entire email campaign, so when your busy reader has two seconds to decide whether to open your email or hit the delete button, then a subject line like "February Newsletter" just isn't going to get their finger double clicking in your direction. February might be the most exciting month in your company's calendar, but try tell your reader why they should be excited too.
That doesn't mean it should all be in CAPS either, and you should avoid the use of characters outside the English alphabet and any more than one exclamation mark as this may send it plummeting into the junk folder.
When is good time to send?
Between summer vacations, outdoor events, and school being out, your contact's habits and attention span changes. Plan ahead to secure a date in someone's calendar, but also send a more detailed reminder nearer the time. People are in front of their computers less and use mobile devices more to check email. So it's a good idea to keep your email marketing light, bright and to the point.
And finally... Manners. Be the same polite well mannered character that you are in real life. Say please and thank you. Introduce yourself first and say goodbye at the end. People like to do business with people not companies.
If this is all too much to take in... Emaildesign.se would be very happy to put something together for you.