It seems like every time I turn on the radio, there's an ad for an email marketing automation tool. Constant Contact, Mailchimp, Emma, iContact and even Salesforce make it pretty easy for small and mid-size businesses to automate beautiful emails. Or for larger organizations, there are offerings like Marketo, Adobe Marketing Cloud and Eloqua.

But while the ads make it sound like these campaigns write themselves, they don't.

Email marketing is a delicate business. On one hand, you don't want to be an evil spammer. On the other, email is an efficient way to stay in touch with potential and existing customers.

I've been involved in many email campaigns through the years. Here's what I've learned:

1. Choose an email automation tool that fits the size of your marketing team.

Many of the more robust products really need a staff person at the reins. If you can't afford someone in that position, then turn your attention toward simpler software that requires little overhead.

2. Use a third party tool instead of Outlook.

You really need an unsubscribe button to give recipients the opportunity to opt out, and Outlook doesn't have that.

In some countries you might otherwise be breaking the law, such as the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation.

3. Protect personally identifiable information.

Use strong passwords with the service you use and never sell that information unless your privacy policy explicitly states you can (and even then it's still probably a bad idea). 

4. Don't take yourself too seriously.

Boring, dry emails get old fast and people will almost invariably unsubscribe (except your competitors).

Be yourself, be conversational and feel free to poke fun at yourself every now and then. This makes your organization a little more human. And it makes your job more fun.

5. Automate syncing contacts with your CRM.

Loading or syncing your contacts from your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool can be labor intensive and can cause technical misfires that end up adding people who have unsubscribed back in, or sending people duplicate emails.

Instead, whenever possible, choose a tool that has a plug-in or integration with existing tools you use at your organization.

6. Use email automation to cross-sell goods and services.

If you've already converted a lead to a customer then you will have the ability to potentially sell them other items in your portfolio.

Don't be too salesy, but do have multiple campaigns - those for prospects at each stage of the sales funnel and those for organizations who are already customers at various maturity levels - so the content is fresh and pertinent to them.

7. Use email automation to communicate more than just a sales pitch.

Don't use email just to hawk products. Send surveys or thought leadership content such as an interesting industry report to stay engaged with customers, as long as you don't do it too often.

8. Be timely.

If it's tax season, for example, tell customers and leads how your product can help them file their return. If it's April, talk about spring cleaning. If they've been a customer for three months, check in to see how they're doing.

9. Have a call to action.

Let's say you sent that email timed to tax season. Have a button with a call to action.

A great way achieve this is to coordinate a blog post and have a "Read more" button, and then a call to action within that post.

The longer you can keep a prospect's or customer's attention, the more likely they are to buy your product and stay with you.

10. Pay attention to when people unsubscribe.

This is simple - stop doing whatever it is you're doing that made them unsubscribe.

Remember, if people are clicking, you're succeeding. If they're not clicking and they're unsubscribing, you're not! Email can be a very powerful tool for interacting with customers - as long as you do it right.