You work hard to build your reputation as a legitimate marketer. But how do you know if your subscribers will even see your email? A lot of the things that are out of your control can send that carefully-crafted message straight into the spam folder.

Changes in the laws, ISP protocols and spam filter technology mean that email marketing is constantly evolving. You can stay a step ahead of the competition by knowing the latest best practices.

If you’re a marketer looking to boost click-through rates, consider these 12 killer email marketing strategies before you hit send:

Don’t be annoying. More than 62 billion pieces of junk mail are produced annually. More than 300 billion spam emails are sent annually. Sure, they don’t end up in our landfills, but spam can be even more annoying that unwanted paper mail. “More” is not always the answer. You can send emails several times a day—that sure doesn’t mean that you SHOULD.

Personalized email works. Modern day spammers have eliminated all elements of personalization. Their emails and social media posts don’t seem to know the audience at all, or even really want to. The more personalized your email is, the better it will convert. Segment your list based on user interests or prior behavior. “Dear friend” won’t cut it when you can say “Dear Mr. Henderson” instead. Find ways to make it happen, and you will reap the rewards.Your open rates will improve, and so will brand loyalty.

Incorporate lead intelligence into your process. Using leads in your marketing and sales processes means sending multiple versions of your email with customized offers to users based on their on-site behaviors and purchasing patterns.  Your lists should be based on interests. The old “spray and pray” method just isn’t cutting it in 2013.

Automate your marketing with workflows to segment leads. Make sure automation includes updating user profiles and lifecycle stage.Trigger timed emails based on all kinds of criteria. Use workflows to add or remove contacts from custom segments.

Be friendly. Marketers should make subscribers or customers feel like close friends. Ask them questions, give advice, and make them feel like you care. You’ll make connections and improve ROI as you build your customer base. Respond to every customer email quickly and with a personal response. If you have too many emails to respond, tough. HIRE MORE PEOPLE. This is important stuff. Make sure emails are sent from an individual name, a person they can identify with and get to know. A generic mailbox (especially with an address like “DONOTREPLY@yourcompany.com“) is going to sink your trust, likability, and potential for engagement. Finally, ask customers to “white list” you by adding you to their address book. Getting added to those contacts is the best way to avoid the spam folder trap.

Offer value. Make sure you’re offering the recipient some true value. You them to be just as excited about getting email from you as they would be to get a postcard from a friend. Give them something they want or need to sweeten the deal. An eBook could help them make a decision. A product recommendation could help them learn more about something.

Beware of rented lists. You can buy or rent a list of email addresses, but if they didn’t sign up for your messages they probably don’t really want them.

Don’t scrape. Mining email addresses from across the Web is not only unethical; it’s also a waste of time.

Keep the layout low-tech. You should offer both an HTML and a plain text version of your emails to give the reader options, but avoid Flash, javascripts, and video. Why? You’re lucky if people read past the first paragraph. Asking them to watch something in an email (especially if it requires software they may not have) is expecting way too much. Remember—this is email. They can go to your actual site to see the bells and whistles. By the same token, don’t embed forms in your emails; send people to a landing page on your site instead.

Alt tags. Your images need them so they can be read by all email clients.

Watch your language. Don’t use words like “free,” “guarantee,” and “no obligation” in your subject line or even the email body. These are trigger words that could send your offer into the spam folder. Also veer away from red fonts, exclamation points and ASCII hearts. And avoid using ALL CAPS in the subject line. You aren’t a 13-year-old girl, so don’t type like one. Follow the same rules you would follow when writing blog or site copy. Don’t overuse keywords. Be sure to check your spelling and grammar. And don’t write too much. Long emails don’t get read!

Don’t be shady. Use double opt-in after someone subscribes to send them an email with a confirmation link. This ensures they are really signing themselves up, and also reminds them of your new relationship. Don’t hide the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of your email. And make sure you honor unsubscribe requests. It’s a good self-scrubbing mechanism … And it’s the law.