The holidays are just a couple months away and retailers will be actively vying for consumer dollars. Email marketing will be a huge part of the marketing equation resulting in a huge uptick in email deployments. Email volume in Q4 2011 increased by 41.5% when compared to Q4 2010, according to the Q4 2011 Email Trends and Benchmarks by Epsilon and the Email Experience Council, so you should expect a similar increase this year. So how can you earn your fair share of consumer dollars when the competition is literally turning up the email volume to gain a larger share of voice? Don’t stress, just focus on the inbox! Most marketers tend to fixate on messaging when a lot of the heavy lifting comes beforehand, but none of that matters if your emails end up in the spam folder. Here are a few best practices that will help you stand out from the crowd. Get to the inbox. First and foremost, your emails have to reach the inbox. If they don’t, what’s the point? Therefore, make sure you delivery rates are in good shape by monitoring your deployments so you can maintain a good reputation. Authenticate your mail. This is prime time for spammers, which means ISPs will be taking extra precautions to prevent malicious email from reaching consumer inboxes. Help them identify that you are a legitimate sender by signing your emails with DKIM and SPF. By doing so, spammers will have a hard time sending mail that alleges to be from your domain. Avoid blacklists. Appearing on just one of the leading blacklists is enough to get you blocked by some ISPs. Do you know if you are currently on any blacklists? Now’s the time to double check to make sure your IP doesn’t make an appearance on any blacklists that might keep your messages from reaching the inbox. If you find yourself on a blacklist, get started on cleaning up your email list, reducing complaints, and finding a consistent sending cadence in order to improve your sender reputation before the end of the holiday season. Get permission: While it’s tempting to batch and blast email, it could negatively damage your reputation. You only want to send to those who requested it. And don’t just add subscribers from one list to your holiday list. If you need to build your list, start now. Deploy a campaign to encourage subscriptions. Clean your email file. ISPs are now looking at engagement metrics so you only want active subscribers on your list. Remove all the inactives that haven’t clicked on a link for the past six months. Also remove role accounts and invalids. Then, start paying close attention to your activity. For low responders, review messaging, frequency and cadence to see if you can get them actively engaged again.