Have you ever received an email from a business, opened it, scratched your head, and said—”Huh?”

Or maybe you just deleted it because the subject line was less than compelling.

Sounds familiar, right?

But what if you’re the business who sent those emails? I’m pretty sure that’s not the response you were going for when you hit the “Send” button.

To avoid these less than stellar scenarios, stop and ask yourself these five questions BEFORE you send out your next email:

1. What is the goal of your email?

Do you want people to shop online, come into the store, share a sale with friends via Facebook or Twitter? Maybe it’s just to let them know about a new product or upcoming event you’re having. Whatever your goal, just make sure you have one before you start tapping away on the keyboard.

2. How will you measure the results of the email?

After all of your hard work crafting your email, you don’t want to make the mistake of sending it into cyberspace and not know if it fulfilled your goals.

Make sure the goal you choose is measurable so you can analyze the data and determine what worked and what didn’t.

You might have some software in place that tracks your online sales, or you can manually track coupons that people bring into the store. Better yet, if you’re running a SaveLocal deal, you’ll be able to track how the deal is doing in real-time 24/7.

Having this information will help you “tweak” your approach the next time you’re looking to send out an email or run a promotion.

3. What action do you want your audience to take?

OK, you’ve defined your goals and determined how you’re going to measure them. Great! Next question … what do you want the recipient to do? What is your call to action?

If it’s a sale and you want them to “SHOP NOW,” make sure you have a link back to your website or you provide a coupon to bring into the store. Does the recipient need a coupon code? Make it prominent in the email. What is the deadline for the sale and are there any special conditions? If so, make sure you spell them all out.

Bottom line: tell your readers what you want them to do and make it easy for them to do it!

4. Who is your audience?

When you send out an email, do you just include your entire email list? If so, have you ever stopped to think who’s on this list? Are they all customers, a mix of current customers, past customers, and potential customers? Do you know what products they normally buy or what information they’re interested in receiving?

The more you know, the better you can fine-tune your messaging and give your readers what they’re looking for. If you haven’t collected this information already, how about sending out an online  survey to get the answers you need to better segment your list. It’s been proven that the more relevant your emails, the more likely people are to read them and take action.

5. What do your readers need to know to take action?

If you want the email recipients to buy your products and services, give them a compelling reason to take action. Is your product or service going to fix a problem? Help them save money? Add a little fun into their lives? Whatever it is, make sure the email reflects that.

If you’re having a sale, make sure you include the dates of the sale (make it a short window for a better response). Put the date in the subject line to give it a sense of immediacy and a better shot of getting them to open it.

If you’re introducing a new product, tell the reader what’s so special about it, how much it costs, and why they should “BUY NOW.” You don’t want to leave them guessing—about anything.

So, don’t waste time, energy, and money sending out random emails “hoping” you get some sort of response. Take the time to ask these questions to carefully craft your email to get the best possible response.

Answering these questions up front will help you focus your communication, streamline the process, get your readers to take the action you’re looking for, and help take your business to the next level.

Do you have any other questions you think we should include? Tell us what they are in the comments.