With email volume on the rise, social and mobile siphoning off subscribers’ time, and an increase in popularity of inbox management applications that make it easier for people to deal with email by kicking much of it to the curb before it even arrives, it is pretty clear that the battle for inbox attention is on.

Here are a few changes you can make to your email program today that will pay dividends in subscriber attention all year long:

1. Make a great first impression. The first email a new subscriber should receive is a triggered message confirming the new subscription or transaction. The performance of triggered messages is vastly superior to business-as-usual emails because it is the one time when you know your audience is attentive and even anticipating a message from you. We put a lot of energy into newsletters and promotions but because the open rates and click-throughs of triggered messages are multiples higher, using them effectively can yield a higher ROI. You have one opportunity to make a great first impression with a new subscriber. Use your confirmation email to set the tone for the rest of your email program: be engaging, include links to your social sites and leave them wanting more. Simply telling them in machine-speak that their subscription is confirmed not only squanders nearly perfect audience attention; it also loses you the chance to build on the momentum they’ve started by subscribing in the first place, which pays off in every subsequent message.

 2. Trash the “All Subscribers” list. There is no message you can send to everyone on your list that will be relevant to them all. In fact, the more people you try to include, the less relevant the message becomes for each subscriber on it. So dump your “All Subscribers” list and put everyone instead into at least one segmented list. You know a lot about your subscribers already and now is the time to turn that knowledge into programmatic action. Even if someone has just joined your list, put them into a “New Subscribers” segment for the first 3 months and focus on introductory offers and educational content that teaches them about your brand and content.

3. Reserve the best content for email. There is a remarkable case study about how an electronics retailer named ZAGG identifies the best content before putting it in email. The company starts with a blog and posts 25-35 times every week. Each post is then posted out to its Twitter audience of 30K followers a couple of times. The posts that generate the most retweets and replies qualify for a run on the company’s Facebook page in front of 200K fans. Then, only the best-performing content that generates the most likes, comments and shares has proven itself worthy of inclusion in the company’s emails. ZAGG clearly places an enormous value on its email program and is also taking the steps necessary to preserve and even grow that value. It knows the content its subscribers receive is the best the company has to offer, which ensures that subscriber attention to the email channel remains high. Email drives sales better than social channels, so it is critical to maintain an open connection with your audience in the inbox for when you really need to move the needle on revenues, conference registrations, memberships, or whatever else moves your business forward.