Last week the online buzz was all about Gmail Priority Inbox. A great solution for users who can now deal with email overload more effectively has become a challenge for email marketers, as relevant communication just became more important than ever.
Ever since Google announced their new Gmail feature, there’s been an ongoing discussion. Some say it presents a challenge to email marketers, while others already see it as an opportunity that will have the overall effect of decreasing inbox clutter.
How does this work?
As you probably know already, with the new priority inbox, Gmail now assigns incoming mail to three categories: “Important and unread”, “Starred” and “Everything else”. This means Gmail users now have more control over their mail without setting up complex rules in their inboxes. Over time, the mailbox “learns” which emails are opened, read, answered or deleted and bases its actions on user behavior. Users can easily adjust it by adding other messages to the categories. Of course, the longer they use the account, the better the filter gets at categorizing their emails.
What does this mean for email marketers?
Helping users deal with unwanted emails is likely to become a trend for other ESPs, sooner or later. Hotmail has already introduced “Sweep” and Yahoo! is also categorizing users’ emails. So the challenge for email marketers is to convince Gmail users to “teach” their filters that messages from you are important. If you haven’t been engaging them in effective communication so far, now is a good time to start.
As the short film explaining the new feature shows, the key word is “personal”.
How do you deal with the Priority Inbox challenge?
Fortunately, email marketers have an array of tools to increase the relevance of their email marketing campaigns and make it to the subscriber’s priority inbox.
- Permission-based communication
Do not contact recipients that did not explicitly request to receive your mailings. That’s the golden rule.
- Personalization and customer-centricity
The main idea is to make your content relevant and focused on the needs of the customer. Sending emails based on customer profile or purchase history will definitely increase engagement. Personalizing the FROM field in your messages is a must.
The more relevant data you gather during your sign up process, the more accurate your communication aimed at particular groups of customers can become.
- Compelling subject lines
They’re your first chance of getting your email read. This means you should now really concentrate on your copy. Make sure you use effective, non-spammy keywords to capture the reader’s attention (and not turn them off).
Encourage your recipients to reply to your emails or click on links included in them with clear calls to action. This will send a positive message to their Gmail filter.
- Design and HTML best practices
This is simple – if your emails are well-balanced, good-looking and, most importantly, delivered to your subscribers as planned, they are more likely to be read and have the desired effect.
- Consistent sending schedule
Let Gmail know you’re a regular “visitor”. But don’t overdo it – it’s much more likely for a subscriber to mark your messages as unimportant if you irritate them with a barrage of emails right now.
- Transactional emails
Take a closer look at them – they’re the ones that are most likely to be opened and acted upon. Make them engaging for the user and extend this to the rest of your mail.
- Requests to subscribers
Ask your subscribers to add your address to their address book, making you a priority sender. You might also send your subscribers a reminder sometime soon, asking them to mark your emails as important. Just make sure those emails are also what the subscribers expects to receive.
If you already have an effective email marketing strategy, your emails have a much higher chance of being categorized as “important”. It’s also worth remembering that users will still look through their “Everything else” inboxes to see what’s escaped the Gmail filter. Your job as email marketers is to make your emails as appealing and engaging as possible – but this should always be your top priority. After all, isn’t relevance what successful communication is all about? It’s just that some marketers simply tend to forget about it.
Let us know how you’re dealing with the Priority Inbox Challenge. We’re also preparing a post which will describe in detail the latest changes in email clients – plus give you more tips on how to stay in your subscribers’ inbox, so stay tuned!