Evolution of the Inbox

Recently, Google introduced its Priority Inbox for its Gmail web-based email service in which Google attempts to divine the relevance of an email message based on a variety of factors such as keywords and past interaction with other email messages.  Microsoft and Yahoo have announced similar initiatives.


Image: Google

These changes are the next stage in the evolution of ISP’s, web-email providers and other email related companies helping users manage their inbox. Even though each may take a different approach, all solutions strive to identify the relevant emails and block or de-prioritize the irrelevant.

I don’t see this a ‘game-changer’ for email marketers. If you provide engaging, useful content, you should be in good shape – just like 3 months, 6 months ago, etc. If you think email is just a cheap marketing channel where your ‘blasts’ are more of an afterthought than a well-planned, integral part of your program, you are still going to fail.

The following are a few recommendations as to how you can position yourself well in the era of the evolving inbox:

  1. Focus on your Subscriber – Ensure that you are putting yourself in the shoes of your customer and thinking about what content she really wants to receive.
  2. Use Segmentation – Improve your relevance by using all possible data to segment your list.  Use those segments in varying the frequency of emails, content delivered, etc.
  3. Start the Relationship on the Right Foot – Set expectations with your sign-up form and Welcome email about the type of content and frequency of emails.  Provide something of value in your welcome email so that your subscribers are likely to engage with that first email.
  4. Practice Good List Hygiene – Most subscribers who don’t want your email anymore aren’t going to click the ‘unsubscribe’ button.  They are just as likely to click on ‘Spam’ or do nothing.  Those that are emotionally unsubscribed can damage your relevancy score just like those who reported your emails as spam.   After attempting to re-engage a subscriber don’t be afraid to throw in the towel and remove that subscriber from your regular list.
  5. Grow Your List the Right Way – Stay away from promotions or activities that incent people uninterested in your brand to sign-up for your newsletter. Launching a contest that awards a car to a new subscriber would definitely grow your list but after the contest ends, you are going to be left with a lot of people who aren’t going to be into your email.
  6. Make Unsubscribing Easy – Don’t hide your unsubscribe link.  If someone really does want to leave your list, you would rather have her unsubscribe than mark your email as spam.
  7. Don’t Take Your Subscriber For Granted – Approach your marketing program with the mindset that you have to re-earn permission with every email you send.
  8. Be Data Driven – Ensure you have analytics in place that allow you to understand what works and what doesn’t. Obviously focus on what drives engagement with your emails but don’t lose track of the fact that you ultimately need conversions.
  9. Test, Test, Test – Test everything you can: subject lines, personalization, images used in design, integrating video, etc.
  10. Be Adventurous – Try new things – don’t get stuck in a rut.  Get inspiration from what others are doing, even those who aren’t competitors.

This entry was posted on Monday, September 13th, 2010 at 8:04 pm and is filed under Email Marketing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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