The Great Gmail Freak-out of 2013: An Open Letter To Email Marketers
Dear Email Marketers,
I wanted to share my experience from the last few days
with you. It went something like this:
“Oh look,” sez me, “Gmail has changed it up again; there are tabs on my inbox! Let’s see, here’s my main inbox tab, and here’s a ‘social updates’ tab for notifications of new Social Media stalkers — I think I like that!
“And what’s this one… Promotions? Oh, here’s a coupon from the craft store, great. A sales flyer, a newsletter, and, wait, what’s this?”
That’s when I saw it: a baker’s dozen of emails from various Marketers. Combined, they looked something like this:
Seriously? I mean… SERIOUSLY?
For the love of MailChimp, take a deep breath and count to ten! Remember who you are, remember the lessons you’ve been drilling into your audience for however long you’ve had an audience.
Need a reminder of what you’ve been teaching
all this time? Sure thing!
- Content & Permission Marketing are more than just “opt ins” … they’re also about creating value in your marketing materials as well as your offers.
- Provide content and offers that people want, and they will LOOK for them. Create value, and people will seek it out and pass it along.
- Don’t rely on external services (like Google search, or Gmail) to deliver eyeballs to your offers. Rely on content and offers that rock, channels that are in your control, clients that love you, and evangelical fans that will spread the word.
That’s good, solid advice you’ve been dishing out. If you’ve really followed it, a silly automated “Promotions” tab isn’t really going to hurt your sales very much, now is it?
But here you all are, freaking out because, OMG, your promotional emails may be treated like *gasp* promotional emails. The Horror!
But what do I think about Gmail’s new tabbed interface, you ask? Isn’t it just bloody awful, you nudge? Well, as consumer? I like it. As a marketer, if you’ve really mastered permission & content marketing? I think you should like it, too. Here’s why:
In the past, I’ve missed out
on a lot of your promotional offers.
Y our email was buried under Facebook Pokes, coupons from office supply stores, updates from Twitter, political diatribes from Uncle Herbert, support tickets from clients and web hosts and vendors, and I just missed it. Or maybe I saw the email, opened it, wasn’t able to take action right that instant, and it got buried all over again.
With one big inbox, if I want a coupon from a store I frequent, I have to search my email for it. If I suddenly remember that I didn’t see your expected monthly promotional awesome, I have to search for that, too – and it isn’t always as simple to find it as you might think. (trust me, because I do this searching-my-email-for-your-stuff thing a lot.)
I can just glance at the tabs.
The most recent senders are shown on the tab itself. Cool, huh? And to see more, I can click onto that Promotions tab, and find your stuff SO much more easily than before. It’s no longer lost in a whirl wind of other stuff.
And when I DO find your email on the promo tab? I’m more likely to be in a receptive mood, which means more likely to open it, and more likely to follow your call to action.
Yes, your promo email will be jumbled in with every one else’s promo emails, and competing for attention there. But in an unfiltered email box, it’s competing with other promo emails, Social Media proddings, Aunt Gertrude’s gallstone updates, forum replies, ads for Viagra, and messages from the King of Nigeria.
Just like spam filters (which also sometimes interfere with your marketing mail delivery) this is a mild inconvenience to you, with some potential benefits to you, and major benefits for your consumers.
It’s just another layer of
With the new Gmail interface, I can not only require that you have permission to email me, but I can control just how front and center your emails are in my world – without having to set up and maintain filters.
(Which, lets be honest, I’m NEVER going to do. For gawd’s sake, I often have 20,000 unread mails in my inbox, and you think I’m going to mess with filters? Google invented these tabs for me!)
I get it,
You LIKED that in the past, I would see your mass mailed “Tori, I need your help!” subject line when I opened my email program. You knew it would catch my attention, because it looked like it was personal. To stop it from showing up there without unsubscribing, I had to take a lot of complex actions with filters and labels and such, and I had to have and execute a plan. That’s a lot of trouble I’m not going to go to.
But now, with my tabbed inbox? I’ll KNOW that plea for attention wasn’t sent to me personally, because Google auto sorted it into my promotions tab. And it’s automated. Sure, if I find your stuff repeatedly compelling, I can shift you into my Primary tab – but it’s not in your control, and you might lose some moolah because of it. I feel your pain.
But Permission Marketing is about advertising distribution being in the consumer’s control, not the marketer’s control. And Content Marketing? It’s a way to encourage customers to give you permission. Gmail just put another layer of permission into the mix. They just made your valuable content that much more valuable to your marketing plan.
Wait, never mind, you already told me, in triplicate. You’ve sent out emails and SM posts and blog articles about how bad Gmail’s tabbed in box is for me, for you, and for the world. Yes, some of you have said that this is bad for everyone.
And almost all of you are begging me to opt out of the tabs, so that your emails reach me the way YOU want them to…. Wow. Holy Smokes, Batman, way to miss the point!
Should you send your list
a note about the GMail change?
Sure, why not? But instead of sending me a freaked out mailing about how this is going to wreck YOUR business, with a desperate call to action designed to protect YOUR interests… why not make it a positive note, showing me how this change may benefit ME?
Show me how it can make it easier to find awesome content, both yours, and other people’s. Give me a mini tutorial that shows me how to customize the tabs for MY benefit, not yours.
Isn’t that more in the spirit of Permission & Content Marketing? Wouldn’t that be offering me something of value to me, rather than to you?
Will This Affect Open Rates?
M aybe. If you have a small carefully targeted list of fans, probably not. If you have a really huge list, with lots of barely-curious people on it, your open rates will probably suffer.
But if you already practice the quality content and permission based marketing you give so much lip service to, it shouldn’t affect your actual sales rate very much, should it? In fact, may help you convert some sales (me, for instance). Only the stats will tell, over time.
But even if your rates do drop,
I have faith you’ll survive.
After all, you made it through the Popup Blocker Apocalypse. You survived the Double-Opt-In Debacle , the FTC Affiliate Holocaust and the Anti-Spam Annihilation. You even survived Panda.
I think you’ll survive a few tabbed inboxes, don’t you?
P.S. I’m including this image from a few weeks ago, because I’m in the mood for it and because it represents Gmail eating all my starred emails. The line style and the colors don’t really fit with this post, and the message doesn’t fit because Gmail has an an easy option to include starred emails in my primary box. But I’m including it anyway because I’m feeling contrary.
P.P.S. Did you know that moving starred emails to your primary inbox tab was an option? None of the emails begging me to opt out of tabs told me it was an option!
P.P.P.S. In the comments, share a tip about the new Gmail interface, and I’ll give you a gold star (one that Google didn’t eat)
P.P.P.P.S. Also, this entire post and most of the graphics were done under the influence of a migraine, so if things are wonky that’s why. Double stars for pointing out typos.
Update: Over at MailChimp, they’re reporting on the change to open rates: How Gmail’s New Inbox Is Affecting Open Rates So far, it’s definitely not at the Armageddon level. But the comments are full of marketer freak-outs, so wade in carefully!« previous next »