Thursday, October 2, 2014

Temper the Email Storm

Today is one of those days where it just seems like a good idea to curl up in a comfortable chair and read a book and never get up. It’s been raining for days. Not just a drizzly, misty kind of rain, but the kind of downpour that keeps everyone inside. Parking lots have transformed into ponds and roads into rivers. It would take something of near life-or-death importance to make me venture out the front door. Everything short of that will have to wait for another, less monsoonal day.

Since it’s quiet, and I’m obviously not going anywhere, I thought I’d take a little bit of time to do some inbox maintenance.  Would you believe that I have over 13,000 unread emails? I KNOW! It surprised me, too. Because I use a Gmail account, my incoming email is sorted into three categories – Primary, Social, and Promotions – before I even turn on my computer. Somehow, Google knows which emails I am interested in opening and which ones I’d rather save for later. As a busy mom, I’m delighted by the time-saving efficiency of this process. As an email marketer, however, I’m terrified. In my Promotions tab alone, there are 10,935 emails that didn’t make Primary folder cut. That’s 10,395 missed advertising opportunities. 10,395 wasted marketing moments (assuming it only took a moment to create each of those marketing emails). Like I said, terrifying. As in straight-out-of-a-horror-flick scary.
How did this happen? I’m sure that at first, as the emails trickled in, I told myself that I would eventually take a look at them. Then came soccer practice and meetings and dinner prep, and soon the trickle turned into a downpour – until I became so overwhelmed that the only way to remedy the problem was to wipe the slate clean. 10,395 pieces of virtual trash.

So how can you, as fellow email marketers, ensure that your email campaigns don’t suffer the same fate? Here are a few tips to help you sort it out – before Gmail does:

First, consider sending a plea to your readership, asking them to manually change the settings so that anything from you will automatically land in the Primary folder. This will only work, however, if they’re already opening your messages.

Keep links to a minimum. It seems that Google knows that most friendly emails contain one link or less. Take the following email, for example:

Since I purposely signed up to be included on this email list, it surprised me that it would have been sorted into the Promotions tab. One of the triggers seems to be the numerous links included in the body of the email. There’s a link to different USU departments. There’s a link to buy tickets. There’s a link to the Scholarship Fund. Perhaps it would have made the Primary inbox cut had it contained only one link to a webpage from which all of the other links could be accessed.

The pictures could also be problematic. Google is adept at spotting pictures used in headers or in signature lines. The filter can usually tell, just by the type of pictures used, whether it is a personal or advertorial email.

Keep the body of the email very simple and straightforward, while directing the recipient to a link from which all other information can be accessed. Make sure you do include something that will catch his or her eye, or the link won’t get clicked.

Experiment! Use one or a combination of some or all of these tips to see if your open rate improves. Request feedback from your customer base, and use their input to make necessary changes.

Just like the dreary, rainy weather I’ve been experiencing these past few days, a deluge of emails hits the inbox of every one of your customers on a daily basis. Google’s Gmail filters act as an umbrella, protecting its subscribers from unwanted junk mail. Unfortunately, sometimes legitimate mail gets caught up in the rainstorm and sorted incorrectly. With a little bit of work, you can make sure to put your newsletter and promotional emails right up front where they belong.