Email Marketing and the new Gmail Tabs – Problem or Opportunity?!

Gmail Tabs and Email Marketing

There’s a lot of buzz going on currently on the Internet about the new Gmail Tabs, specially about how it affects email marketing.  As a marketer I also have been affected by this “problem” so in this post I will try to give you a short summary of what are the email marketing challenges when it comes to Gmail and how you can overcome these challenges and turn this into an opportunity.

What is Gmail Tabs?

Let’s tart by understanding what Gmail Tabs is:

In short the new Gmail automatically sorts your messages and puts them into different categories, which you might love or hate as a user. As with everything new, the new Gmail Tabs is not perfect either:

  • You’re not able to customize or to create new tabs, you’re stuck with the default five options that Google gives you (at least for now).
  • You only get new email notifications (alerts) about email that go into your Primary tab, you won’t be alerted to new emails that are sorted into one of the other tabs.
  • You can only move messages from one tab to another if you’re in the inbox, you can not re-categorize emails if you’re browsing a label, archive, or starred messages for example.

Why is Gmail Tabs a “problem” and an opportunity for email marketing and small businesses?

If you are an email marketer the new Gmail Tabs presents you with a few challenges, most notably that there is a very big chance that your newsletters, promotions and offers will end up in the Promotions tab of your subscribers’ inbox which could be a good or a bad thing.

The bad:

  • marketing messages and newsletter open rates will more than likely decline (eg: on mobile the default tab is the Primary tab, and you only get new email notifications about this tab).
  • the time it takes for your subscribers to see and to open your emails and newsletters will more than likely increase, which means you probably need to adjust your marketing campaigns and your deadlines (time sensitive offers!).
  • if you use Gmail or Google Apps for your business, messages form your contact forms might end up in the Updates tab.

The good: your messages and newsletters end up in the Promotions folder which means you have a greater chance to capture the attention of your subscriber.

Let me explain: If a user clicks on the Promotions tab it means he or she has at least a few spare moments to check out and only focus on promotions and newsletters. You’re not interrupting anymore, the user choose this, he wants to see the promotions and emails that ended up here. That means you’re not competing against a work email or a personal email anymore, you are only competing against other offers, you are only competing with fellow marketers.

All you have to do now is make sure that you stand out, make sure that your subject lines intrigue and pick the users’ interest and your golden!

How to make sure your email marketing messages do not get placed in the Promotions tab?

I personally welcome this change but if for whatever reason you want to avoid your marketing messages being placed in the Promotions tab here are a few options that might work (at least they worked for me):

  • make sure you send your emails from a personal email address. Avoid general email addresses like info@…., hello@…, marketing@…. etc.
  • make sure that the reply to address matches the sender address.
  • the sender should be a person not a company – I had varying success with the company name present after the sender name.
  • make sure you use an email marketing service that does not include List-Unsubscribe in the email header (you’ll be fine with these: Mailmaster Plus, Mailchimp, Infusionsoft)

Probably there are a whole bunch of other stuff that the Gmail algorithm takes into account but so far these are the ones that I managed to identify. Also make sure to segment your list and personalize your emails as much as you can. You want your emails to look like a personal message from a friend, which you should be to your customers anyway.

Do the above and there’s a huge chance your emails won’t end up in the Promotions tab, but there’s no guarantee.  I’m pretty sure that there are certain words or phrases that also act as a trigger for the algorithm. I promise I’ll let you know if I identify any of those.

Tell your customers what to do!

Another way to make sure that your emails will get seen and opened is to let your customers know about the situation and ask them to re-categorize your emails, ask them to move your messages in their Primary tab. If you provide helpful and useful information, if you have a good relationship, a strong connection with your customers, trust me they’ll be glad to do it.

  1. Segment your list to Gmail subscribers only – why bother all the other subscribers?
  2. Let them know about the situation and ask them to move your messages into the Primary tab before they archive it.

How to move messages and train Gmail?

Moving messages from one tab to another - GmailYou can move messages by dragging a message from one category to another, or by right clicking on the message and selecting the “Move to tab” option.

Once the message is moved a yellow notification box will appear confirming your changes and giving you an option to set this as a rule for future messages. Make sure you click Yes.
Move message confirmation Gmail

From now on messages from that sender will always be placed in the tab you selected.

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