In my opinion one of the most significant changes ever to happen to email marketing occurred this week.
Google has started to roll out a new Gmail interface that is going to dramatically change the effectiveness of email promotions from this point forward.
They have placed three bars on the top of Gmail. The categories are Primary, Social and Promotions.
Now you can choose to turn these off, but most will not and I will explain why in this post.
How will change this effect internet marketers? What strategies can we use to mitigate any damage to our internet business? Does this mean the death of email marketing? Lets look further and what these changes mean for the online world…
Two Major Effects Gmail Interface Change
Google is sorting the types of emails that you receive into three buckets.
If you have not seen these changes take effect on your own Gmail, they are rolling this out to users over time.
Effect #1 Lower open rates for your emails if you are in the wrong bucket
The Promotions is the third tab over. Emails in this category are no longer going to be delivered to your primary inbox. What this means is that these emails are not going to be opened and read as much.
Emails in the Promotions bucket are one step away from SPAM. Really!
For my own gmail account, after just five days on this system, emails that I used to open and read/move/discard I have let stack up in my promotions bucket. Then I found myself mass deleting all of the emails in the bucket.
It is hard to say what the exact effects will be over time, but I would predict open rates for marketers are going to drop by over 50% or more with this new change, but probably more like 80%.
Companies that rely on open rates and email promotions are going to find there sales drop accordingly. The game of blasting email to a client to their primary inbox until they buy or unsubscribe is over.
Even if you provide legitimate high value content, because your email is getting routed to the promotions box, your open rates and sales are going to hurt.
It is going to be MUCH harder to get your emails opened, thus lowering your click-through rate if you email goes to the promotion bucket.
Effect #2 List building and conversions has just become more expensive
If you are an online marketer you rely on having a good email list and building that list over time.
Now the game has gone beyond list building, because even if you get an opt-in, if your emails are routed to the promotions bucket your open rates are going to suffer.
This means that a cost to convert a sale has just gone up. If you have fewer people opening, then you are going to have fewer people converting to sales.
The simple math is that the cost to acquire an actual customer has just risen. It means the amount you can pay per email opt-in through paid advertising or the amount you can bid on a pay-per-click campaign has decreased.
If your strategy is initially to build a relationship and nurture your customer (rather than go for a quick sale), I believe this too has just become more difficult.
Eight Strategies for Internet Marketers
This change by Google impacts HOW internet marketers can reach their clients.
For most internet marketers the primary method they reach people is by building and nurturing their email list. Google’s new changes has made this exponentially more difficult.
I am sure there will be many opinions and ideas on how to adjust and what to do about this.
What do we want to optimize for with these eight strategies?:
- Getting the email opened
- Connect and build a relationship with you customers
- Getting the email to appear in the Primary tab folder
Here some ideas I think are important to consider if you are an internet marketer.
Strategy #1 – Ask Your Clients to Move Your Emails to Your Primary Box
Emails that go into your primary bucket are going to have a higher open rate. In using the new system for just a few days this is clearly evident.
You can send an email asking your customer to drag your emails into their primary bucket or to turn the bucket system off (of course this email may go to the promotions bucket so it too may never be seen).
Although on theory this sounds like an interest idea, whether a email client does this or not is mostly out of your control. I don’t see this having a high rate of success.
Personally, I must admit that I actually like the new Gmail sorting system much better than the one bucket system.
Why would I switch back to the old? There are even paid programs that I used to do this before.
I have seen a major blogger already ask their customers to turn the system off (which I don’t think makes a lot of sense) or to drag their emails to the primary bucket (which makes more sense but has a low chance of happening).
Lastly, this strategy is not going to work when someone first subscribes, but may work for longer term customers, so it is a strategy to consider.
Strategy #2 – Grow Your Affiliate and Joint Venture Partners
I believe that for launches and promotions it is going to become even more important for you to have strong affiliates, partners and joint ventures who are mailing at the same time as you offer products.
When you look at the emails in your promotion bucket and you only have an email from one source, your offer may never be seen. The email may not get opened. But if you have emails from multiple sources and partners your email is going to have a much higher change of getting open.
Product launches will still be popular, but if email delivery and open rates go down it will dramatically decrease the effectiveness of a launch sequence. You can mitigate this when you have multiple partners mail for you.
I think the effect of this change makes it much more difficult for those that don’t have a strong partner network.
Strategy #3 – Online to Offline Address Strategies
I believe that online to offline email/address capture strategies are going to become even more important.
For example, if you get a customer who goes to a landing page and then opts in, it is going to become increasingly important ALSO to use a strategy to get a client’s real address.
Why? Because then you can send them a postcard or implement more offline strategies.
What does this look like?
You can have a one-time offer or some kind of promotion after they enter their email, for example a real book whereby the customer pays only the shipping and handling. This strategy has been used recently on a few major launches.
In this strategy, you break-even on the first transaction (or even lose money) but you bring a customer into your longer term product funnel which you are selling them higher ticket products or services.
To make this strategy work you have to have systems in place and often a higher priced program on the back end.
I believe it is going to be important to learn how to master more online to offline delivery strategies with these new changes.
I also think this will further separate the amateurs from the real professionals. There is a big difference between having a list and doing promotions to a small list vs. having multiple funnels and develop internet business systems.
This means building systems, teams, integrating split testing and conversion tracking, many things that most in the field are not setup to do because of lack of scale.
Strategy #4 – Immediate One-Time Offers or Lower Ticket Items
It is going to become more important to make a compelling offer immediately when a customer gives you their email. At that point they are most committed.
I used to think it was better to nurture the client with a series of 5-7 emails but that has just changed for me.
I think it makes sense to convert faster and sooner on a small ticket item.
Making an immediate offer and sale (with a short 1-3 minute video and a awesome offer) builds your relationship faster. This is the $1 offer or $7 offer. Lead in with an upsell video.
This strategy also potentially gets their offline address (Strategy #3) so that you can send them postcards etc. on the back end mentioned in the previous strategy.
Strategy #5 – Alternative Email Addresses
If you are like me you probably open most of the emails you get on Facebook or Linkedin. So it makes sense to look at different email addresses where you can reach people.
Having a solid prospect email that you send to on a social platform is going to be more important.
Alternative email addresses or email addresses NOT on Gmail will be better for delivery in the future.
There probably is going to be more talk about micro-list sends and finding ways to deliver email into these other addresses.
If you have been working with your email list for a while you know how important it is to separate your Customer List from your Prospect List.
Strategy #6 Segmented Gmail Only Mailing List
There is a new segmentation that may need to emerge.
It probably makes great sense to divide your email lists into a Gmail only list and other lists because you want to mail to those two lists a little differently.
Strategy #7 – Leverage Social Media Platforms
This new change by Google further increases the role of Social Media platforms.
If you can’t get a customers attention in their inbox, then places like Facebook and Linkedin play an even bigger role as ways to reach the customer on a regular basis.
Facebook advertising and promoted posts have just become even more important.
You can pay to send promoted posts JUST to those already in your group which is a way to get people who already opted in the message that you would normally deliver to their inbox.
What is interesting is that Google may not understand how this one change so greatly influences so many who run internet marketing businesses (or they probably do and are a few steps ahead).
Strategy #8 – Offline to Online – Attend Events, Keynotes and Other Group Methods
With it harder to reach people through their primary inbox, it is going to be even more important to develop sources of customer leads through offline strategies.
This could be speaking at events, groups and conferences. For each type of business segment, product and service how you do this will vary. There are plenty of courses and people teaching this strategy already.
Now you may have to look at this as one of your main business lead drivers.
Strategy #9 – Increase the Number of Emails You Send
If your email rates go down by over 50% then you are going to need to send more.
Here is an interesting thing I have noticed in the short time I have used the system.
Because these emails that go into the promotion inbox are NOT going to my primary inbox, I am much less annoyed by them. I don’t actually mind if you send to me more often because they are not disrupting my primary inbox.
I used to personally get annoyed by all the emails that Linkedin would send me and now I actually don’t care because they don’t litter my primary inbox.
The takeaway from this is I believe that you can send MORE emails without annoying your customers. You may have a lower open rate, but you can mitigate this by have more chances of open with a higher QUANTITY of emails.
When a person looks at their promotion box, then you are going to want to have mass visibility and this means increasing the number of sends without fear of annoying people.
Strategy #10 – Give More Free Content and Relax
The sky is not falling yet. This new change is a call to GIVE even more value to your customers and clients.
Take this as an opportunity to stand apart from the crowd and to treat your list as part of your family.
Double and Triple the number of FREE resources you give your clients. Move your personal free line.
The ability to adapt to the ever increasing conditions on the internet is an essential trait. So make adaptability as part of who you are. Then you can view each change not with dread but as a way to continually evolve your business.
What’s Next With Gmail’s Inbox
We have yet to understand the full ramifications of this email change by Google. It will be interesting to see that hard data on email open rates and conversions. It will be interesting to see how people respond.
An interesting note is that my mobile interface has NOT yet changed, but I imagine that this too will happen in the future.
What about those who have Double Opted into your list? Is it fair that Google automatically puts these emails into the Promotions box? Will this always be the case or will email list providers (aWeber, Mailchimp, Infusionsoft etc) lobby Google? Will that have any effect?
It will be interesting to see where it all goes from here.
Those who understand the ramifications of the change and adapt quickly will have the best opportunity to prosper.
Interesting Note: The email I sent from myself about this post via aWeber went into the promotion folder – not a good sign.
Please write a comment below to tell me what you think of the new changes…