May saw a development which has caused quite a stir, and some consternation, amongst e-marketers. Google has launched a new version of their Gmail inbox, which now separates mail into one of five different folders, in an attempt to help users manage their email intake with greater ease.

The tabs are as follows:

  • Primary – From family / friends / colleagues…
  • Promotional – Marketing…
  • Social – From social media, dating sites…
  • Updates –  Phone bills, bank statements…
  • Forums – Web forums, discussion sites…

Now, at this time, the new version is not compulsory and users can if they prefer revert back to the original design. Even still, given Gmail is the largest worldwide email provider, the news that people will now need to actively open a Promotional tab to search out marketing emails has understandably caused a few shivers down spines.

Results from e-marketing companies have been mixed so far, with some reporting a decline in opens, and others such as HubSpot seeing a significant upswing. So perhaps the best advice for the time being is to stay cool and wait for some concrete results, before deciding what action to take.

But here are some tips that are worth trying right now, if you’re not already doing so, to help you maintain an edge in a folder now likely to be crammed with emails shouting for attention.

  1. Early tests show that once an email has been opened and clicked then all subsequent emails from the same source should then appear in the promotional folder. If they are not opened, or worse are junked, then it could mean the Spam folder – game over man, game over. So that all-important first interaction just got a whole lot more important. Keep your subject lines short, succinct and enticing; give people a reason to open them – free downloads, or confirmation of orders that requires a link to be clicked are good examples.
  2. Make sure your customers know where they can find your emails. Email them, but also Tweet, and maybe even put a message on your homepage too. Explain to them that if they want your emails in their Primary folder, then they just need to click and drag one in there, then answer Yes when Gmail ask if that’s where they want them in future..
  3. Most everyone should be doing this by now but if you’re not, look to your data. What are the optimum days and times for you to get the best Open rates?
  4. A good trick for reaching the Primary folder is to offer something regularly that customers come to expect, and would rather appear right in front of them instead of them having to search them out. Interesting, relevant content basically.
  5. Avoid being junked at all costs! You know that bit in Supergirl where Supergirl and Peter O’Toole are trying to escape the eternal void? That’s what getting out of the Spam folder is like.
  6. Remember – if your customer is going through the Promotional folder, that means they’re in Buying mode, so it’s not all bad news.