The Priority Filter Plan: How to Work With Next-Gen Inboxes

Email inboxes are changing and marketers need to pay attention! Although SPAM filters and labeling systems have been around for a while, there have been some major changes in the way that people receive email these days. Gmail, Hotmail/MSN and Yahoo, the three biggest free email providers, have all added new labeling and filtering systems.

These new inbox management tools are making it easier for your list members to filter content that isn’t of interest to them.

  • Hotmail/MSN - With a mid-year update, Hotmail offers “Sweep” among other features that filters out content that recipients don’t find interesting.
  • Gmail - Priority Inbox debuted earlier this year and categorizes messages into “priority” and “regular” based on how often a recipient opens messages from that sender.
  • Yahoo - In 2009, Yahoo launched the “My View” features which organizes recipient inboxes based on their preferences.

For some email marketers this may seem like the sky is following. Without being delivered right next to personal email there might be limited chances for exposure without a new approach.

These new inbox filters, which Deliverability.com’s Stephanie Miller calls the “Ultra Managed Inbox”, present a new challenge for marketers but not an impossible one. Take note that most of the tools learn recipient behavior and adapt to what recipients are opening and “finding interesting.” This is yet another sign that email marketers need to build relationships, offer great content and stay in touch consistently.

Develop a Priority Filter Plan

The basics of good email marketing will help keep you in good graces with your list members, but there is more that you can do. Use the following strategies to help make your way back into the main inbox of your subscribers.

1. Time your messages appropriately. Timing has never been more important for email marketers than now. Many email marketing services allow users to directly route messages from certain senders into specific folders. If your messages are being grouped in a folder together, your audience will be reading them all at once a few times per week or a few times per month. This means that you need to work at being current rather than sending lots of emails. As Miller expands on this in her article, you’ll need to shift attention from “frequency to cadence.” Your readers will want to see the latest news, not ten reminders for your latest sale, when they open your mail folder.

2. Use transactional messages as a surefire connection tool. Buyers will be very likely to open transactional messages (like purchase confirmations) even if they ignore all other communications. Be sure to look for co-marketing opportunities in sales confirmations and follow up purchase messages. You can cross sell other products or promote your blog on transactional messages since they are more likely to be opened.

3. Focus on the first click. Being relevant early on is even more important now than ever. All brand new emails will be placed directly in the inbox and if they are opened, they will be categorized as more important. If you can prove your worth early on in your relationship with your audience, you’re more likely to stick around in the inbox or priority mail folder for the long term.

If you make center around offering good quality information and stay relevant to your readers, the new “ultra managed” inboxes will be nothing to worry about.

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