Rethinking Your Inbox

There’s nothing as frustrating as being asked the same question over and over again. If it happens at home, it’s usually one of my children who refuses to stop talking and listen for the answer. When it happens at work, it’s usually in my inbox.

I wholeheartedly believe in permission-based marketing, which looks a little something like this:

  • A website has something I want ( here’s an example of something we made with our friend Wendy Cook that 48 advisors have wanted in the last week )
  • In order to download the thing I want, I have to give them my email address
  • The website provides me what I want via email and I get added to their distribution list for promotions
  • I can either be cool with receiving their promos or I can adjust my subscription settings
  • There are a number of sites whose emails I receive frequently (I’m a big fan of Helpscout, Hail Varsity, Grovemade, and a few design blogs). I linked those sites because I highly value the content they share with me. I place a high value on these emails because the companies that send them clearly place a high value on good content. They’re not bombarding me with useless information over and over again.

    I not only don’t mind receiving these emails, I’m actually happy to read (or at least skim) them. Many of these companies have allowed me to select exactly what I want to receive from them, which means that my email preferences have opted me into specific lists. I only get what I want, when I want it. That’s email nirvana.

    So what about you? Are you emailing the right people with the right information, or could you be exasperating your recipients with information they don’t want that drives up their frustration level? What I’m really asking you is: Are you segmenting your lists?

    If not, it’s time to start. Think about your audience before you think about your content, and then write specifically to them.

    Example: If you’re inviting people to a webinar in your email, make sure you aren’t sending that email to people who have already attended or to those who recently signed up. It’s not just confusing to get an email asking you to do something you’ve already done, it’s annoying.

    If you are already segmenting, THANK YOU and be sure to use those segments wisely.

    Example: If you’re having a live, in-person event, you should segment by location. People in Florida probably won’t make it to your dinner in Massachusetts. Just send invitations to people within a 50-mile radius, or whatever you decide is appropriate. If someone signed up to receive retirement planning tips, don’t break their trust by emailing them articles about investing for business owners.

    While we’re here, let’s take a moment to talk about where these emails are going. If your recipient is using Gmail, it is very likely that your email is hanging out in their Promotions folder. That’s a truth that a lot of people find frustrating, but I believe is actually a strength. Here’s why:

    You aren’t frustrating your readers. When they click on the Promotions tab, they are expecting to find promotional material. Seeing your information in that folder will provoke one of two responses. They’ll either think, “Oh! This should be in my inbox,” and tell their email provider to send your emails to their inbox going forward. Or, they’ll be ready to take in your email as something they actually subscribed to receive when they click in.

    I personally use the Promotions tab and really enjoy being able to consume marketing initiatives on my own terms. Of course, this means marketers have to write compelling subject lines in order to entice me to open them, but that’s the point. The best stuff rises to the top.

    Your emails can rise to the top too. Get your lists right. Write compelling headlines. Offer resources people really want. And don’t sweat the Promotions tab.