E-mail.  It is one of the oldest forms of communication in the digital marketing landscape and still one of the most used.  E-mail’s popularity probably resides in its simplicity.  Once it is setup, all you have to do is receive it and write it– yeah, right!.  With e-mail comes spam.  And the e-mails that are legit, but get blocked in your spam folder.  And the regular e-mails that come so frequently that they pile up and you end up having to delete them because you don’t have time to read all of them.  In other words, e-mail has the tendency to be a bit of a headache sometimes.

There’s been a lot of changes taking place in the e-mail marketing landscape recently. First came an announcement from Microsoft on their Hotmail product.  The changes are designed to cut down on spam and clean up the clutter.  Then, earlier this week, Google made an announcement on their very popular Gmail product.  The announcement introduced their Priority Inbox service.  Here’s a great overview video:

From a user standpoint, it looks to be very promising.  Priority Inbox “learns” how you interact with your e-mail and then gives some senders priority placement in your inbox.  The big idea is that it helps you cut through the clutter and focus on the e-mails that are really legit AND interesting to you.

Of course, while the changes may be good for e-mail users, it looks like this will make things just a little bit harder for e-mail marketers and companies that use e-mail to reach their customers (disclosure: I’m an e-mail marketing practitioner with S&A Cherokee).  The new formula for getting into the inbox takes into account end user action– such as deleting e-mails without even opening them.  Now, I’m not saying that e-mail marketers should turn out the lights and go home– there’s still plenty of room to operate if you’re doing a few key things and doing them well:

  1. Make sure you are operating clean, opt-in lists (lists with contacts that have given you permission to send e-mail to them).
  2. Send relevant content and offers that will appeal to your audience (sometimes this is the hardest part).
  3. Re-engage inactive subscribers or remove them from your list.  Sending to a lot of inactive subscribers can tank your e-mail reputation.
  4. Segment, segment, segment.  This involves the process of gathering data on your contacts and sending relevant offers/content to specific slices of your contacts (i.e. those that would be interested in what you’re offering).

With all that said, I’m glad to see the changes because I’m an e-mail user and I suffer from the clutter problem as well.  I’m hoping that the Gmail changes will help me manage my personal e-mail.  But as an e-mail marketer, I’ve got another hurdle to clear to help my clients get their message out in front of their customers.