There’s Definitely a Way Out of Gmail Promotions and Into the Primary Tab.

But you’re not going to like it.

To get into the Primary tab, senders must send mail that is at least as important to the recipients as any other message already in their Primary Tab.

That might not be the advice senders are hoping to hear, but it’s really the only meaningful way to think about Primary tab placement. There is no “one weird trick” that senders can use for instant results.

The Primary tab is intended to be the place for personal, one-to-one correspondence, and for other mail that Gmail’s machine learning determines is personally important to the individual recipient based on that recipient’s historical interaction with mail from that same sender. That’s a very high bar for marketing mail sent in bulk, and it’s set there intentionally.

It’s well-past time for senders to recognize the time-shifted nature of the inbox. Long gone are the days of an interruptive model of marketing that more closely resembles pre-DVR TV or broadcast radio. Under that model, the viewer is briefly held hostage from the content they want by a commercial.

In the tabbed inbox, recipients are free from that kind of linear constraint. Messages are sorted by default according to relevance and context, not by the timestamp. Recipients are now arbiters of the context in which messages are viewed—the old, interruptive model no longer exists.

That means senders have to be ready to meet recipients when their recipients are ready and where they are most receptive to our messages. For most of us, that’s the Promotions tab, or sometimes the Updates tab for transactional mail.

If you’re interrupting the recipient in their Primary tab where they are managing and responding to personally important one-to-one correspondence with co-workers, family, and friends, you’re lucky if you’re merely ignored. You’re more likely to generate exactly the wrong kind of engagement.

If you’re less fortunate, you may squander a valuable, permission-based relationship with a recipient who is momentarily annoyed enough to unsubscribe. If you’ve caught them at a particularly inopportune time, you might inspire a spam complaint. If enough recipients are sufficiently ambivalent or annoyed with you, you risk your ability to reach even your most engaged recipients reliably via e-mail.

For most senders, and for most of their traffic, the Promotions tab is exactly where you want to be, because that’s where your recipients want you to be. When they are ready for you, they will turn to you. It’s your job to be there when the time comes.

The Promotions tab is actually where most recipients want you, and being where you’re wanted (and when you’re wanted) is good marketing. The metrics agree: Senders who carefully groom their data and nurture relationships with their intended recipients regularly attain unique open rates of between 17% and 23% on average, straight from the Promotions tab. If they marry that data to topical, timely content and a predictable cadence, we have senders posting open rates reliably north of 30% on volumes in excess of one million messages every business day from the Updates tab.

Your messages can be important to your consumers without ever landing in the Primary tab. If it’s something they look forward to opening and reading almost as soon as it lands in the inbox you’ll be too important to ignore.

CRTC Shares Canadian Anti-Spam Law Enforcement Stats in 2019

Screenshot 2019-12-03 at 12.00.34 AM

ICYMI, the agency responsible for enforcing the Canadian anti-spam law released a nifty infographic breaking down some interesting stats about those enforcement efforts for the prior seven months.

The number one complaint e-mail recipients made to their government – by a long shot – was a lack of permission from recipients. And the senders in most of those cases were just ordinary businesses sending promotional mail.

Other key take-aways:

  • Almost $2.7-million in fines and penalties were issued;
  • Vicarious liability is a thing – leaders at the offending companies can be (and were) held personally liable for the infringing acts of the companies they run;
  • Text message spam is alive and well – 42% of all CASL complaints were about SMS spam.

Don’t mess with Canada.

Change My Mind

Spoiler Alert: They're all purchased lists.

Right In the Feels

Video: Revenue Vs. Reputation on Black Friday.

Big brands like Grailed and The Gap face the same difficult choice as emerging brands – how to resolve the often competing business requirements for revenue growth and good deliverability? Squeezing lists for every last dollar can be a quick shortcut to the spam folder, and risks your ability to reliably reach even your most engaged recipients.

The problem, of course, is proving the negative. We can’t see the dollars we leave on the table when we abandon best practices, and it’s tempting to justify it when our blind squirrel finds a few nuts hidden in our lapsed segments.

Is there a data-driven approach to resolve this dilemma? Watch and see.

Video: You’ve Done Everything Right, and Something Still Goes Horribly Wrong

Here is a pair of great hot takes from this year’s Braze LTR conference on how big brands bounced back fast when real-life deliverability disasters materialized.

Hear from COO & Head of Product at Grailed (and previously at Wayfair) Gregory Kim, and Head of CRM & Messaging at Canva Emily Stewart about how their careful attention to deliverability early on allowed them to recover gracefully and quickly after deliverability hell broke loose.


Gmail’s Big Flex On Prompted Unsubscribes

Hey, looks like I’m extremely late to the party. After I published this, a far more astute observer pointed out in EmailGeeks that the change was announced as a part of the larger update that Gmail rolled out in April – of 2018!

For some years now, Gmail has offered a prompted unsubscribe feature based on the presence and method of the List-unsubscribe header, and on sender reputation. The prompt would appear in the chrome of the client interface above an individual marketing message.

Reactions from senders were mixed when it was first rolled out. On the plus side, it arguably pre-empts some portion of spam complaints that might be more accurately characterized as malformed unsubscribe requests. On the minus side, senders generally prefer larger lists, even where significant chunks of them are inflated with unengaged recipients.

For the first time yesterday, I observed that Gmail has taken the functionality and made it much more robust. I’ve highlighted a pair of very interesting changes in the mobile screenshot below: Continue reading

“How Much Marketing Content Can I Put in my Transactional Mail?”

With the holiday mailing season nearly upon us, senders are thinking hard about ways to maximize their marketing touches – and not solely through raw increases in total volume. I fielded this question recently from an anxious customer, and it struck me that others may be posing a similar question to their own deliverability folk, or to the empty air if they don’t know any: Continue reading

Pop Quiz, Poindexter: How does an ISP make money on a free inbox?

This is an excerpt from I podcast I did with Gurbir, PJ, and the awesome team at Braze. Wanna hear the whole thang? Be my guest!

Can Apple ID SSO Impact Your Deliverability?

IN A WORD: Maybe.

It’s important to bear in mind that Apple SSO (and other similar offerings from Google and Facebook) are credential management systems, full stop. They are really not intended to be used as an e-mail subscription mechanism, so when they ARE used in that way by senders, problems can arise. Continue reading