We’ve long advocated the use of email marketing for photographers, as it remains one of the tried-and-true ways of engaging an audience. That means changes to the way people receive email will undoubtedly affect your email marketing. Google did just that with their newest interface changes released for Gmail on May 29, 2013.
If you’re a Gmail user, then it’s likely you’re one of the 425+ million users whose inbox has changed on you. Here’s what classic Gmail looks/looked like:
And here’s what it looks like now:
The most notable difference of course are the tabs dividing your incoming emails into Primary, Social, Promotions, and Updates.
Google bills the change as, “New customizable tabs [that] put you back in control so that you can see what’s new at a glance and decide which emails you want to read and when.”
Note the last part of that sentence – so you can “decide which emails you want to read and when.”
And therein lies the problem, from a marketing standpoint anyway.
Sure, we love the mindset of “controlling our inbox, not letting it control us.” We also like the idea of getting more organized and determining what emails need to be read first. What business owner doesn’t have an unreasonable number of emails to sift through on any given day?
But as a marketer – and all photography business owners should consider themselves marketers – this is potentially problematic. If you’re using a service like MailChimp (or any other email service provider) to send out newsletters and promotions to your audience, it’s likely getting pushed to the Promotions tab. The fear is that people will only look at their Primary inbox, and never check out what’s been automatically filtered by Google’s algorithm into the other tabs. (Note that this algorithm is based on content, such as the unsubscribe links and HTML formatting.)
More than a fair share of companies have taken to what some are calling begging , by sending out informational emails with the sole purpose of asking you to move their promotional emails to your Primary tab. There’s always the same set of visual instructions, so you’re sure to get your daily inspiration from Gap/Gilt/Delta/etc. So far, this seems like the most effective way to get your content from the Promotions to Primary tab – i.e. there’s no proven way to “trick” Google into not labeling your emails as promotions.
Should you worry about your email open rates? MailChimp reported a slight decrease across their user base initially after Google launched the change in late May, but marketers across the board say not to panic. “Given the freedom to ignore classes of e-mail, most Gmail users are choosing to seek out and read the marketing messages that interest them,” notes Return Path in its report on Gmail tabs and email marketing.
In short, if you’re creating engaging emails that interest your readers, they will find and read your emails. In fact, those people are more likely to devote time specifically to reading their favorite “promotions”. Those who were already less engaged will continue to ignore your emails (sorry!). You want to focus on the engaged group who are more likely to seek out your services and images, anyway, so now is as good a time as ever to figure out what keeps them reading – and turning into clients.
So take note of how your email open rates have changed over the last few months, then focus on the time ahead. What is this new, highly engaged group interested in? That’s the kind of stuff you want to be promoting.