The Marketer and Priority Inbox

If you’re a GMail user you’ve likely already heard of or may be using Priority Inbox.

Priority Inbox is a new-ish feature on from GMail that automatically sorts users’ inboxes into ‘Important’ mail and ‘Everything Else.’ I know, the feature has been around for a while but it seems to have stuck so I think it’s worthwhile to explore how it can affect e-mail marketing.

The abridged version of how Priority Inbox works is that it tracks users’ interactions with messages to determine which messages are important and which aren’t. In other words, if I consistently open new mail from companyx.com and click on one of the links, Priority Inbox will assume that I consider mail from companyx important. GMail has some more in-depth explanation but it’s safe to say that messages that users interact with are ‘important.’

I’ve heard some moaning and groaning about how the ‘Everything Else’ classification is just Spam Jr. and that it kills the potency of a campaign. My response? Deal with it. Yes, it’s possible that open rates may suffer a bit by pre-classification of a message but this is really an opportunity to enhance your results by focusing on the relevancy of your campaigns. We’ve talked about the importance of sending relevant campaigns before; this is extra incentive to do it. If Priority Inbox measures historical user involvement and targeted campaigns lead to more involvement then sending targeted campaigns will lead to classification of messages as ‘important.’

It’s time to dig in to your subscriber demographics and find a measurement that you can use to divide and target your subscribers. For example, if my company sells gears, springs and pulleys, rather than send a blanket email to all subscribers I’d get much more mileage out of smaller targeted campaigns that only sent information about gears to those customers who have previously bought gears. Subscribers who get a message that they perceive as relevant to them are much more likely to interact with the message. Include links to your other products as a sub-section of your message but if a customer only buys gears, the focus of the message should be gears.

ReachMail can help! Use the demographic filter tool to create mail filters that can be used to target specific subscribers based on one or more demographic criteria. For more info on demographic filters check out this post or head on over to reachmail.net/support and search for demographic.

New Feature – Embedded Images

The ReachMail team is happy to announce that we now offer the option to embed images directly into e-mails.

One of the issues that e-mail marketers have always struggled with is image display in mail programs. It’s easy enough to add an image tag to an e-mail but as we all know, images are typically blocked upon receipt, requiring the subscriber to download, or ‘show,’ the images to get the full effect of the message.

For years we’ve been advising clients to design with this behavior in mind by making use of the ‘alt’ attribute, adding width and height attributes to images to block hold the message layout in place and to make sure that no crucial information is contained only in an image.

Now we can add image embedding as another option. When images are embedded in the message the image file itself is encoded in base64 and sent as part of the message. That means that the image arrives as part of the message content and is instantly viewable by the subscriber with no action required. So no more downloading the images to get the full effect of the e-mail.

Image embedding can be turned on for any e-mail. Just look for the ‘Embed Images’ check box in the mail setup screen. That’s all you’ll have to do. We take care of the rest.

Before you run out and embed all your images there a few things to keep in mind. First, embedding is going to affect the open rate of the email as show in reports. The open rate is calculated by recording access to a unique tracking image. Since this tracking image is not embedded and embedded images lower the incentive for a subscriber to load the other images you may find that your open rate will decline in campaigns with embedded images. We recommend that you add extra weight to the click tracking when reviewing these campaigns. Second, background images are not embedded, keep that in mind when designing. Subscribers will still have to download background images but again will have less incentive to do so. Don’t let an unloaded background image blow your design. Third, embedding images will dramatically increase message size, especially if you’re embedding large images. This may result in slow load times and mail blocks in some extreme cases.

So how do you know if embedding images is right for your message? Here’s some general guidelines:

If your message only has a few images, perhaps your logo / header, a product image and a ‘Click Here’ button, you have a good candidate for embedding.

If your message has lots of images or large images, you might want to reconsider embedding.

Questions about embedding images? E-mail support@reachmail.com

Keeping Lists Tidy

One of the biggest challenges that you face as an e-mail marketer is keeping lists clean and tidy. An area that we frequent find clients overlooking are soft bounces of the ‘Mailbox Full’ type. These are bounces that came back because the mail server couldn’t cram one more byte into the subscriber’s over-stuffed mailbox.

They have no place in your list. These represent subscribers that have moved on, not just from your newsletters but from that e-mail address all together.

What’s worse is that eventually the ISPs holding those abandoned e-mail addresses are going to deactivate them or hold onto them as spam traps. Continuing to message these addresses after this point is going to negatively impact your sending reputation.

So, ReachMail makes it quick and easy to scrub those records out of your lists. Simply head on over to the Contacts and Lists tab and select the List Sweeper function on any list. In the function select the option to deactivate the Mailbox Full soft bounces and click the Run List Sweeper button. Voila! Your bounces are deactivated.