Gmail Tabs Disrupt The Email Marketing Universe –And Why It’s A Good Trend

What’s all this hoopla over Gmail tabs? Do you love ’em or hate ’em? Maybe you don’t even use Gmail and don’t have a clue what I’m talking about. It’s been over a month now since Google changed up Gmail with tabs separating the inbox into four sections: primary, promotional, forums and updates.

It’s no longer one big happy inbox. Google is going to try to divide and conquer your inbox for you, while slipping in some ads, of course!

My email list's Gmail p/cIf your list includes a large percentage of Gmail clients, you may be wondering if the change will have an effect on your responses. Check out this pie chart of how my email list breaks down… 

That’s a lot of green. So am I worried? Not so much… Email’s user experience is always in flux.

Gmail tabs are actually pretty slick for the consumer, even though some users hate the change. 

  • You can select which tabs you want to use (although tabs aren’t even supported in some email clients where folks open gmail, like the iPhone).
  • You can proactively move emails to the correct tab, so that all future emails go to the correct place.
  • You can refuse to play along and accept Google’s designation of all your emails.
  • Or you can even opt out and go back to your old Gmail. Your choice.

From an marketing stance, Gmail tabs have email marketers in a serious tizzy lately. Call the waah-mbulance! (Tweet this.)

The big fuss is that your emails might fall under the promotions tab with all those other nasty emails, boring newsletters, spam and general crap your subscriber gets but doesn’t want to read. If your list has a large percentage of Gmail clients, then this change could disrupt business as usual. 

Gmail tabs are a disturbance in the email marketing "Force"So there’s a disturbance in the force.

But (don’t taze me, bro’) what’s wrong with that? I know for myself, when I’m in “all business” mode, I clearcut everything in my path, even email I’d otherwise probably read. Say you get a courtesy email from your bank that your balance dropped below your preset limit. You’re likely to delete that shoe sale email just below it.  The firehose of emails forces you to react, sometimes reading no further than the subject line, and often with one fell swoop. But when emails are neatly grouped your readers may put more thought into absorbing your message. If your reader saves the promotions tab to read when they have a little time or when they want to read it, your email will get the attention it deserves. 

Unless, of course, your emails kind of stink. In that case, no tab feature or lack thereof will get people to read your email after the first time or two.

Marketers lose all perspective when they think people are going to fall all over themselves to open their email before first taking care of the more pressing things…that one from the boss, or their son’s soccer coach or even those emails that are a complete waste of time but impossible to resist, like the one from the neighbor who’s always sending jokes lampooning ridiculous politicians. The very best emails are the ones from people so real, they make it to this insider’s short list. That’s what you should shoot for.

However, if you already sort your own inbox or use different email addresses for different function, then you know how convenient it is to group emails “of a type” together within specific and separate categories. For example, you might have a place for shopping, informational newsletters, social media alerts, work, and friends&family.

Wouldn’t you rather your reader have the option of sorting their emails by order of importance, relevance, or time needed? I would. I’m all for automated inbox sorting. From both marketer and consumer standpoints.

What’s getting email marketers all up in arms is the idea that Google is making those choices for their customers, instead of the other way around. (Newsflash: Google already does that with personalized search results.)

But when you follow that line of reasoning down the path a ways, it starts to smell funny. Like maybe some email marketers would prefer to trick their reader into accidentally opening something they don’t want to read right now. Which is a sure-fire way to get your email instantly deleted anyway.

Either you get your reader’s attention in the inbox — whichever tab you fall into — or you don’t.

Here I go again, beating the drum about making good connections with your writing, giving people something they need and can use. Just being yourself and simply talking to your reader like a friend…again. Isn’t that what makes a reader want to open your email in the first place?

You are in business to make money or your organization needs funding to survive; so you need for people to see and open your emails. But you also want them to engage with you and your business. You get clicks and conversions by providing value and relevance on a consistent basis, and not wasting your customer’s time.

After getting many Gmail users and email marketers’ takes on Gmail’s new tabs feature, my advice — similar to this smart guy’s — is this: Chill out a little.

Email is still a great way to engage with your best prospects and leads, if you stick to the fundamentals.

Let’s wait and see how Gmail tabs pan out before we give up completely. Those little suckers may even make us better at email. (Tweet this.)

Stay flexible, and good luck!

Want some copywriting tips to get people seeking out your emails you send? You won’t be worrying about Gmail tabs if you know how to make connections with your writing. Click this link for access to a free online course.

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