Six ways to prevent your e-mails from being flagged as graymail

Discussion
Feb 23, 2017
Bob Phibbs

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the Retail Doctor’s blog.

Imagine you’re at home watching Game of Thrones when you hear a knock on the door.

You look through the peephole to see an acquaintance on your doorstep. Not wanting to interrupt your night, you simply don’t answer and hope they go away.

Graymail is like that.

Graymail is e-mail customers opted-in to receive from you, but now don’t really want. They haven’t yet taken the step to unsubscribe. Instead of their inbox, these e-mails might go to their Promotions, [Bulk], Low Priority or a Junk mail folder.

And that hurts all of the e-mail you send since your sender score reputation is being damaged.

Here are six ways to avoid being gray-mailed:

Make your subject lines magic. If you can’t pique their interest in your content with a riveting subject line, your opens will suffer.

Make your communication valuable to your readers. Another Friends and Family or 20 percent off gets old — fast. Stay useful by helping your readers learn something about your products.

Segment your list into two. Send the same information to both lists but with different subject lines. In one, add first names and make it a question. In another, use an emoji and a more provocative tone. See which does better.

Find your best send days of the week and time. Test and see. Then be consistent.

Adjust the frequency of e-mails you send. If you’re sending too many, they may be perceived as too much alike. If too few, recipients may forget who you are.

Prepare them. In your welcome e-mail, let new recipients know you only want to provide information they are interested in. Urge them to unsubscribe if it’s not as promised.

After taking these steps, create your engaged list. If a recipient has never opened an e-mail from you or has not opened the last 10 e-mails, put them on a low engagement list. Your open rates and inactive subscriber rates are good indicators of whether your content is working.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What compels you to engage in e-mail content from retailers? Can you add any tips to those offered in the article?

Braintrust
"Time the emails right with content that is all about me and my buying habits and we’ll stay connected."
"We all get many, many emails from retailers and most do go unread if the subject line isn’t offering true value at the right time..."
"Gut-check your subject line before it is sent and determine if you’d truly be interested."

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9 Comments on "Six ways to prevent your e-mails from being flagged as graymail"

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Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

The best emails from retailers are about ME! Make the emails personal and relevant — always relevant. With the right data collection the retailer should know what I like, buy, how often, etc. Time the emails right (not too many, not too few) with content that is all about me and my buying habits and we’ll stay connected.

Charles Dimov
BrainTrust

Shep, you have got it nailed. The above recommendations provide a sound approach on how to set up your email marketing campaign as a retailer. This works! Add in this sage advice on making it about the customer (individual), and you WILL bump up the response rates and keep more of those emails from fading to gray!

Max Goldberg
BrainTrust

Email remains a potent marketing tool which, if used wisely, can generate customer interest and sales. Retailers need to manage internal and external expectations of email by limiting the volume of emails sent and by making sure that each email is important to the recipients. BevMo and REI are two examples of companies that would blast out emails to let you know what day of the week it is. They seemingly have little regard to what they are sending. Marketers take note, email can bring in business and just as easily drive it away.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

The answer to this issue is simple, it’s just not always easy. It is all summed in one of the points already made in the article, “Make your communication valuable to your readers.” If the reader sees timely, believable and actionable value from the subject line in your email, they may actually open it. Gut-check your subject line before it is sent and determine if you’d truly be interested.

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust

The Retail Doctor, Bob Phibbs, nailed it! It really is all about providing value. Once the value is gone, the customer won’t bother with the brand’s email any more. You really only get one chance to fail — after that it’s graymail territory.

A good friend and expert retail marketer, Kim Lewis, once said in a presentation at a Super Saturday RetailROI event, “If you’re still batching and blasting instead of mining and targeting, you are doing it wrong!”

No one will say this is easy — it takes careful planning, data mining and skilled word choice to get any message through to a customer. If you succeed, the payoff will be great, but if you fail … Too many brands send far too frequent email blasts. The fact is we all get many, many emails from retailers and most do go unread if the subject line isn’t offering true value at the right time for each individual customer.

Kim Garretson
BrainTrust
7 months 26 days ago

A nice extra option to add to the “prepare them” option would be to suggest that they use my favorite tool: Unroll.me. Not only does it let users unsubscribe in one session from all their unwanted retail emails, it can compile and digest those that you still want to receive to save users time.

gordon arnold
Guest

Great discussion! Email solicitation and participation is a very large part of 21st century marketing that is rarely structured and held accountable for success. As the discussion implies there are many of us that want and need to be heard but few willing to work on the hows, wheres and whys.

Tom Brown
Guest
7 months 26 days ago

Great article Bob. Email is the key to digital marketing for any business. I’ve written dozens of articles on the subject myself.

Dan Frechtling
BrainTrust

Tip #3 is really the meta-tip. A-B test your way to better outcomes by varying advice about subject lines, relevant communications, optimal times, and ideal frequency.

In addition, consider your call-to-action. Is it a physical trip to the store or something more measurable, like viewing a coupon, visiting a product page, or reading a recipe tip?

Finally, readability is as important as deliverability. Emails should be mobile-optimized not just for images, but for fonts as well–smartphone email apps can unintentionally shrink body copy to 6 point or smaller.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Time the emails right with content that is all about me and my buying habits and we’ll stay connected."
"We all get many, many emails from retailers and most do go unread if the subject line isn’t offering true value at the right time..."
"Gut-check your subject line before it is sent and determine if you’d truly be interested."

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