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Direct Sales Success: Google’s Priority Inbox

Google has rocked the email marketing boat in a BIG way.

You may or may not have heard about the new “Priority Inbox” feature that Google has created for users to sort email in a different way.

As soon as I had access to it, I fell in love with it. I also realized that it was a game changer for people who contact their clients via email.

Users can now classify mail based on usefulness, not just whether or not it’s spam.

Previously, I was sorting my mail into folders. I now have over 300 folders in my email system. I’m not kidding.Each folder was for “stuff” that was not spam, but didn’t need to fill my inbox on a daily basis – like coupons from Amazon, Borders, VistaPrint and others. I love to read, but I don’t buy books every day. Retailers are notorious for sending 3-5 emails each week (when will they learn?) in hopes of enticing you with an offer too good to pass up at the moment you need it.

So those messages go into separate folders and when I’m ready to buy something, I go there looking for a coupon or other info that may help me make a good deal even better. I purge them from time to time to keep my folders tidy.

Priority inbox, however, takes this one step further. It pre-screens your email and decides what’s important for you to read right away – and get this:

It’s a smart algorithm, based on how you read and respond to the emails you’re getting.

So let’s say for example, my newsletter comes to your inbox, and you open it right away. Google will give it “points” in the algorithm as being more important than, say that ad from VistaPrint. If you then click on a link or reply to it, Google considers it even more important. The more emails you get from me that you actually read and/or respond to in some way, the more Google believes that I (the sender) am more important in your in-box. And if Google gets it wrong, you can correct it – learning as it goes.

This is exciting and scary all at the same time. Why?

Because as a direct seller that uses email to reach your clients, you need to be even more diligent about making sure your email gets read (and not sending junk in the first place!). If not, you’re going to fall by the wayside of what Google calls “bologna” or “bac’n” instead of spam: stuff that’s not spam, but isn’t really important, either. That’s a black hole you may never find your way out of!

Don’t think that your clients with Gmail are the only ones this effects. It’s only a matter of time before other mail providers start using a similar feature to help their clients pre-screen their inbox as well.

So here are some tips to help you break through the priority in-box wall.

1. Make your emails visible. When we send out a course email, we include a header: [DS103] that proceeds the subject line. This makes it easy for our clients to sort our messages from the other mail in their inbox. We use [PartyOn!] to let you know that our newsletter has arrived, so you can drop what you’re doing and go straight to the training you need.

2. Make your subject enticing AND relevant. Subject lines need to grab the attention, but they must also be relevant. Don’t use “Important” or “Personal” unless something really is. This week, we had a link error in our newsletter, so we sent out a follow-up email that said “Corrected Link: Holiday Show Success”

This is very clear, very relevant and very attention getting. Being deceptive or clever with “hype-y” subject lines will more than likely get you marked as “unimportant” (or spam) if you do it often enough. It’s like the boy who cried wolf. Pretty soon, people will stop listening.

3. Make your email interactive. Once people have opened your email, give them a reason to click, reply, or otherwise respond to your email. Include a link to your blog, an order page, your facebook page – anything that makes them take positive action. The more actions they take, the more important Google will consider your messages, and ultimately YOU.

4. Train your readers. Let them know what to expect when they register for your list. Let them know your delivery schedule and tell them the kinds of things to expect content-wise. If they’re expecting your email (maybe even looking forward to it), you’re more likely to move to the top of the inbox heap.

5. Take the conversation offline. I don’t mean abandon email. You need to be doing MORE than just emailing your clients. Email’s a cheap and easy way to reach people, but extending the conversation (relationship building) to offline venues (phone, direct mail, in-person) makes it more likely that someone will be looking forward to hearing from you via email. If they’ve never put a face with a name, never spent time in your presence, never heard your voice, they have less of an emotional investment in working with you.

In truth, these are things you should already be doing, and now, it’s more critical than ever. You can’t be important to everyone, but if you’re doing the right things in your marketing and mailing, you’ll be important to the clients that matter most to the health and success of your direct sales business.

© 2010 Lisa Robbin Young.

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Lisa Robbin Young offers direct sales coaching and training to direct sales professionals looking to grow their business like a real business instead of an expensive hobby. Sign up for her free weekly ezine at http://www.homepartysolution.com.

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