Google is a giant, and when the giant speaks, people listen. Or, more accurately, when the giant makes a change, people notice. Most recently, Google’s proposed changes to the Promotions tab—making it image-focused—created a stir. Before that, it was the introduction of the Promotions tab itself which pretty much caused a panic. And now? Now it’s Inbox. And—as with the earlier changes—it’s still not a reason to panic. Rather, it’s yet another reason to take a good, hard look at what you’re doing with your email marketing program.
Why you don’t need to panic about Google Inbox
Do you remember the brouhaha over the Promotions tab? Email marketers everywhere thought it would make getting noticed in the inbox even harder than before. And maybe it did, but not in a bad way.
ReturnPath says the introduction of the Promotions tab saw an increase in engagement. As a Gmail user, I can see why: Having a Promotions tab means I intentionally go to that tab, knowing I’ll find newsletters and promotional emails. I go to that tab when I want to. That means I’m more likely and more willing to be engaged. But the initial reaction to the Promotions tab among email marketers was—admittedly—the aforementioned panic.
Despite, the fear, there was a good reminder that came with this shift in Gmail: the importance of engaging. If you’re getting booted out of the main inbox, to appear alongside other promotional emails, you’d better have a good relationship with your subscribers and constantly seek to keep them interested and engaged…and looking for your emails in particular amidst all the others.
And really, at this point, that’s all Google Inbox is going to do too: get you to reconsider how you’re going about your email marketing program.
So what is Google Inbox?
Google describes Inbox this way: “Built on everything we learned from Gmail, Inbox is a fresh start that goes beyond email to help you get back to what matters.”
My initial impression is, this is all about personal email, and a review at Time.com confirms that, so far at least, it doesn’t work with Google for Work. Beyond that, however, just the kinds of things you can do with Inbox seem to be more about managing your personal life than getting work-related tasks done. The Time.com reviewer who has been using Inbox says it “treats your email as what email has essentially become: a to-do list.”
If you’re a B2B email marketer, this probably makes Google Inbox even less of a concern for you.
So, what’s an email marketer to do?
Loren McDonald suggests the answer isn’t to look at Google Inbox and shake with fear (paraphrasing here), but to look in the mirror and ask, “How can I make my email program more useful and valuable, both to my customers and to my company?”
As with every other change that serves the recipient and not the sender, Google Inbox is just one more indication that you need to get your email marketing program beyond “good enough.” You need to be so subscriber-centric that people can’t wait to open your emails. That is how you weather change.
Because one thing I can promise you about both Google and email marketing is change. There are no constants and there won’t be. But the way you win in this ever-changing and increasingly competitive environment isn’t by playing catch up when a new technology appears on the scene. It’s by winning over subscribers and customers now and every single day by being customer-focused in each aspect of your email marketing program.
And once that’s your way of doing business, you’ll never have to panic at news like this again—no matter what Google throws at you.