How to prepare for the 'second filter:' priority inboxes

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Google has generated plenty of attention with its Priority Inbox, ranking e-mails based on user interaction with messages. What's more, Hotmail and Yahoo have similar plans.

So what are we dealing with? And how do marketers best respond? 

By analyzing user e-mail behavior — what messages consumers read and reply to — a second e-mail “filter,” in addition to the spam filter, is now in place. Important “priority" messages are placed at the top of the inbox, and others at the bottom. This makes e-mail relevance a continuum, in contrast to the specific act of getting past the spam filter.

In sum, this ups the ante for e-mail marketers who must always seek to improve the relevance and engagement of their campaigns. Marketers must take steps to ensure e-mails are read or risk being proscribed to the bottom of the inbox.

First, marketers should take advantage of their e-mail marketing technology to capture website and behavioral data to customize dynamic e-mail content that increases relevancy. By incorporating data, like an e-mail recipient's recently browsed products on your site, it is possible to craft even more tailored content to better engage recipients. By using this data in actual e-mail content, open rates can more than double – essential for Priority Inboxes.

Second, relevancy considerations like subject line personalization, urgency of offers, and segmentation to tailor offers to match subscribers' interests noted at registration are all essential elements to keep in mind to ensure engaging content.

Lastly, these new inboxes mean constantly reassessing the idea of “valuable” for recipients. This should start with a program for subscribers with immediate welcome messages, followed by a short cycle of e-mails offering special benefits. Over time, complete recipient profiles should be compiled and updated, tracking what is “valuable” to them and ensuring content always resonates in the eyes of the recipient — and the inbox.

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