I’m not a fan of the television show “Survivor,” but let’s just say it gets viewed in our home and leave it at that. Like a significant portion of television programming, “Survivor” highlights the dark side of human existence. 

Contestants on the show make alliances, but as the number of contestants dwindles, allies are forced to turn against one another. Contestants watch each other’s every move, trying to identify a weakness they can exploit. Eventually, the people you relied on will end up voting you off the island, then it’s game over. 

If you think “Survivor” is somehow an allegory for life itself, it’s time to make some new friends.

But what does this have to do with email marketing?

Google and Yahoo established new restrictions for bulk email senders effective Feb. 1, 2024. We’ve covered them extensively on MarTech and worked with our expert contributors to shed light on the impact these restrictions will have on marketers.

If you’re an email marketer, you’re essentially on an island with other contestants just like the contestants on “Survivor.” Here’s the cast of characters for season one of “Email Island”:

Email marketers

As email marketing turns 25(ish), it remains an important channel for reaching customers and prospects. It’s regularly used to communicate special offers, sale pricing and important information like holiday hours for physical retail locations. The best email marketers understand critical concepts like deliverability, their audience and the tools that bring it all together.

The new restrictions from Google and Yahoo should not be a critical issue for experienced email marketers. Authentication and one-click unsubscribe options are not terribly difficult to implement if they weren’t already routine.

Strategies like segmentation and establishing preference centers help email marketers keep their messages targeted and help marketers deliver relevant messages to an engaged audience. 

The email audience

They likely don’t realize it, but the email-reading public doesn’t often have a problem with email marketers like the ones I just described. They will usually tolerate messages that are the right message at the wrong time. They won’t tolerate a flood of irrelevant or low-quality emails. 

The email audience has a lot of power on Email Island. Reported spam rates (i.e., the number of times readers report your emails as spam) is one of the factors put forth by Google and Yahoo. Spam, in this case, is in the eye of the beholder. 

Dig deeper: Google annotations: The secret weapon email marketers should use in 2024

Email providers

Email marketers are reliant on email providers to get messages to inboxes (or the Promotions tab). But when inboxes fill up with unrequested and irrelevant messages, the alliance between email marketers and email providers starts to break down.

Eyeballs on the inbox are a revenue generator for email providers because email apps represent data collectors and advertising inventory. If the audience starts to ignore the inbox in favor of text messages or in-app messaging, it hits companies like Google and Yahoo where it hurts most — right in the revenue. 

The sales team

Because the restrictions from Google and Yahoo apply at the domain level, email marketers can play by all of the established rules and still get voted off the island by their own colleagues in sales. Talk about an inside job. 

I was leading a demand gen team in early 2023 when the combination of sales engagement tools (think Salesloft and Outreach) combined with generative AI, which was newly available to the masses, to instantly create a 6x increase in the cold outreach I received from vendors. 

That’s exactly the type of behavior that led to the bulk email restrictions in the first place. On the bright side, perhaps this email stuff will finally make sales-marketing alignment a reality. They need each other to play by the rules.

How to win on Email Island

To win at “Survivor,” contestants need to pacify some people, ally themselves with others and tolerate the rest. (OK, maybe it’s more like life than I initially considered.)

Pacify the email providers

The restrictions are table stakes for experienced email marketers, and it’s clear what needs to be done with regard to authentication and one-click unsubscribe. Remember, this is all about money to the email providers, so pacifying them now doesn’t mean you’re done. There’s a very good chance there will be a season two and you’ll have to deal with them again.

Ally yourself with your audience

The Email Statistics Report for 2024 from ZeroBounce sheds some light on what the audience wants and doesn’t want from email marketing. Among its findings:

  • 47% of respondents say the key to capturing attention is a consistent history of relevant emails from the sender.
  • 40% of consumers check email looking for brand discounts, with 66% preferring short messages.
  • 78% of people report an email as spam only because “it looks like spam,” which means  senders need to avoid spam-like behavior such as grammatical errors, sloppy design and emailing without permission.

You can, of course, use your own audience data and conduct your own surveys to better understand what your audience wants from your emails.

Dig deeper: Why it’s time to rethink your feedback emails and how to do it right

Tolerate your sales team

In categories like B2B SaaS, where times are tough right now, this will be a challenge. Sales teams that are trying to live up to quotas for closed business and outreach activities will keep hitting send if they think it will help. Fortunately, the bulk email requirements from Google and Yahoo do not apply to Google Workspace accounts, just personal email addresses. If you’re requiring business email addresses in your B2B forms, for example, you have some leeway.

But cold emailing that includes personal email addresses to Gmail addresses puts your organization’s entire email strategy at risk. It helps no one. Take control of, or partner with the people who have control over, the email domain, its authentication and the spam reporting. Keep an eye on Google Postmaster Tools to understand the health of your email outreach across the domain.

Don’t put your email on an island to begin with

What email marketing experts keep telling me about the bulk email restrictions is they believe the best way to win is by not visiting Email Island in the first place (to say nothing of the dignity you’ll maintain). 

When email is part of a well-designed marketing strategy that uses multiple channels and employs approaches like segmentation and account-based marketing (ABM), you and your audience win. Your email is now one part of a strategy instead of being on an island by itself.

Your users will receive relevant, timely emails. And perhaps most importantly, your audience receives fewer emails. The ZeroBounce report found 44% of people say the primary reason they unsubscribe from email is because they receive too many emails from the same company.  

If you stay off the ferry to Email Island, you won’t have to worry about being voted off. 

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The post If you’re marketing on ‘Email Island,’ don’t get yourself voted off appeared first on MarTech.