Why email marketers should chill out about Google Inbox

I freaking love Seth Godin.

I know. Who doesn’t.

Reading his blog starts me involuntarily nodding at my screen and making affirmative ‘Mmmm, mmmm’ sounds. Everything he says is JUST SO SMART.

But I was confused by his reaction to Google Inbox.

Here’s why.

Everyone’s email system is different.

I run on inbox zero. Or rather, try to. (It’s about intent, right? Like yoga).

Anyway, my inbox is basically my active to-do list. I archive everything and clip important to-keep things to Evernote.

But other peeps have a different process. Some use folders or labels. Some (who are presumably insane) never delete anything from their inbox and swim in an ocean of emails—dipping in and out, catching some waves and letting others wash over them.

As an email marketer, the thing to understand is that—if people are interested in reading your email—they’ll make that happen.

So if you’re good at what you do, relax. Google Inbox won’t get between your content and those who truly value it.

Technology platform changes. People freak out. Repeat.

This latest hysteria about Google Inbox is reminiscent of the hysteria about Gmail Tabs.

Remember that? When people were pronouncing email dead as a marketing channel?

All of a sudden, organisations were emailing you—not to provide content about causes and campaigns of interest—but to beg you to perform some boring admin task shifting them from tab X to tab Y.

That was the worst.

It was the worst because:

a) It made your readers feel like click-through stats.
Permission marketing is an at-scale caper. We all get that.

But the best emails (or books or podcasts or ads or songs) don’t feel like they’re meant for a list of subscribers—they feel personal. They feel like they’ve been written just for us.

So don’t break the spell. Don’t draw attention to your number-crunchy underbelly when you could be focusing on making your reader feel like they’re the only person in the room (read: address field).

b) It made you seem needy.
Desperation is a turn-off. Always.

Emailing your subscribers about tabs or Inbox is the equivalent of texting someone you’re dating saying: ‘YOU’RE GONNA KEEP DATING ME, RIGHT? DON’T EVER LEAVE ME. I NEEEEED YOU!!!’

It gives the impression that, by reading your emails, your audience is doing you some kind of favour. (Whereas if you’re consistently delivering engaging, relevant and timely content—the opposite should feel true).

c) It’s really none of your business.
Here’s the thing—it’s kinda bossy and intrusive to tell someone how to manage their inbox.

As John Haydon points out in a smart post on this subject, email is personal.

Godin says that tech platforms shouldn’t get in the way of email marketers and subscribers when the former has given the later permission to show up in their inbox.

But permission isn’t encapsulated in a one-off transaction (the moment someone subscribes to your mailing list). Permission is ongoing.

If someone decides to stop reading your emails, for whatever reason, they’re rescinding that permission.

Your content will determine your readership rate. Not Google.

Winning at email isn’t free. Winning at social media isn’t free.

You can pay to win with money (à la Facebook ads) or you can pay with the time and effort it takes to be really, really good (thus providing Facebook and Google with content that is valuable enough for people to keep using their services).

Tech platforms will come and go, but if your content is valuable to people (as Seth Godin’s certainly is) they’ll keep reading—in a way that’s convenient for them.

To Google Inbox, I say ‘bring it on’. You should too

As a user, I’m underwhelmed by Google Inbox so far.

But as an email marketer. I’m excited about anything that helps my audience separate the wheat from the chaff and get at what really matters to them—faster and easier.

Because the emails I send should matter to people.

If not, that’s on me. Not Google.