3 Tips to Avoid Being Gray Mail

4 min read
July 25, 2022

Part of understanding email marketing is accepting that not all of your contacts are going to open your emails. Even if contacts have subscribed to your newsletter, there are some contacts who will not open your emails even once. Knowing how to manage these contacts, rather than try to win them over with more emails, is the key to improving your email marketing strategy. By improving your strategy, you will improve your open rates for contacts who do open their emails by getting in their priority inbox.There are some simple adjustments you can make when sending emails to reduce the amount of times you will land in the gray mail box. 


So what exactly is the gray mail? Gray mail is not priority inbox worthy email nor is it spam email. It is somewhere in between. Email platforms can detect bulk email sends, which can already push your email lower down in the inbox. In addition, email platforms are getting increasingly  more advanced in detecting the emails you want to open by leveraging AI to develop formulas based on the email content and your open behavior. Leads who have never opened an email from you, would refer to your marketing emails as gray mail because of the way that they appear in their inbox. Gmail, currently the most popular email platform, segments your emails into three main categories-- primary, social, and promotion. Other email platforms segment emails in a similar way. As a result most people look at “primary,” and will only occasionally check promotions and social.  If your emails are ending up in promotions, then they are in a gray-zone that is hard to get out of once you are in. So in order to avoid it, keep these three tips in mind. 


  1. Suppress Send to Contacts that are Unengaged. 

My first tip is to give unengaged contacts some space, and stop sending emails to those who do not open your emails. Now, how to know when a contact is unengaged. You will have to come up with a standard for yourself based on how often you send emails. One standard, if you send emails weekly, is to suppress those who have not opened your emails in two months, or the last 11 emails. If you send emails daily, then the standard should be slightly more. For instance, if they have not opened the last 15 emails. By cutting these contacts out of your send list, you will improve your sender-score which decreases your chance of being sent to the gray mail inboxes. These are some general guidelines, so feel free to deviate from what I have laid out here.Test and evaluate what is working and what is not. Just make sure you implement a process for suppressing unengaged contacts. If you are using a CRM to send your emails, you should be able to do this fairly easily. HubSpot allows you to simply check a box before sending an email “suppress unengaged contacts,” the software automatically determines which contacts are unengaged based on how many emails they have not opened over a period of time. But if you are not using HubSpot or any CRM, you will have to look at the contacts in your emailing list and determine who is unengaged.  


  1. Check Your Reputation   

If you are not aware of your sender reputation, then this needs to be made a priority. A bad reputation online could mean your emails will not be sent to inboxes and they could even be sent to spam. The reputation is generated from the domain in your emails, so if your company or organization has multiple domains, then each domain will have its own sender reputation. First, go to Google’s Postmaster, that will give you your sender score and your domain’s reputation. Postmaster determines your reputation based on the wording on your website, your emails, and subject headers. Using wording that is spam-like, such as “Act immediately” and bait-and-switch subject lines can really hurt your reputation. Subjectline.com is a great resource for optimizing your subject lines before sending, and it’s free! While it is important to engage contacts with your subject lines, do not over-sell. Having a more human and approachable language can transform your email open rates.  


  1. Frequency 

The frequency of the emails plays a bigger part in your open rate than you may think. Sending too many marketing emails, when open rates are not corresponding, may get you spam reports and annoyed customers who will unsubscribe. But sending too few emails will result in lost sales opportunities. Finding the right balance for your brand and your product is the key to landing in the right inboxes at the right time. Start out by creating an email campaign calendar if you do not already have one. An email campaign calendar is a schedule for sending emails in a campaign.  On this calendar you will determine the frequency of the emails and time of day. So try to stay consistent. Most email senders allow you to schedule your send for a certain time of the day. When you send emails, whether it is weekly or daily, try to send those emails at the same time every day.  

Becoming gray-mail can be a big problem, and one that can be hard to get out of. So the best approach is to avoid becoming gray mail altogether. Remember, never buy your email contacts, always use lists that are one hundred percent opt-in. Buying your contacts may seem like an easy way to reach a wider audience, but it can seriously hurt your business more than help. Instead, use contacts that want to hear from you and follow these best practice tips to keep those contacts engaged and build a good reputation. 


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