Bringing home the bacn | npENGAGE

Bringing home the bacn

By on Nov 9, 2011


For years, the bane of every email marketer’s existence has been staying off of the dreaded spam filter and staying in good graces with readers. But now, it seems there is another challenge facing email marketers, and it’s worth your time to keep it in mind.
Call it bacn, bacon, or graymail, it’s that “other” kind of email – not personal, not spam – that’s making it harder and harder to get noticed in an overflowing inbox.

Microsoft has recently announced that they are increasing their efforts to help filter out the cacophony in Hotmail. Not too long ago, Google also introduced a feature in Gmail called Priority Inbox, which has automatic classification of the importance of an email based on their criteria, but also allows users of the service to train the Gmail filter what is and is not “important”, and higher prioritized, email. From Apple Mail to a half a dozen inbox monitoring services, there are all kinds of hurdles out there for email marketers to jump in order to stay not only off of the spam list but also on the radar.

The Only Constant is Change

There’s not much any of us can do to stop the filtering systems and bacn overload that plagues email inboxes. Unlike spam filters, which seemed to have more specific rules to protect against malicious behavior, this is really about helping readers from being overloaded by the noise and missing the signals. Usable, consumable emails are more important now than ever. So what is an email marketer to do – especially one who is busy and stretched too thin already?
To help facilitate the conversation about what you can do to get your email noticed, I’ve compiled a short list here of suggestions we offer all of our clients (with a few brief explanations of each), but would love to hear from you what you’ve found to be successful for your organization.

Mobile Matters

In the U.S alone, it’s estimated that 35% of American adults use a smartphone. And, 87% of them are accessing the internet and email with these phones. If you look at your email on a smart phone, and there is any moment that you need to pinch, zoom, re-orient, or squint, it’d be wise to do a little tweaking to make it more consumable on the go.


It’s not polite to categorize people based on just a little information that you know about them in person. But when it comes to email, there’s nothing wrong with boxing people up. Segmenting your audience by using data you already have (or data that they likely will volunteer to you) is a great way to make sure you’re sending the right information to the right people. You would never solicit major gifts from the $15 donor. Yet with email, it seems there’s often a lack of clarity on the audience that results in blanket emails. This can be a turn-off to the over-emailed masses who don’t want to guess whether the content in your email will have anything to do with their interests.

Increase your subscription options

Obfuscating unsubscribe opportunities won’t get you in anyone’s good graces. But, adding options for contact frequency can be a great way to help get readers to stay on your list and get the information that they want. Not everyone wants every alert that you send out, but giving readers an option to only receive one email a month, or only receive important action alerts, helps to encourage subscribers that you’re listening, and you want to do something that’s convenient for both of you.

Cut to the chase

The time users spend looking at email is getting shorter all of the time. Studies show that users are spending less than a minute on average glancing at newsletters, and that’s assuming they open them to begin with. I don’t expect everyone to pour through the 586 page study on email newsletter usability, but understanding a very small time frame for capturing a reader’s attention is worth a thought. If you have an action you want users to take, make it clear. If you want to inform your constituency about an event, a disaster, or an injustice, it’s best to get to it, and quickly. Sometimes you only have the 3 minutes before the waitress gets to the table.

These are a just a few things to consider. What else are you doing to help ensure that your email gets seen?


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