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What is Graymail? (And Why You Should Care)

April 4, 2017

I’m 99.99% certain you get graymail – and if you use email marketing, I'm 99.99% sure you’ve sent graymail. Don’t be ashamed; in the past, I’ve been guilty, too.

But now that you’re here, it’s time to spill the ugly truth: graymail hurts your email deliverability and database health more than you know … and here’s why.

What Isn’t Graymail?

Graymail isn’t spam. Spam is buying an email list, obtaining email addresses without direct consent, sending junk content to a list – basically, sending emails no one wants to people who never asked to receive it.

Great, But What IS Graymail?gray-1.jpg

Have you ever been to a store and provided your email address to get a deal/discount? You didn’t necessarily want to receive emails, but by choosing to give them your email address you also gave them permission to email you. That’s graymail: emails you technically opted into but that have such low value or are so unappealing that you rarely open them.

As a Marketer, Why Should You Care?

The recipients of graymail are unengaged subscribers who rarely open emails. From an engagement standpoint, that’s a problem – the lower your email engagement rates, the more likely it is that your emails end up in your prospects’ (or worse, clients’) junk folders.

In 2015, HubSpot did something huge to combat their graymail problem – they looked through their database and unsubscribed 250,000 unengaged email recipients. I can’t imagine their anxiety in ghosting 45% of their total database, but this purge led to a solid and insightful discovery of how, when, and why their subscribers engage with their content.

Steps to Combat Graymail

If purging your entire database like HubSpot did makes you nervous, don't worry – it’s not your only option.

Start by segmenting your email database. If a contact hasn’t opened your last, say, 10 emails over the last 6 months, create a SMART list that removes those contacts from your regular email campaigns. Instead, configure a specialized email that allows your subscribers to select their engagement level with your company. For instance, maybe the bulk of your subscribers DO want to hear from you, but only once a month instead of weekly.

Giving your recipients the power to choose will improve their engagement because they feel like they're in control (and they are!) and will be expecting to hear from you.

And remember – your database is made up of humans. Before you hit send, ask yourself these questions:

Would you like to chat more about graymail? Have graymail tips you’d like to share? Contact us or leave a comment below!

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Topics: email

Courtney Stallings
Written by Courtney Stallings

Courtney writes and edits content for Leading Results and their clients. She has been described as a Grammar Nazi and enjoys crafting writing with excellent spelling, punctuation, and grammar.

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