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Richard Vohsing

Will MSN’s War on Graymail Affect Email Marketers?

Dec 12 2012, 09:01 AM by

Graymail is probably a word that you haven’t heard of before, and that’s probably because until only a short time ago it really wasn’t a word at all. MSN recently coined this term to describe legitimate newsletters and emails that a recipient just doesn’t care to receive. Shortly after defining the word, Microsoft launched an all-out attack on Graymail, and it will likely change the face of email marketing forever.

This is basically just a highly intuitive and advanced version of a smart inbox. By monitoring your engagement with commercial emails, MSN inboxes will now segregate emails by type and interest of the reader, and place less important emails into a Graymail folder.
Isn’t This Just a Spam Folder?
Not quite. Spam is defined as unsolicited email or, more specifically, emails that you never signed up for. The purpose of the spam folder is to give you a chance to catch any email that may have been improperly classified as spam. Graymail however is email that you did sign up for but may not be interested in anymore.
So How Does It Change the World?
The existence of a Graymail system isn’t really the key point here, as it is more or less the gray-area between spam and normal emails (hence the name). The game-changer is what this Graymail folder is capable of.

In an effort to improve convenience, MSN is providing a one-click unsubscribe. Meaning that a recipient can jump in and unsubscribe from emails without having to view them, or jump through unsubscribe hoops. In the case that the single-click unsubscribe fails, all future emails from that sender are automatically sent to the spam folder for deletion. More importantly, speculation is that there will likely be an automated version of this as well (e.g., After “X” number of campaigns are received and not opened, automatically unsubscribe me from this sender).
How Does This Affect Marketers?
This system is really quite genius. Best-Practices for email marketing already implement a very similar system. By cleaning unengaged contacts from your list, you are removing contacts that are uninterested, and thus much more likely to report an email as spam. Many marketers however do not follow this procedure, meaning that they continue sending “graymail” to contacts until the contact unsubscribes, or clicks on the spam button.

With this new feature implemented, marketers will have no choice but to clean their lists or have it done for them by recipients' email inboxes. Remember, the Can-Spam Act of 2003 requires that marketers honor unsubscribe requests. Failure to do so can lead to permanent blacklists and possible legal action.

Marketers that already clean their lists on a consistent basis will not be affected in any way. It’s the perfect checkmate to ensure that email marketers follow best practices.

For more information on email marketing best practices and opt-in lists, check out Benchmark Email's free manual on Building Permission-Based Lists.

Posted in Lists & Signup Forms, Current Events, Tech Editorial

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