3 Tips for Marketing to the Managed Inbox

Managed Inbox Wordpress
AvatarAdam Kemlo
Marketing Automation Consultant


The “managed inbox” is the knight (or knightess!) in shining armour who is going to save us all from endless hours of deleting emails that just aren’t important, not to mention the thousands of junk or clutter mails that we never even look at.

In the age of modern general data protection regulations (GDPR), marketers sending emails should be looking to get explicit consent for mailing lists – or, in most B2B circumstances, marketers will be trying to skirt by the new data protection laws with legitimate interest.

So what is the “managed inbox”? Well, if you’re a user of Gmail or Office365, you may have already seen tabular approaches to your inbox (which Google is calling Priority Inbox and Microsoft is calling Focused). This tabular inbox is a dream for users: your email senders are filed into nice categories like Primary, Social, Promotions, Updates and Forums, saving you hours of endless admin at work and at home!

But why now? Well, if you think about how often you look in your junk or clutter folder, the answer is probably “almost never” – and that is exactly why the managed inbox is so important right now. Google’s tabular categories allow you to see email volumes at a glance, whilst Microsoft’s Other folder is drawing your attention to what previously sat in junk. The downside is that it’s visible in the inbox, so you don’t get a notification like with your primary inbox.

Quick comparison

Primary / Focused Promotional etc. / Other
Open rates Higher Lower
Push notifications Yes No

How do marketers get into the primary inbox?

Managed inboxes are yet another nail in the coffin of email marketing, right? Well… not really: it just means we have to be a bit more considered in what we send and what we expect – no more 90’s-style batch-and-blast email marketing campaigns!

Also, sending your customers begging notes like “please white list us” and now “please move us to your focused inbox!!!”  just seems a bit desperate, and let’s face it – no one wants to be told which emails they should focus on or which are their important emails. (Though, if you really want to, we’ve added the tips below on teaching the managed inbox).

3 tips for increasing your chances to get into the focused inbox

Don’t sell your products or services overtly

The idea of the promotional category is exactly to filter that out. Though, if you have lots of content, maybe you’ll end up in forums…

Authenticate your domain 

Ensuring you’ve correctly setup your DKIM and SPF records will avoid the email client seeing from which tool you’ve sent the message.

Make the email feel real

Person-to-person emails have been known to get into the focus or primary inbox more frequently as they’re considered to be arriving from an inbox. This means keeping it short and sweet and light on the HTML (you can have images and links but just no currency symbols!)

Our advice is to A/B test differences (perhaps starting as simply as with subject lines) to see what insights you might be able to gain from trying different messages, making key emails simple and more direct. One thing to watch out for – data hygiene 🙂

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What about teaching the managed inbox?

Well, it turns out the Google Primary and Microsoft Focused inboxes are pretty damn smart, and they’re using fairly straightforward artificial intelligence (AI) to determine where your email should go. Plus with a little bit of machine learning (ML) users can train their managed inbox to put different emails into Primary or Focused.

Gmail’s drag and drop machine learning

Google has gone for the simple route, and enables users to drag and drop the email into the right category to allow some level of personalisation for which senders go in which category.

Office365’s focused right click

For those in Office365, Exchange or Outlook.com you’ll have to use your menu or right click and select Move to Focused / Move to Other in order to train the managed inbox.

Make sure you’re taking all the necessary steps to optimise the deliverability of your email marketing campaigns – get in touch for more information!