Gmail by GoogleGoogle is quietly testing a change to Gmail’s Promotion tab. The field test announced this week gives users the option to view incoming messages in a list or image format. The image format view has a Pinterest feel and gives marketers the ability to snag attention with great graphics. The example shared by Product Manager Aaron Rothman on the Gmail blog looks like this:

Gmail's Promotion Tab Images

Source: Gmail Blog

Explaining the change, Rothman says, “Promotional mail has a lot of images, from pictures of snazzy new shoes to photos of that rock-climbing gym you’ve been wanting to try. But right now, those images are buried inside your messages—and with only subject lines to go on, it can be a challenge to quickly pick out the deals and offers that interest you most. To help you find what you’re looking for faster, you can now sign up for a new field trial for Gmail that lets you view the Promotions tab in a more visual way.”

Following the changes in the inbox that moved promotional messages out of sight, this appears to be a good thing for email marketers. We’ll hope for the best, but appearances can be deceiving. If the change is to simply make it easier for users to find what they’re looking for faster, marketers can rejoice. They now have a way to stand out in the crowded tab. If this is the first step in a plan to monetize the promotions tab, email marketing will forever change.

Don’t expect Google insiders to share their monetization plans. We’ll have to wait for the announcement before we know what they are doing. In the meantime, optimize your emails and keep your eyes open for the new tab options to go live.

For more information on optimizing your emails, check out 31 Ways to Supercharge Your Email Marketing.

Gratitude is a Positive Attitude

Did courtesy disappear with the twentieth century? It may not be gone, but it is certainly not as common as before. Courtesy is polite and considerate behavior or actions. Our world moves at a fast pace with many distractions. Responding to people with gratitude, empathy, and consideration for them takes time and effort. It simply easier to zip through life without slowing down to say, “please”, “thank you”, “how are you?”, and “what may I do to help?”

In the social media world, responding to people with gratitude can reap unexpected results. One of my first experiences with Twitter in 2008 left me scratching my head and wondering, “Did a time machine take me back to middle school?” An active participant chose to follow me. I was very surprised and grateful so I sent a direct message to express my appreciation. I was truly honored that she had chosen to include me in her stream.

The Twitter Queen started a public rant immediately following my message. She talked about how inconvenient it was to receive a direct message saying “thank you”. She shared her opinion about how people who didn’t know the rules should not be allowed to participate. Before long, several others sharing the same opinion joined the conversation. Being tarred and feathered for saying “thank you” was completely unexpected.

Of course that was before I knew that many of the active participants were following people for the follow back. They were building the illusion of expertise one follower at a time. Rules for participation didn’t exist. People were making them up as they went. There was much more snark than kindness. Unfortunately, that attitude has expanded beyond social media into everyday life.

Companies seeking more sales and greater profits penalize employees for engaging in small talk with customers. The savings from productivity gains is expected to benefit the business. But, what about the lost opportunity to solidify the customer’s relationship with the company?

Saying “thank you” remains a part of company processes. Some have altered it to “thank you, here’s something else you can buy” to increase sales. The strategy effectively increases sales but there is a cost. Customers don’t feel the love. Creating good relationships requires genuine customer appreciation.

There is good news for companies willing to go against the current trend. Making courtesy a part of the corporate culture differentiates your company from the competition. It also improves employee morale. If you have a physical location, the improved atmosphere makes people want to stay longer and come back more often.

While we are on the subject of gratitude…
Thank you for reading and sharing my posts. I know you are busy. Your decision to spend time with me is much appreciated. Have a great day!

Facebook reach declining after algorithm change
The first sign that things were changing on Facebook appeared a few weeks ago. There was a significant drop in reach for almost all of our clients. Reach is the metric provided in Facebook analytics that is supposed to show how much exposure a post receives. The drop happened on the same day immediately following algorithm changes.

Since then, we’ve tested a variety of strategies to see if the lost exposure could be regained. There were some gains but overall Facebook has become less effective as a marketing platform. Following the drop in reach, the question we received most often is, “why?” Here are the six top reasons we found:

  1. The Facebook algorithm change reduced exposure.

    People will not respond if they don’t see the message. The basic algorithm change buried any messages seen as frivolous and reduced exposure of promotional posts that were not sponsored ads. The announcement that sponsored ads are going away in April is misleading. Sponsored ads are changing. They will still exist in a different format. The changes in April will not benefit companies that don’t participate in Facebook advertising.

  2. People are less active on Facebook.

    Teens and young adults are leaving Facebook in droves. Older adults are still there but not as active as once before. There is been an activity shift where people who are active have increased activity while others have simply left the platform. If your fan base consists of people who rarely login to Facebook, your posts are not being seen.

  3. Facebook issues a warning when people using some mobile devices click links to go to another site.

    Facebook is using the fear factor to keep people on the site. When users on some mobile devices click links to go to an outside site, they receive this message:

    Facebook issues malicious link warning

    With all the concern about privacy and viruses, most people will not go forward when they receive the message that says, “This link might be malicious” from a trusted site. This message appears for every external link. It isn’t universal yet but I expect that it’s only a matter of time before this message is rolled out to every device.

  4. Tabs are invisible on mobile devices.

    Tabs, the area within Facebook where companies can be creative using third-party applications, cannot be accessed using the mobile app. This is a huge issue for companies using sweepstakes and contests to acquire email addresses. According to Facebook’s recently released annual report, 78% of daily users access the site on mobile devices.
  5. The call to action is weak.

    Facebook functionality isn’t the only reason that response is down. In an effort to increase engagement, companies are posting without specific call to actions. If there isn’t a clear call to action, people will not respond.

  6. Your community doesn’t match your target market.

    The challenge to grow a fan base to specific levels is often accomplished by acquiring people that don’t match the company’s target market. If this is the case, the best call to actions will not deliver a response.

Note: This post first appeared in our Multichannel Magic Newsletter. Use the form below to subscribe:

See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil is not effective leadership.
Secret Service Special Agents assigned to a protective mission are prepared to lay their life down to fulfill their responsibility. It is part of their job. The job description may not specify, “Take a bullet for the President” but it is a directive. The men and women who serve know what needs to be done before they accept the position. I wonder if Governor Christie’s Deputy Chief of Staff and top political aide had a similar directive that required them to “take a political bullet” for the Governor?

There is a credibility lapse in the political story of the moment. Leaders define acceptable actions by their leadership. People follow their leaders specifically or intuitively. When a clear directive is missing, the team looks for implied directions. This opens the door for mistakes and bad judgment.

It is possible that the team members acted on his or her own without the Governor’s knowledge or approval. It is also possible that Obama didn’t know about the NSA spy initiative or the problems with the site. Similarly, it is possible that the banking CEO’s didn’t know about the inner workings that led to the crisis. There are many questions about who knew what and who will take the blow but the question that needs to be asked of these leaders is, “are you ignorant, incompetent or both?”

If that sounds harsh, think about the fact that every person in an executive position accepted the responsibilities and benefits when he or she took the job. Compensation doesn’t come without challenges. Knowing what is going on in their administration is a critical part of effective leadership. Yes, some things may slide by but the big stuff better be covered. If it isn’t, then the person at the top is ignorant and incompetent.

In fairness, governing a state or growing a multi-billion dollar corporation requires a team effort. One individual cannot micro manage a behemoth organization. The key to success is leadership that clearly defines expectations and management that insures those expectations are being met. Leaders need trusted managers to follow up on initiatives and monitor activity to keep the organization moving in the right direction.

If you are the head of a country, state, company, or department your management is only as good as the people working with you. Your team members can make or break your future with their actions. When your legacy is in someone else’s hands, shouldn’t you do everything possible to insure a successful outcome? Here are some tips to get you started:

Clearly define expectations – People want to please their superiors. Providing clear expectations makes their job easier and keeps them on the right path. It also minimizes the damage if things go wrong.

Document and communicate expectations to everyone in the organization – Sharing the information with everyone creates a “checks and balances” environment. It is much harder to circumvent the rules when everyone knows them.

Be a good example – People believe what they see more than what they read or hear. Telling people about expectations and then doing something different is confusing. Don’t make rules that you are not willing to follow.

Create sharing opportunities – Waiting until there is a crisis to ask “Do you know anything about this?” is risky. Spend time every day listening to team members at all levels. This opens the door for them to share activities and events that may be unknown to you.

Use mistakes as learning opportunities (and warnings) – The right listening environment will bring mistakes to the forefront before they become a crisis. Use that opportunity to teach people how to improve and what happens if they don’t learn from the mistakes.

Always keep priorities in the right order – Your team members are not Secret Service Special Agents assigned to protect you. Their job is to protect the country, state, or company. The organization is bigger than any one person. If everyone does his or her job well (including you), you will be protected as the leader of the organization.

Eliminate eminent threats – There are always people with individual agendas that don’t support the wellness of the organization. Identify them, assess the situation, and remove them from their positions if they refuse to cooperate. Your organization can only be as good as the weakest link.

Be a leader – Don’t hide behind your team members. The mistakes they make are your responsibility. Creating an environment that rewards integrity and good initiative keeps mistakes from escalating into a crisis. Do it now.

For more information on creating great teams for your business, email Debra at

Duck Commander, A&E, Cracker Barrel People choose your business for a reason. It may be convenience, service, quality, the “in” thing to do, or a combination. Knowing why your customers choose your company and how they want to be served is critical to creating a sustainable growth strategy. Without this knowledge, your marketing can do little more than fire shots in the dark.

Some companies create detailed personas to describe the people that patronize their business. Personas are an excellent tool for identifying target markets. They can be used for marketing, merchandising, and service. The key to using them well is to recognize that every business has multiple personas and there will always be exceptions.

What happens when companies don’t know their customers?

The “Duck Dynasty” battle between network and reality show stars provides good examples on the importance of knowing your customers. It shows the power of knowledge and problems that can come with ignorance. Three brands took a position on a controversial issue. One had a good understanding of the customer base and effectively used it. The other two missed the mark. Please note that the purpose of reviewing this public drama is to look at lessons to be learned. The following is a recap for the handful of people who may have missed the drama that played out on every major news network and social media site:

Phil Robertson, the patriarch of the family that owns Duck Commander and stars in “Duck Dynasty”, made controversial statements in a GQ interview. A & E, the network hosting “Duck Dynasty”, suspended him after receiving complaints. An immediate backlash from viewers and fans followed the suspension. In the midst of the drama, Cracker Barrel posted this on the company’s Facebook page:

Cracker Barrel Post about Pulling Duck Dynasty

It reads, “Cracker Barrel’s mission is Pleasing People. We operate within the ideals of fairness, mutual respect and equal treatment of all people. These ideals are the core of our corporate culture. We continue to offer Duck Commander products in our stores. We removed selected products which we were concerned might offend some of our guests while we evaluate the situation. We continually evaluate the products we offer and will continue to do so.”

The message was confusing.

If the company taking a position against Robertson’s comments, why not pull all of the items? Cracker Barrel customers and Duck Dynasty fans were alienated by the post. They responded quickly. The company’s Facebook page shifted from discussions on home style cooking to debates about freedom of speech. In less than 48 hours, this appeared on the Facebook page:

Cracker Barrel posts apology over pulling Duck Dynasty products

The full comment reads, “Dear Cracker Barrel Customer:

When we made the decision to remove and evaluate certain Duck Dynasty items, we offended many of our loyal customers. Our intent was to avoid offending, but that’s just what we’ve done.

You told us we made a mistake. And, you weren’t shy about it. You wrote, you called and you took to social media to express your thoughts and feelings. You flat out told us we were wrong.

We listened.

Today, we are putting all our Duck Dynasty products back in our stores.

And, we apologize for offending you.

We respect all individuals right to express their beliefs. We certainly did not mean to have anyone think different.

We sincerely hope you will continue to be part of our Cracker Barrel family.”

Meanwhile, the controversy surrounding the comments continued to rage. A Facebook page supporting Robertson gained over 100,000 likes in a matter of hours. Thousands of people signed petitions to bring Phil back. The Robertson family responded to the suspension with this statement, “We are disappointed that Phil has been placed on hiatus for expressing his faith, which is his constitutionally protected right. We have had a successful working relationship with A&E but, as a family, we cannot imagine the show going forward without our patriarch at the helm. We are in discussions with A&E to see what that means for the future of Duck Dynasty.”

A few days later, A&E reinstated Robertson with this statement, “As a global media content company, A+E Networks’ core values are centered around creativity, inclusion and mutual respect. We believe it is a privilege for our brands to be invited into people’s home and we operate with a strong sense of integrity and deep commitment to these principals.

That is why we reacted so quickly and strongly to a recent interview with Phil Robertson. While Phil’s comments made in the interview reflect his personal views based on his own beliefs, and his own personal journey, he and his family have publicly stated they regret the “coarse language” he used and the mis-interpretation of his core beliefs based only on the article. He also made it clear he would “never incite or encourage hate.” We at A+E Networks expressed our disappointment with his statements in the article, and reiterate that they are not views we hold.

But Duck Dynasty is not a show about one man’s views. It resonates with a large audience because it is a show about family… a family that America has come to love. As you might have seen in many episodes, they come together to reflect and pray for unity, tolerance and forgiveness. These are three values that we at A+E Networks also feel strongly about.

So after discussions with the Robertson family, as well as consulting with numerous advocacy groups, A&E has decided to resume filming Duck Dynasty later this spring with the entire Robertson family.”

In a nutshell, an outspoken character made a controversial statement. Two brands alienated their customer base by trying to distance their companies from the character. One brand read the currents well and emerged from controversy stronger.

The lessons to be learned are:

Know your customers better than anyone else. The Duck Commander family has a clear understanding of the people that love their products and characters. They used that knowledge as leverage against A&E.

When in doubt, wait.
A&E and Cracker Barrel reacted quickly to the controversy. If they had waited before responding, it may have become a non-issue.

Don’t straddle the fence. Cracker Barrel confused people by removing “selected products which we were concerned might offend some of our guests.” If the selected products were offensive, why were they in a family friendly business?

Use knowledge of your customers to make business decisions. There will always be advocacy groups promoting their causes. Don’t let the fear of outsider influence hurt your company’s relationship with customers.

If you make a mistake, correct it quickly. Cracker Barrel responded quickly to customer and fan feedback. Reversing the company’s position minimized the damage.

Know your customers well enough to anticipate their response. The response of Duck Dynasty fans and Cracker Barrel customers should have been anticipated. Judging from the online commentary, it appears the only ones surprised were A&E and Cracker Barrel.

Timing is everything. The response from the Robertson family came after their fans created supportive Facebook pages and petitions. There was minimal risk for the Robertson and Duck Commander brands.

For information on how to get to know your customers, email Debra at

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