As a seasoned digital marketer, you don’t need anyone to explain to you that an effective email marketing campaign is the equivalent of a well-used greasy wrench in the toolbox of online brand promotion strategies. It’s considered one of the most effective conversion methods by a whole host of professional marketers. However, sometimes too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.
When you send an email, you’re effectively interrupting somebody. The recipient might be looking for a personal email from a friend, a love letter from a paramour, or a good joke from an older uncle who doesn’t know how to use Facebook. In any case, your email recipients are not a captive audience and they can dismiss your emails with a simple click of their mouse.
That’s why it’s important that you email them only as much as possible, but no more. You want to maximize your brand promotion without being offensive.
Think of your strategy as the “Price Is Right” school of thought applied to email marketing. On the famous game show, people are asked to guess the retail price of an item by getting as close as possible to the actual price, without going over. When it comes to email marketing, you want to send as many emails that your recipients are willing to receive, but no more.
Because when you send too many emails, you lose.
So the question becomes: how many emails is too many? How many should you send?
There’s not a one-size-fits-all answer to that question, but we’ll offer some guidelines.
Beware of Going Gung-Ho
It’s tempting to opt for the “spray and pray” school of thought when it comes to email marketing. That’s the idea that you blast out emails to all your recipients at a high rate thinking that the law of averages dictates that some of them will convert.
It might work in your case, but it’s all advised in general.
A wonderful infographic from TechnologyAdvice provides us with some relevant information about what consumers are looking for in their inbox. According to the graphic, 43 percent of email subscribers want businesses to email them less frequently. Also, almost half (48 percent) want the content that they receive via email to be more informative.
That infographic is based on a survey that offers even more data of interest to digital marketers. Almost 46 percent of email subscribers will flag an email as spam if they get mailed too often by the business. Almost a third (32 percent) will unsubscribe from the distribution list if the content they receive isn’t relevant. Also, respondents said that businesses could improve their email marketing efforts by sending less frequent emails (44 percent) and by sending more personalized offers (24 percent).
So, before you think about the frequency of your email marketing messages, first think about the content of those messages. How does that content benefit the recipient?
Maybe 2016 should be the year that you view email marketing the same way you’ve historically viewed content marketing. With content marketing, you’re always looking to provide information that’s valuable to the reader. Why not do the same with email marketing?
Instead of crafting an email campaign that sounds salesy, take your email marketing to the next level with a subject line that immediately emphasizes a benefit to the recipient and/or answers a question that you’re almost certain that the recipient is asking. See what that strategy does to your open and conversion rates.
More Emails, More Fun
Sometimes, ramping up the frequency that you send out emails can have marvelous effects. That was the case with Aviva.
Once upon a time, the largest insurer in the UK only sent out one email per year. That’s not a typo. The company only sent an email to prospects right before their policy was about to expire.
Aviva wisely contracted Alchemy Worx to improve its email marketing strategy. That company ran some surveys to determine what kinds of content customers wanted to receive. Then, the frequency of the emails was slowly increased to about one per month.
Did it work? The proof is in the Yorkshire pudding. Forty-eight percent more recipients requested insurance quotes, there were 304 percent more unique clicks (again, not a typo), and there was a 45 percent increase in email revenue.
Note that the survey was an important prerequisite to increasing the email frequency. Also, the content was crafted according to feedback from the survey.
Again, good content precedes a consideration about how often emails should be blasted.
How Often Does Everybody Else Do It?
It’s usually not a good idea to follow the herd. As famed finance author Robert Kiyosaki once wrote: if you want to get rich, find out what everybody else is doing and do the exact opposite.
However, it still might be worth considering, as a benchmark if nothing else, how often other email marketers are sending out emails. According to the UK Direct Marketing Association’s 2015 National Client Email report, the largest plurality of email marketers (39 percent) sends out emails 2-3 times per month.
What does that mean for you? Nothing, really. Those email marketers aren’t sending emails to people in your target market exclusively. And if they are, does it mean that they’re doing the right thing just because 39 percent of them are doing it? No.
So What’s the Right Frequency of Emails?
So now we get to the magic question. How often should you send out emails?
That’s not what you wanted to read, is it? But it’s the right answer.
Let’s turn to another survey, conducted in January of 2015, in which respondents answered the following question: “How often, if ever, would you like to receive promotional emails (e.g., coupons, sales notifications) from companies that you do business with?”
The most popular answers were “At least monthly” (more than 80 percent) and “At least weekly” (more than 60 percent). The good news there is that it’s an indication that people who are part of an email list seem to be very interested in getting relevant content.
Remember, however, that the people surveyed were not exclusively members of your target market. So, your mileage may vary.
As a good rule of thumb, start with once per week, but only after you’ve surveyed your recipients to get feedback on the kind of content that they’re looking for. It’s not likely you’ll want to send out emails more than once a week, unless you’ve got a list of recipients who are really hungry for information. If you run a news website, people might prefer a daily (or even twice daily) recap of top stories.
If you’re noticing unsubscribes, scale back to once a month and reevaluate your content strategy.
Segment Your List
You might pat yourself on the back because you’re a great marketer who has an email list that you use for marketing purposes. Before you get too proud of yourself, though, answer the following question: why do you have only one list?
If you’re answer is “because I have only one brand,” that’s probably not good enough. Is everybody who uses your brand part of the exact same demographic? Does everyone who uses your brand share the same interests? Not likely.
Break that email list up into sub-lists based on demographics and interests. Market to those sub-lists accordingly.
You might find that different segments prefer emails in different frequencies. That’s perfectly normal and totally expected. Be sure to tailor-fit your email marketing strategy with a frequency that matches the desired email volume for each segment.
Beware of Undermailing
While it’s certainly the case that you can annoy people in your target market by emailing them too often, you can also hurt yourself by not sending emails often enough. That’s the other extreme.
When you send emails too infrequently, you’re opening the door to several risks. Among them: difficulties keeping your subscriber list free of bad email addresses, higher complaint rates, and a poor reputation.
Wrapping It Up
There’s no magic number when it comes to determining the right answer to the question: “How many emails should I send?” Start by developing a strong content strategy that maximizes your open rates, then test the number of emails that your recipients are willing to receive.