Frequency: An Overlooked Opportunity

Posted by Justin McHenry on

Of all the levers an email marketer can pull, the most neglected is that of frequency. If you’re like most email marketers, you may be asking yourself, “How often should I send mail? Am I sending enough? Too much? What are the consequences of sending frequency on my brand and revenue?” Answering these questions isn’t as easy as it may seem. And, initiatives to improve frequency management often falter. In this post, we offer a few tips to help you determine if you have a frequency problem or opportunity and then how to quantify it.

Step 1: Learn from the past
First, you need to get a baseline and ask two questions:

  • How is frequency managed/determined today?

  • Why is it done that way?

For some, the answer may be that it’s ignored completely. For most email marketers, it’s likely that you manage frequency using a one-size-fits-all suppression policy based on recency of engagement (see example below). Those criteria were probably decided years ago and have rarely been revisited.

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 If either strategy sounds a little too familiar, now is an excellent time to investigate—you could be looking at a huge opportunity to improve your email program and subscriber experience.

Step 2: Is this a problem?
As users of email, we understand not all people will have the same preferences when it comes to frequency. A single individual’s preferences will depend on all sorts of things like length of brand relationship, what types of content they’re receiving, personal habits, time of year, and so on. While it can be difficult to predict each person’s ideal frequency preference, at the very least you should dig into the effect sending frequency has on your email program.

Many email marketers proudly claim that the frequency they mail at is not a problem because their unsubscribe and complaint rates have stayed within the same range for years. To challenge this type of thinking, we walk them through the following exercise:

  • How many promotional campaigns do you send on average each week?

  • How many subscribers on average do you mail to for those promotional campaigns?

  • What is the average unsubscribe rate for those campaigns?

Let’s say a marketer sends three promotional campaigns per week to an average of two and a half million subscribers. The average unsubscribe rate on a typical campaign is a seemingly normal 0.2%. Over the course of a year, that would result in whopping 780,000 unsubscribes! Many of those former subscribers may just want less mail from you, and unsubscribing is the easiest way to reach that goal. If you survey subscribers when they unsubscribe, you may be able to determine what percentage of those subscribers left because they didn’t want so much mail.

The benefits of sending mail at the correct frequency are numerous: greater engagement, improved inbox placement, increased subscriber retention rates, and increased subscriber lifetime value. If you go through these steps and are a bit startled by the numbers you come up with, reach out to us for more information about our recently launched Send Frequency Optimization Beta Program.


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About Justin McHenry

Justin is a Technical Account Manager at Return Path in the Colorado office. He's passionate about cracking eggs of knowledge and uncovering AHA! moments for himself, his colleagues, and, of course, his clients. In his free time he can be found rock climbing, mountain biking, or carving canyons on his motorcycle. Connect with him on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/justingmchenry

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