The Myth of the Magic Email Frequency

Posted by Margaret Farmakis on

How often should marketers send email to their subscribers?

According to Chad White at the Email Experience Council (eec), that depends to some extent on the industry norm. He compiled frequency data for 92 major retailers over 16 weeks and found that the average number of touches is 1.7 per week.

What’s a marketer to do if you fall above or below the industry average? The knee-jerk reaction is to submit to the peer pressure of your industry’s frequency statistics and fall in line accordingly. But will that really make a difference when it comes to response?

Not if what you’re sending isn’t really compelling in the first place. These frequency results raise some interesting questions for marketers to consider before making any drastic decisions or myopic quick-fixes to your email program’s frequency.

  1. How do you find a balance between encouraging subscriber response and overwhelming them with multiple touches?
  2. If you’re sending less than your competitors, should you send more to stay in step and vice versa?
  3. What do subscribers really want?
  4. What are the risks of sending emails too frequently or infrequently?

The answers to these questions lie in devising a cadence and content strategy based on the following:

  • Timing is key. Instead of ramping up or scaling back your frequency to meet the industry norm, consider triggering your messages when your subscribers are most receptive to them: base it on their position in your sales lifecycle. For example, if a subscriber recently made a purchase, follow up with a discounted offer on related items; if they filled their shopping cart and then abandoned it, send an email reminder listing the items along with a link to complete their purchase or contact information for customer service if they have questions or need help. Rather than sending too little (and losing your top-of-mind positioning) or sending too often (and getting lost in the inbox clutter), optimize your messaging for the moments when subscribers are primed (and want) to listen to you.
  • Focus on quality, not quantity. When you send engaging content with information your subscribers can really use, your emails will resonate, not irritate. Once prior value is established and subscribers come to expect that your emails will be of interest to them, they will be far less concerned with how often you send your messages and pay more attention to what’s in them.
  • Offer a choice. Ask your subscribers when they want to receive your emails and supply a frequency option when they sign up for your program. By putting the subscriber in control, you’ll have a file that’s more engaged and less likely to delete your email, unsubscribe from your file or report your email as spam. And if they do choose to opt out, provide them with the option to receive less rather than no email from you by including checkboxes in your unsubscribe form to select a lower frequency.

It’s certainly a good idea to keep an eye to the industry norm and use it as a benchmark; however the ideal frequency has more to do with what you’re sending and whether or not your subscribers want and welcome your emails.

Furthermore, smart email programs recognize that cadence isn’t static; frequency can be adjusted to ebb and flow with your subscribers’ changing lifecycles and needs. Instead of searching for the magic number in report data and market research, focus on what your subscribers are telling you (through open, click and opt-out metrics), ask them or give them a choice to make that decision for themselves.


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