Planning Frequency of Email Campaigns so as not to Overwhelm and Annoy

We all know what it feels like to subscribe to a brand or website that we really like, and quickly be turned off by the amount of emails that are sent. Sure we wanted to see some emails, but getting them in highly frequent increments can be enough to take anyone from enthusiastic to annoyed. In fact, according to Inc citing a study by Campaigner, 49% of consumers say that they receive too many marketing emails. So, what are we to do as business owners, marketers, or social media managers? How do we stay on our customer’s radar without overwhelming them?

When it comes to email marketing campaigns, there are a few important things to keep in mind including the content you are creating, making headlines eye catching, offering something of value and importance, and finally yes, frequency. Sending too many emails can effect performance and inhibit your overall efforts. Another study found that a high frequency of emails accounted for 73% of opt-outs and unsubscribes! If you want one important aspect of email marketing to consider in order to make your time and money well spent, frequency has to be a focus. Below are a few ways to combat the issue while still maintaining a healthy email marketing strategy:

DO NOT Over-Communicate

I recently read an article, that, while interestingly positioned, argued to communicate as much as possible in email marketing in order to make it as a successful business and boost sales. While this is a very tempting idea, over-communicating is a dangerous game to play when you are building your subscriber list and operating as a small independent business. The key in email marketing is to communicate when you have something to say, share, or something that needs attention. Emails also need to be thought out and carefully planned. Before taking to emailing your list every single day, think about the following:

  • Have you fully thought about the email you are about to send? Is it planned, thoughtful, and made for your target audience?
  • Would YOU want to receive the email? One of the best starting points is to consider—is this something you would want to read? Is this something you would choose to open and dedicate time with in your inbox?
  • Are you able to offer something? This could be thoughtful content, an eBook, a discount, an announcement, or some other piece of information that your audience will find valuable?

If you are able to confidently answer or consider those questions, then it is a good time for you to reach out to your audience. Also keep in mind that you should be able to say “yes” to all three questions. Sometimes you could have the most thoughtful messages every single day, but would you really want to receive an email every single day, no matter the content? In most instances, the answer is no.

What is the Magic Number?

Is there a magic number for email marketing frequency? Truthfully, frequency is going to depend on a variety of factors including your industry, the size of your business and how established your mailing list is. That said, it isn’t all guesswork. A lot of studies on email marketing have been published, and it is pretty clear that in order to determine the exact frequency you should target (for your industry, audience, and size/scale—but especially based on specific email list insights), you should conduct a frequency test and really look at your metrics. Below are the steps to making it happen:

Set-Up an Email Frequency Test. To set up a frequency test you experiment with different factors, such as weekly vs. biweekly, and monitor and measure your metrics. By looking at the patterns where emails are performing better you can plan and make a customize schedule for your business. For some industries once a week (or yes, possibly, once a day in very specific industries), works really well, and in some cases once a month may be best. Below shows you how you might compare metrics in Marketo, for example:

According to HubSpot there are 5 steps to start developing a frequency test:

  1. Come up with an informed hypothesis
  2. Test a segment of your email list first
  3. Establish baseline performance metrics
  4. Create and schedule test emails
  5. Analyze results

The key to finding your magic number (for frequency of email campaigns) is to test your own list and get accurate feedback so that you are communicating an appropriate amount to your audience.

Once you determine the patterns for best email success with an email frequency test you should maintain a regular schedule—this will allow you to keep an eye on metrics and see how things change as your list grows and changes over time.

When You Think You’ve Found Your Magic Number of Email Frequency

Always offer customizable options. This rings true even if you feel you have found the magic number. One of the key tricks to keeping your audience and holding your email list strong is to offer customizable options. Based on what we have learned about email unsubscribes, just because the frequency you discover is ideal for the majority of your audience, there will always be some that want less correspondence in their inbox. Consider offering choices, as VirtualVocations (left) does when someone clicks “unsubscribe,” or considering gathering information so you give the user a voice and can create a better experience in the future, like North Park Massage does (right) on their messages:

Be flexible and continue to monitor. Once you conduct initial testing and analytics to determine how often you should be sending you your mailers, you will need to keep on top of analysis to see if your frequency needs to increase or decrease. As things change remember to change your schedule and be consistence accordingly.

The Takeaway  

The reason that most articles cannot give you a specific answer or number for ideal frequency for not overwhelming or annoying your audience is because it is a unique answer for every business. Be very skeptical with blanket statements or one-size fits all approaches, such as emailing your audience every day to increase click-through rate. Start by devising a hypothesis based on your industry and audience size and perform a frequency test. Once you have a target schedule to try, adjust accordingly as your list grows and continue to monitor your metrics.

What are your concerns about performing a frequency test? Have you tried one for your own email marketing strategy? Let us know what works for you in the comments section below.