How often you should send email marketing material has been a subject of debate for many years. It’s been a fairly polarizing conversation to boot, with strong advocates for daily emailing on one end and cautious testimonials that email flooding motivates unsubscribers on the other.
Going online to find good data in support of any position on the topic can be onerous. The volume of data out there means you really can find numbers to support any position, but much of it is varying degrees of questionable. Finding an informed balancing point in the debate can be very difficult.
I’m not here to tell you how often to send email. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach that is going to suit every reader. There are good points for and against a range of frequencies, and it’s up to you to find the balance that is right for your business. That is something that I can help you with. Let’s get to it.
A Relationship Philosophy
Building relationships with customers is good business. That’s something we can all agree on, and that philosophy is going to inform everything I say below. You will grow a better business by growing quality relationships with your customers.
Building relationships requires communication. That’s where your email marketing strategy comes in and that’s the foundation you’re building on with your strategy. You need meaningful communication to grow relationships.
Not all communication is created equal. Good communication adds value for both parties. For you the value is plain: sales and brand exposure. What’s the value to your customer?
Communication and Value
The answer to the question of frequency should be built around the answer to this question: How frequently can I communicate something of real value to my customers?
I love Newegg. I build pcs and they are my go-to hardware retailer. And yet, I have unsubscribed from all of their email marketing lists for one simple reason: their emails do not offer value to me greater than the hassle of dealing with almost daily emails from them in my inbox. I would be fine with the frequency IF they offered value to me as a consumer.
Your customer’s inbox space is valuable to them. Respect that. Do not communicate trivially. Every communication should add something of value, and the more targeted the better; look into segmentation asap.
Poor communication can actually hurt your sales as your potential customers become less engaged. Irrelevant, low value emails can hurt your brand image and cheapen your reputation in your industry.
Add value with every communication.
And Now… Some Data!
Philosophy may build a great strategical foundation, and this section should be read in light of the last two, but a good plan uses good data to guide the specifics. So, what does the data suggest for frequency of email marketing? Lets look at independent research from MailChimp and Campaign Monitor, two industry leading CRMs.
Frequency and Engagement are Negatively Correlated
MailChimp handles over 600 million emails daily from more than 9 million users. Research conducted by MailChimp shows a strong negative correlation between frequency and engagement, so it’s definitely a point you’ll want to keep in mind.
The metric they use for engagement is click rate for the email, as that is more closely tied to sales conversions than open rate is. The data is striking:
The more frequently customers are sent email, the lower user engagement gets with each email. This pretty strongly indicates that you should consider a quality over quantity approach, which also incidentally supports the above mentioned philosophy of value in communication.
Frequency Measurably Influences Customer Interaction
Research by Campaign Monitor on more than 2 billion emails indicates that the frequency of email does measurably influence open rates, unique opens, click throughs, and unsubscribes.
For their users in this sample, they found that the sweet spot between interaction and unsubscribing fell at 2 emails per month. More than that and the unsubscribe rate increased steadily with little return on interaction.
Coupled with the MailChimp data, this should perhaps give you cause for careful consideration. Both data sets show sharply diminishing returns after 4-5 emails per month.
That’s not to say this should be the standard for everyone. I’m not saying you shouldn’t send email more frequently than once a week or every other week. Your business may be able to offer remarkable value more frequently. These are all measurable numbers you can observe for yourself and find your own balance of frequency and value. At the same time, good data from reputable sources like that above is very valuable to use as a guideline for your own approach.
To recap, fixating on a number may not be the best approach for your business. There’s not a magic number that will work for everyone. Your email marketing strategy should be based on a core philosophy of adding value to your customers’ lives, and to the extent that you can do that, you should communicate that value to them.
Overexposure is definitely a thing and can be harmful to your brand and your business. Where specifically that line falls is unique to you and your business, though good general data like the above is available and should guide your efforts in finding the balance that works for you and your customers. Look for more on email marketing from the WP Ninjas coming soon, and please feel free to share what works for you in the comments below!