Smart Marketing: Email Frequency Best Practices


Published: March 23, 2020 Author: Jason Holicky - Hometown Design Studio Inc.
Smart Marketing: Email Frequency Best Practices

Email is one of the most reliable tools you have in your marketing toolbox, and it comes with one of the best returns on investment, too. For every dollar that is spent on marketing emails, an average of $42 is coming back in return. Of course, if you want to see that kind of performance, you have to find the right time to send out your messages. Here’s what you need to know about email frequency best practices.

Too Much or Too Little?
For every company and audience, there’s a sweet spot as far as how often you should be sending out emails. If you send too few, you’re missing opportunities to build better relationships and sell more. Frequent emails help boost brand awareness—even if your messages are not opened—as your subscribers will start to forget about you if it’s been too long.

On the flip side, sending too many messages can be just as risky. If you’re sending repetitive messages or irrelevant content, expect your unsubscribe rate to start climbing. To successfully send frequent emails, you’ll need to spend time and resources generating new ideas and creating content, and this can be time-consuming. The most serious risk of over sending is annoying recipients into marking your emails as spam. If enough people do this, your name will start landing on spam filters and automatically be marked as spam—even for people who have not specifically marked your messages as such.

There’s a lot at stake here. But, there are some email frequency best practices based on what has been proven to work for others. That way, you can hone in on the sweet spot for your campaigns.

Email Frequency Best Practices: Your Audience
Once again, we begin a discussion on marketing best practices by looking at your audience. Look at the typical lifecycle of your customers: how often are repeat buyers making purchases? This is the single most informative piece of information to determine how often you send marketing messages.

Why? Let’s take a look. Suppose you sell expensive software packages that businesses typically re-evaluate every 3-5 years. Once a purchase has been made, there’s a bit of time when you may be able to capture an upsell, but after that, the window for that product is closed. Subscribers who have made this purchase may enjoy monthly updates that point out how to use different features, links to training videos, and other helpful bits that will help them make the most of their purchase (and hopefully return to you in a few years when it’s time to re-evaluate). Very few people are going to want to hear from you more often than that.

On the flip side, let’s suppose you sell children’s clothing. Kids grow constantly and are hard on their clothes. Seasons change and wardrobe needs fluctuate. Holidays come around, and it’s time for special occasion clothing. In other words, the sales cycle here is very short, which means that your email frequency can be quite high—weekly, or even several times per week, depending on your offers—without running into problems.

Know Your Goals Going In
Before you change how often you’re sending emails, you have to know why you’re changing the frequency. That way, you’ll see if you’re heading in the right direction. It’s not enough to simply look at open rates, clicks, and unsubscribes. These are important metrics, but only in conjunction with a goal and can often be misleading if you’re not reading them right. For example, new campaigns might have a slightly elevated unsubscribe number for a while as people who are never going to make a purchase jump ship—and that’s a good thing!

It’s also important to know that frequency will not be a driving factor in every goal. For example, segmentation is probably one of the most important email marketing tactics, and it can help inform email frequency best practices, too. The better you segment your audience by interest and where they are in your sales cycle, the easier it will be to see what kind of message to send and understand how much will be too much.

What are your goals for your email campaigns? Are you trying to increase your sales? Get more people into your physical store? Online store? Build loyalty (like in the software example above)?

Consider Your Content
Some people divide up their email content and think of them as different types of messages. You have newsletters, product announcements, event invitations, survey requests, and countless other types of content. Then there’s transactional content: receipts, confirmations, thank-yous, shipping updates, etc. For the sake of this discussion, we’ll need to lump everything that’s not transactional together to see the big picture.

Before you can decide what your email frequency best practices are, you have to look at all the potential email a person might get from you, especially if you have a lot going on and don’t have many audience segments. You may be sending product emails once per week, but a recipient is getting an email just about every day because they’ve landed on several of your segments (or, worse, you send everything to everyone!).

Consider the prospect who initially signed up and agreed to get your messages, engaged with a ton of your content and landed on several segments of your email audience, and is very close to making a purchase. So close, in fact, that they’ve been in contact with someone on your sales team to ask some questions and get some price quotes. They’re waiting to hear back, but first they get your newsletter. Then an event invitation. Then an announcement of a new blog post. By the time your poor sales rep replies with their requested info, the prospect is wondering if you’re even paying attention to them at all.

The Verdict: It Depends
There is no single answer for how often to email the people on your list. That’s because email frequency best practices are based on your current audience, your average customer lifecycle, what goals you’re trying to achieve (and which tactics you’re using in combination with frequency), and all the other email you’re sending to your lists.

If you need a good rule of thumb, err on the side of less frequent, but don’t drop below at least once per month. Then, inch your way to more frequent messages and pay very close attention to your metrics as a whole until you find the sweet spot. If this sounds like a lot of fiddly business that you don’t have time for, that’s what we’re here for! We can help you dial in your email frequency to get it just right.

About the Author

Creative Director Jason co-founded Hometown Design Studio of New Lenox, IL in 2013. He spends his days guiding and consulting industrial clients and small businesses owners on their marketing strategy and projects. Jason enables everyone to be successful and grow their business by sharing his knowledge and experience.
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