A question we get asked time and time again by our clients – “How often should we email our subscribers?” – seems so simple on its face. So why is it that the simplest questions often require the most sophisticated answers?

Not Too Hot and Not Too Cold

One obvious and desirable approach is to build an email preference center and allow your customers to tell you how often they want to hear from you. And be sure to make it easy for them to switch back and forth between desired frequencies. In the end, this will go a long way towards reducing your opt-out rate while giving your customers what they want when they want – which is what it’s all about.

Goldilocks knew what she wanted after tasting the three bowls of porridge she found in the bears’ house. But, unfortunately, many of your customers don’t make the effort to tell you what they want. Or they might not even know it themselves, which requires you to do a lot more work to divine their wishes.

Establish Your Goals

To properly determine your optimal frequency, you first need to establish the goals of your email marketing program. Are you simply interested in driving the most revenues through your email marketing program and, if so, are you looking to maximize these over the long-term? OR are you willing to sacrifice some long-term value and dollars for a short-term gain?

If revenues are not your end goal, then what is? Deeper relationships with your customers or constituents? Providing education and training to the most people possible (e.g. a “stop smoking” campaign)? Rebuilding your reputation and company brand (e.g. Toyota after the recalls), etc.? Once you’ve determined your goals, then the analysis necessary to optimize your email frequency will fall more easily into place.

What’s an Email Relationship Worth to You?

The next step in the process is to determine the lifetime value of an email relationship to you. Without this, it’s impossible to know whether it’s better, for example, to gain 10% more in revenues while experiencing a 1% opt-out rate or to gain 5% more in revenues while experiencing a .2% opt-out rate.

Of course, revenue gains and opt-out rates will vary over time so one can’t assume these will remain constant. Furthermore, if the people opting out are your least valuable customers, then absorbing a higher opt-out rate is easier than if you find that your increased mailing frequency is alienating your most desirable customers.

Risk versus Reward

After taking these considerations into account, your final analysis comes down to the gain from increased mailing versus the costs (e.g. opt-outs, disenfranchised customers, spam complaints, etc.). Like most things in life, however, there is no one size fits all. The proper email frequency will vary within and across industries. And it will also depend on other financial criteria such as profit margins, fixed versus variable costs, the economic climate, etc.

At FreshAddress, we pride ourselves on solving difficult marketing and data challenges (e.g. de-siloing databases, curing deliverability issues) with simple, mathematically elegant solutions. But sometimes the simplest questions – “How often should we email our subscribers?” – require complex answers and sophisticated, dynamic technology to solve.

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