Email Frequency: Not Too Hot and Not Too Cold

Your roving reporter had an opportunity to sit down (over email, of course) with several leading email industry experts and ask a series of questions of interest to our readers. This is the sixth in our continuing series of “Partner Insights”, which we hope will provide you with answers to some of your most vexing issues.

Our panelists this month are:

Loren McDonald, VP, Industry Relations – Silverpop

Chip House, VP Industry & Relationship Marketing -ExactTarget

Jeanniey Mullen, Global EVP, Chief Marketing Officer – Zinio LLC and VIVmag

FP (FreshPerspectives): Loren, we read about the errors of emailing too frequently, but isn’t emailing too infrequently just as bad?

Loren: Both approaches lead to similar results: disengagement and an increase in spam complaints. Infrequent emailing also leads to a loss of momentum and what I call the “Forgot I Signed Up for Email” Syndrome.

A recent Silverpop study uncovered a surprising statistic: 22 percent of Internet Retailer’s Top 500 companies sent no email at all in the first 30 days after opt-in. This is a huge lost opportunity to engage new subscribers when they are most interested in your messages.

But, just as emailing too frequently can irritate your customers, emailing too infrequently also has its consequences: 1) leaving revenue on the table and 2) not meeting customer/subscriber expectations, and 3) having your emails go unnoticed when you do send them.

Relevance drives frequency now: In email’s infancy, the calendar determined frequency. Marketers asked, “How often should I send email?” Today, the question is, “How do I send more relevant emails more often but with fewer resources?”

More marketers are finding success with emails whose frequency reflects subscribers’ needs and interests or are triggered by their actions. With this kind of targeted and triggered messaging, you might end up actually sending more messages overall, but each has higher value as it’s pinpointed to smaller segments of your database.

There is no magic answer for finding the right frequency and cadence, as numerous factors make the answer widely different for differing brands and industries. By not finding the right cadence, however, you decrease the likelihood of delivering the “right message at the right time” to your subscribers.

FP: Chip, what’s your take on this?

Chip: Again, subscriber expectation should guide you here. What expectation for frequency did you set at the opt-in? If daily, then stick to that. If weekly or monthly, then stick to that. If no frequency was communicated, then my recommendation is that once or twice per month maximum is “expected” by the subscriber. Remember, unexpected (i.e. too frequent emailing) can quickly become “unwanted,” which will lead to delivery issues. On the flip side, ensure you mail at least once per quarter as consumers may otherwise “forget” over time they opted in and, the longer a mailer waits, the more likelihood there is that some percentage of their file of addresses has gone bad.

FP: Jeanniey, what do you think about this question – is it the chicken or the egg – is emailing too infrequently worse than emailing too frequently?

Jeanniey: One of the best benefits of any email program is its ability to strengthen your brand. Timing and balance are key. While emailing too frequently can result in excessive spam complaints and an increase in opt-outs, emailing too infrequently often results in exactly the same outcome…without a counterbalancing increase in revenues.

FP: Thanks so much for sharing your insights on this subject.

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