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< = >. Or how less can be MORE for email marketing

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Did you ever know someone who was over-keen? Who didn’t respect your space? Maybe they (sometimes) had something valid to say, but in the end you just had too much and tried to avoid them somehow.  As marketers, we have to be careful not to fall into this category with our email campaigns. It’s a fine line to walk between staying top of mind with your reader and well, bugging them. Quite simply if you “blast” them with too many newsletters, your image will suffer and eventually they’ll probably either unsubscribe or hit spam!

He’s just not that into you
Indeed, email frequency has been found to be the most important reason for unsubscribing from a newsletter for consumers, cited as driving over a third of opt-outs. And how many people just hit delete and emotionally unsubscribe? Yet 65% of email marketers don’t differentiate email frequency by customer according to AgilOne. And 60% of marketers don’t offer email preferences (such as frequency) to customers according to Experian Marketing.

We all know that scarcity breeds perceived value: diamonds, drugs, alcohol, limited edition whatever…and this holds true for email marketing: < = >, or in longhand: less can equal more. Finding the email frequency “sweet spot” is a bit of a Holy Grail for marketers: just enough to keep readers stimulated, but not too much to annoy them.

2014 05 26 dial no words

Slice and Dice
However, a single optimal email frequency is a bit like a pair of jeans that flatter everyone: it doesn’t exist! I was excited by the launch of Levi’s Curve ID jeans to suit different body shapes: pear, apple and athletic. To literally get a better fit they offer different options.

Similarly a one-size-fits-all email frequency isn’t optimal. Your enthusiasts will be hungry for more and your more relaxed subscribers will be overstuffed. It makes good sense that it’s better to tailor your mailing frequency how engaged your reader is. The more they’re into you, the more they’ll want to hear from you. That way their level of interest and the frequency of your emails are in sync. So the trick is to break down or segment your subscribers into several groups according to their level of engagement.

Behavioral Indicators of Engagement Include:
• Time since last purchase (for example within the last month, between 3 to 6 months ago, more than 6 months ago)
• Value of last purchase
• Social network interaction with your brand: followers on Twitter, fans on Facebook, pinners on Pinterest, product review on your website etc.
• Open and click through rates

Test to Know What Works Best
Having segmented your database by levels of engagement, how do you know how often to mail? By testing.

“The classic way to know if it’s working is to test it. Never trust your hunches.” says Paul de Fombelle, General Manager of Mailify Latin America & Spain.

Say you currently mail everyone in your database every week, whoever they are. You take two random representative groups and mail group A every two weeks and group B you continue with every week. (Group B is the control group.) For the month of June 2014 this would give for example:

Group A: Tuesday 3rd, 2pm. Tuesday 17th, 2pm
Group B: Tuesday 3rd, 2pm. Tuesday 10th, 2pm. Tuesday 17th, 2pm. Tuesday 24th, 2pm

After a couple of weeks you could compare the two groups to see how they reacted to the email campaigns. Classic metrics to follow are: the unsubscribe rate, unique opens, click throughs and purchases. According to what’s more important to you, you’d see which group reacted better. And following this, you could send the winning frequency to the rest of your 800 customers. NB: you should send your emails at the same time and on same day to keep these variables constant (otherwise different times and days could pollute your results.)

Empower Your Subscribers
Email marketing is sometimes compared to having a conversation with your subscribers. But if you’re having a conversation, ideally you should to listen to the other person! So an alternative way to managing frequency is by giving your readers the choice in their email preferences.

For example, King Arthur Flour is upfront on what you can expect on the frequency and content:

2014 05 26 fab

And Fab presents email frequency settings in a neat way below:

2014 05 26 fab2

You can also take a proactive approach, such as the one by TopMan below to wake up your ‘sleeping’ subscribers and thus clean your database of the emotionally unsubscribed. These readers may even remember why they subscribed in the first place if you give them some special attention.

2014 05 26 topman crop

Key Takeaways
• There’s no hard and fast rule for email frequency. It’s specific to your business, database and readers’ level of engagement.
Test to know your subscribers preferred frequency.
• In general the more actively the reader engages with you the higher the frequency of the newsletter
Email preferences put your customers in the driving seat and let them decide their frequency.

We are proud that this post was originally featured on CMSWire.

Jeans Image credit: by Potamos photography


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