Facts and myths about email sending frequency
While working with clients from several industries, I often come across a similar and quite vital question for both smaller and larger email marketing programs. That question is: “How frequently should we send out our email campaigns”?
Many enterprises are way too passive regarding email campaign sending frequency. The most frequent excuse I hear is “we don’t want to seem pushy” or “we don’t want to be too aggressive because that will lead to a massive increase in unsubscribes”. This “paranoia” for many companies results in sending email campaigns once a week or even once a month! On the one hand, it seems that brands are quite cautious about how their audience might respond to different scenarios and that is commendable. On the other hand, based on my experience in email marketing, it seems that there is a lack of courage or knowledge regarding how to run email marketing programs. Here is why.
Two wise marketers
Let’s start by dividing email marketing professionals in two groups:
The first group consists of those marketers who measure email marketing effectiveness by a single campaign. That manifests as trying to keep the numbers of Key Performance Indicators (f.e. OR%, CTR%) as high as possible and of course, strive for even better results based on previous data analysis. Not the worst approach, right?! These will probably be the companies that send out campaigns once a week or month so they wouldn’t seem “too pushy/bothering” in the eyes of their audience. Of course, the other and possibly the greater motivation is to keep the KPI metrics high. Everyone knows the simple truth – the more frequently you send out email campaigns, the more likely unique open and click rates will decrease over time. This hypothesis has been proven right by many global reports based on a vast amount of data. Check out the graph below to see what I mean.
The chart on the left shows how rapidly complaint rate increases if a company deploys five or even more email campaigns per week. The chart on the right shows that if you increase the frequency of your campaigns over time, the average open rate per campaign will decrease. Quite convincing data against increasing campaign frequency, right?! But wait…
The second group consists of those marketers who believe that email is like any other marketing channel with the ultimate goal to maximize the percentage of the target audience that engages with a particular message.
Simple math can help to exemplify how these two groups differ:
- Company A sends out 1 email campaign per month and their average Open Rate is about 20%…
- Company B sends out 3 email campaigns per week and their average Open Rate is about 13%. Significantly worse, right?!
Let’s assume that each of these companies has an email database made of 10’000 subscribers. That means company A gets about 2000 unique opens per week. In the same period, company B achieves 1300×3 = 3900 unique opens. Of course, a small group of people will open two or all three campaigns, but you get the point – the more emails you send, the more impressions for your brand (of course, there are boundaries to this statement). Traffic to your homepage will increase as will, most likely, your sales figures. All of that despite the fact that, on an individual level, your campaigns might have lower Open and Click-Through rates than during those times when you sent out just a single campaign per week or month. Try figuring out which of these groups characterizes your brand and whether you have chosen the right path to reach your business goals. Maybe it’s time for a slight change!
Yes, an increase in sending frequency will most likely result in a lower average open rate. However, in the long term the return will be better – more unique opens, more clicks and a higher amount of campaigns seen by one particular subscriber.
True, there is a strong possibility that unsubscribe rate will also increase because probably some people will feel disappointed if you bombard them with your campaigns too often. We are all different, and that also applies to our subscribers. Unsubscribe data is vital for marketers to understand how well current sending frequency is perceived by their audience. If the unsubscribe rate increases, you should probably slow down a little bit. At the same time, if you achieve far better results by sending out campaigns more frequently, isn’t that worth it despite those increased unsubscribes? We shouldn’t pay so much attention to those 1-2 % who might unsubscribe, but focus more on the other 98-99% who might engage with our brand more often!
I challenge all of us to look beyond single campaign metrics, and we might come to some interesting conclusions.
Remember, our inbox is a battlefield! On average, we receive more than 6 emails on a daily basis, and at least 53% of those are of commercial/marketing content. Do you really believe that by sending one email campaign per week you are competing for your recipients’ attention? Do you think that your brand is noticeable through all that “noise”? Don’t forget about TOMA or Top Of Mind Awareness regarding your email campaigns. TOMA is a particular product or brand coming first in customers’ minds when thinking of a particular industry. Also, the less email you send, the lower the possibility of reaching your subscribers when they are ready to make a purchase or any other preferable action.
Don’t be a Hotspur
With all that said, I don’t want you to make the decision of sending out more emails right away. Remember that content is still the king. If you don’t have any special offers or engaging content, don’t start sending boring and unwanted campaigns just for the sake of increasing frequency. Doing that might damage your email marketing programme with no easy solution for fixing it.
There are a couple of ways how to test sending frequency. Here are some suggestions by email marketing guru Tim Watson.
First of all, divide your database into several lists and test each subscribers list separately for sending frequency. For example, if you have previously sent on average two email campaigns per month then test 4 and 6 campaigns per month for other lists. Of course, keep the previous amount of campaigns for one of the lists as well.
For each of these lists track:
- Campaign open rates;
- Traffic to your website;
- If that’s possible, your conversions from specific campaigns;
- Sales figures or other KPI which you decide are the most important for your business;
- Unsubscribe rate.
You should keep this test running for at least 2-3 months. Make sure that none of the lists include new subscribers as they tend to be more active after signing up – this will ruin your data legitimacy. Importantly, each of these lists, similarly to A/B tests, should consist of at least a couple of thousand subscribers. A few hundred will not be enough in this case.
It’s a common trend that subscribers’ enthusiasm drops over time and so will their engagement. That’s why it’s so important to make sure that new subscribers still join your list on a regular basis. A list that is not updated with new subscribers will get “worn out” from receiving campaigns too often.
Just a quick reminder – email is our digital passport. It’s the most personal space where brands can reach their audience. It’s a fantastic opportunity to create a deep connection and form a long term relationship. Don’t take this opportunity for granted. Don’t be boring, experiment with content and different strategies, but most importantly – analyze all the data you have and make calculated decisions about what works and what doesn’t.
Have you already tried testing sending frequency? Share your experience in the comment section below or contact us if you have any additional questions about this subject.
Now test, test, test!
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