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Email Frequency POV: How Often Should You Email Your Customers?

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by: Darryl Bolduc (@darrylbolduc)
18 August 2016

Marketers often ask “How frequently should I be emailing my customers, or any one individual customer?” This isn’t an easy question to answer, as each individual may have different:

  • Levels of engagement with your brand
  • Services contracted or products purchased
  • Expectations for communications
  • Tolerance levels for untargeted solicitations

To find the right cadence for each customer, you’ll need a mix of behavioral data collection, smart marketing automation and thoughtful targeting. Here are three best practices I’ve gleaned from my personal experience in the field and industry research:

1) Email frequency tolerance can shift based on the level of targeting.

The relevance of timeliness and personalization cannot be understated. If you know when a customer “raises their hand” and then use automation to create ideal customer experiences that deliver messages when or after these activities happen, your contacts likely won’t be annoyed by the extra emails – they’ll look at them as the type of follow-ups they’d expect from the best customer-service-focused organizations.

2) Test frequency changes on smaller portions of your database and measure more than clicks.

What about increasing your sends of strictly promotional emails? Consider testing upticks in cadence on your most “engaged” users first, and look beyond opens and clicks when judging response – complaints and unsubscribes tend to rise with increased frequency, while engagement/read rates often decrease.

As you’re monitoring these metrics, beware the frequency math effect and remember to look at both cumulative metrics and per-message rates.

3) Undermailing can be just as harmful as overmailing.

Many customers anticipate that you’ll send them emails at least once a week – and perhaps more than that – so make sure you understand your audience expectations. For example, daily emails may be completely appropriate for a retailer with products and prices that change every day.

In addition to being mindful of these three best practices, many clients I’ve worked with have found it helpful to ask the following questions to determine their maturity within a cadence strategy:

A) Do you have an email that feels like a newsletter?

  • Does it go at the same time each month?
  • Is this a flagship for your brand?
  • Can you engineer this product to be smarter, more dynamic and customized for each reader?

B) Do you have ongoing conversations with customers based on where they are within their purchase / engagement cycle with you?

  • Do you they address all phases of that lifecycle?
  • Are they automated and easy to implement, update, and learn from?
  • Can you enhance these by adding flavors, lines of business or other engineered versions?

C) Do you have triggers set up based on customer behaviors?

  • Do these "programs" supersede the above due to their timely logic and relevance?
  • Have you spent time capturing the most important customer events, determined viability and developed a laundry list of possible priority triggers?
  • Are these your best-performing set of emails? (They should be, and you should do as many of these as possible.)

D) Do you have a daily or ad-hoc schedule that interrupts all of the above?

  • Is it easy to understand at a glance? How can you improve operational efficiency?
  • Do you have a set of templates with re-useable logic you can tap?
  • Do you have an ability to understand how many emails your customer have received in the last 7-, 14- and 30-day timeframes?

In summary, many factors contribute to a customer’s tolerance for email frequency from any given brand. By answering these questions, you’ll help provide a strong framework for assessing your current practices and developing an improved approach. From there, you can get started on engineering a more mature cadence that’s less reliant on scheduled, unsolicited marketing frequencies and more attuned to the behaviors and needs of your customers and prospects.

Get More Email Marketing Tips:

1) Ebook: “2016 Email Marketing Metrics Benchmark Study

2) Blog: “4 Strategies That Bring Customer Back to Buy Again and Again

3) Tip Sheet: “Transactional Emails: 10 Tips for Driving Value and Engagement


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