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Email frequency: How much is too much?

The key to email frequency is an artefact that marketers cling to in a desperate attempt to explain the relationship between the reach of their message and the engagement of their customers in statistical terms.

Reach vs. engagement

People have yet to discover this correlation though, and it’s great that this is how things stand. A world where marketers could predict phenomenal engagement and influence customers via email to such an extent that fierce battles would be fought between only a few producers, is a world we wouldn’t want to be in. Yet, when the most unbearable sound for a company is its neighbour’s cash register opening, the closer we can get to this hypothetical ‘key’, the better.

Responsive email and frequency

Nowadays, the hottest topic on marketers’ lips is responsive email design. While it has very little to do with email frequency, in theory, it’s turning the issue of frequency into a real conundrum. It’s one thing to send emails that a customer would see on his way back from work or while he sips his morning coffee, but it’s another thing to send emails that a customer can react to instantaneously. After all, would you want to switch off your phone because too many pesky emails pop up when your eyes are glued to the phone display for entirely different reasons? No. So, volume is a sensitive issue when it comes to email marketing.

Volume is not the only variable

But relying on volume alone to bring you enhanced levels of engagement is like letting a genie out of the bottle and then asking for your three wishes to be granted, after it’s flown the coop. It will get you nowhere and it will ruffle a few feathers. That’s because there’s one factor in this equation that simply can’t be quantified: human behaviour. It’s a variable that will tilt the scales when we least expect it, and it also explains why email volume isn’t directly proportional to customer engagement. Simply put, there’s no way of anticipating what a customer will want at a point in time, or at least, not in the long run. Humans are fickle and kudos to us, because it makes us just a tiny bit less boring.

Clicks by increments

We know this for a fact: engagement is incremental, and once you’ve hit your peak, there’s only one way to go. In other words, after a certain number of times, your customers will eventually lose interest or become annoyed with the emails you send too often. When this happens, you’re no better in their eyes than a spammer, a social bot, or an irksome banner that keeps popping up just because you happened to hover over it. So, after you’ve come up with a reasonable number of clicks, buys, or whatever it is you’re really looking for, commit to it. Don’t be greedy. Until your company grows further, there’s no point in trying to push the envelope, because the more emails you send, the faster the engagement drops, from this point on. Only push a new campaign further when you have an ace up your sleeve.

Each to his own

When it comes to online advertising, you only need to use three words to describe your situation: dog-eat-dog. So fierce is the competition for the spotlight, and so diverse the companies and their customers, that it’s pointless to try to replicate your most fervent competitor. While statistics will show you that this many customers end up deleting e-mails, and that many check their emails on their phone, these figures need not apply to you. Marketing statistics are based on extremely large control groups with different interests, living in different areas, going to work at different hours, using different phone settings, clicking on links for different reasons, expecting different things from you, and finally, drawing different experiences from the same type of interaction with your emails. Unless you have the global reach to take advantage of all these circumstances put together, you’re more likely to fall under very different conversion patterns. And if you have that kind of reach, you probably don’t need these statistics.

Wind of change

As much as you may feel like we’re answering your ‘But, how will I know?’ question with a dry, condescending ‘You’ll know…’, there are patterns to your business cycle that only an insider can get a feel for. Your email marketing frequency needs to make allowances for national school vacations if you’re an estate agent, it should not conflict with fasting practices if you’re a gourmet food retailer, it shouldn’t coincide with inflated petrol prices if you’re a car dealer, etc. There are matters pertaining to your business model that a robot dishing out emails simply can’t cope with.

Speculation vs. imprudence

Whenever there’s an inkling of light at the end of the tunnel, you’re taking a chance. When none of your tools are tried-and-tested, and the weight of previous failed attempts in similar situations weighs heavily on you, you’re taking a clear, undeniable plunge into oblivion. So, rather than focus on that one-size-fits-all solution to the optimum number of emails, try to be reactive to drops in existing engagement and try to prevent any more of those from happening.