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Email Marketing: Email frequency

March 18th, 2012

Email marketing is a part of the regular advertising landscape, as are search engine ads, newspaper and television ads and flyers.

Before we begin, we need to be absolutely clear on what email marketing is: First and foremost, it cannot be stated without enough emphasis that email marketing is the act of mailing commercial information ONLY to those who have not only requested you to do so by signing up for your newsletters/mail campaigns, but have CONFIRMED said sign ups. Anything else is spam and will find your business in various blackholes around the 'net, with the label 'spammer'. This is a death sentence to email marketers.

How often is too often ? How often is too little ? How often is just right ?

Believe it or not , the answers for all three vary widely: Daily email may be perfect for some businesses (stock market advice), but approaching harassment levels for others (European vacation travel agencies);

Consider how often your average customer buys from you: This is a good guideline on frequency of mailing; A rule of thumb is to divide the frequency of purchases by two, which will give you your mailing frequency: If your average customer purchases from you once per month, message every two weeks. If weekly is your regular consumer, Tuesdays and Thursdays are your best mailer times. The exception to this is your daily shoppers: In this case, it is a good idea to have options available for your mail list recipients:

  • One mail per day
  • Once per week
  • Once per month
Think on it: If you purchase a Starbucks coffee every day, do you really need to get mail from them at the same frequency ? (Some actually DO want that frequency and many do not: Thus the reason for offering choice)

Inform your readers BEFORE they sign up

During the sign up process, make sure people KNOW what your mailing frequency is; Remind them below the unsubscribe information at the bottom of your mails (You DO have unsubscribe info at the bottom of all your commercial mail, right ?) Your mail footer can look as simple as this:

To unsubscribe from this newsletters, click here [link]
Did you also know that we offer daily updates [link], weekly [link] and monthly [link] ?

Getting a customer to switch from weekly to monthly is a LOT better than losing them entirely.

Before creating a more frequent mailing option, ask yourself: "Do I really have something that is worth asking my customers' time at this level of frequency ?" (And never forget that! Your commercial mail IS coming at a cost to the consumer: Their TIME - Do not ask them to waste it!)

If you run a bait and tackle shop, but your inventory and prices stay the same except for spring and fall sales, do you REALLY need a daily mail option ? If you do decide on a frequent option, but do not have prices, sales or specials that change, do you have CONTENT that will be worth your customers spending that precious time ? Using the bait and tackle example: Do you have articles lined up (or do you have the commitment to write them regularly) on hints and tips for fishing, suggestions for best spots, tricks on tying your own fly fishing lures and so on ?

Content! Content! Content! It's not always about the prices!

Which leads to the next suggestion: Email marketing does not always have to be about prices, specials and clearance events - Nor should they! One element marketers often overlook in their marketing campaigns is the biggest asset they have to offer their customers: Advice. We're not talking "Dear Abby" here; For example, if you run a coffee shop, you could also include short articles on types of coffee served with different meals and special events. If you run an automotive garage, regular, in-your-driveway maintenance tips. If you are a mortgage broker, tips on paying down your debt at a faster rate and tips on increasing the resale value of your home.

In other words: TEACH your customers how to better use the products you sell! It is not uncommon AT ALL that a consumer of a product - even a long term one - will have no idea that the dish detergent they buy every week can also be used to get rid of earwigs and slugs in their garden, or that the metal or glass containers their specialty candles come in are great for starting new plants over the winter.

Opting out: Let them leave if they want to leave: Hostages never make good customers

Finally, on opt-out: When a customer asks to leave your mailing list, let them leave: IMMEDIATELY. The whole "it may take four to six weeks for our databases to update" is complete and utter hogwash. (and if you are using a service to send your bulk mail for you that tells you it needs that length of time to udpate its lists, you need to change providers: Chances are they're also providing spam support)

One thing you CAN do, is on your opt-out page, have a question with a tick box:

"May we contact you in six months to ask if you would like to see our information, again ?"

(The tickbox has to be UNCHECKED by default)

If a customer, for whatever reason, decides they do not wish to receive your commercial mail anymore, the LAST thing you want to do is turn them into a hostile anti-customer by either making them jump through hoops to stop receiving your content or worse - not enable them to opt out at all: That just turns you into a spammer, which is very, very bad for business.

The reader is doing YOU a favour - NOT the other way around

Email marketing is a very powerful tool; It is almost like having a captive audience, however the keyword is "almost" - Remember that no one is forced to read your mail; Just because you're using invisible pixels to track "open rates" does not actually mean that all, or even part of your mail was opened: It may be the customer simply tabbing through new mail and deciding to skip past your missive when they see a subject line that doesn't interest them. Most importantly: Remember that there is a cost to the customer in receiving your mail: Not only in bandwidth and disk storage, but most importantly in TIME; Make your mails worth their time. Do it right and they will make it worth YOUR time to properly craft and send them.

Copyright © 2020 / Marc Bissonnette, Ontario - All rights reserved -

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