In my eight years in email marketing, there are a few questions I hear about once a week:
1. What works in email subject lines?
2. What is the best day of week or time of day to send? (Short answer: test it!)
3. How often should I be sending? Monthly vs. weekly?
In fact, just last week, a marketing pal reached out and ask the email frequency questions, saying that everything she'd found says it depends on the organization and audience, more so than a concrete number of times per month. She also pointed out that they send to various segments of their list at various times, so what "adds up" to frequency?
And my pal is absolutely right: there is no one perfect number of email sent. It depends on your audience and your message, i.e. whether you have something fresh to say or just a new way to sell the same thing. The only way to know what's right for your own business is to test sending more frequent emails to a test segment of your audience. A spike in unsubscribes is usually an indicator that your audience thinks you're sending too much.
But outside of that, there are some guidelines to follow:
Email Frequency Guideline #1. Send at least once every 30 days. This one is a technical one. As an email marketer, you have to keep a positive sender reputation, meaning whether email inbox providers like Gmail, Yahoo!, AOL and more think you look like a spammer. If you send large batches, but only send once a quarter, you're acting kind o like spam. Your email marketing sender reputation only has a 30-day history (with Yahoo! anyway), so if Yahoo! doesn’t “remember” your history as a sender, i.e. who opened, clicked, complained that you were spam, etc., you're start from a fresh rep. While that sounds ok, a blank reputation isn’t as strong as one where you have a history of people engaging with your emails. Long story short: Send to at least some segment(s) of your list within a 30-day window to have your best shot at getting through to the inbox. My pal above mentioned that she sends to different segments all the time and that likely keeps her reputation active.
Email Frequency Guideline #2. Only send as often as you have useful/fresh/engaging content to share. If you're using email marketing mostly to send your newsletter, you could start with sending once a month. If you find that you're publishing a lot of content each month and your newsletter gets too long (more than about 2 scrolls), test sending twice a month instead. On the other hand, if you're sending weekly product features and the emails look very similar three weeks in a row, then you’re probably sending more often than you really need to. For retail marketers, if you know that these emails drive revenue for you, then find a fresh way to present or sell your content, or offer a different benefit in each email in the series.
Email Frequency Guideline #3. Consider your recipient’s relationship cycle with you. How often does a donor give or a shopper buy? Monthly? Annually? For annual giving, a weekly email is probably too often, but if you have a variety of products that buyers need all month long, you might see revenue from 2-5 emails a week. Define the goals of your emails – i.e. sales, leads or awareness – and then consider from your recipient’s point of view how often they need to think of you based on where they are in your buying cycle. Sending too often can lead to unsubscribes or to them tuning your message out before they ever even buy or donate.
As always, let us know if there is anything emfluence can do for your company's email marketing. We do offer email strategy consultations!