Frequency is a critical component of email marketing. Yet how often is too often? Send too many emails and you annoy, perhaps to the point of being marked spam. Email too little and you miss out, because your competitor got into their inbox at just the right time instead of you.
There is no universal answer for the question, “How often is too often?” For a B2B company using email to promote an expensive, long sales-cycle product, sending emails more than biweekly may land you in the spam folder. However, if your product is a consumable that may be in demand spontaneously or at several occasions throughout the year, such as flowers, sending emails weekly or even every other day may be the key to success. It all boils down to what content is relevant to the recipient, and what frequency is relevant to the content.
Remember this rule: Effective content marketing means getting the right message to the right person at the right time.
No published benchmarks can help you. Your own testing will tell you the right frequency for your list. But as long as you make your content relevant, or at least not repetitive, you stand a greater chance of clicks, or at least surviving in the inbox.
Mix it up!
Instead of a steady stream of “buy now” messages, add some other types of content into the mix. This enables you to show up in the inbox more often without seeming obnoxious or repetitive. The payoff for you includes being top of mind when it’s time to buy. The increased engagement that can mean increased email deliverability, thanks to higher open rates. Increased email deliverability can lead to the even bigger payoff of more sales as more emails get delivered.
Sure, much of email marketing content is going to be sales related. According to research by MarketingSherpa*, most people prefer to receive emails about specials on regularly purchased items, sweepstakes and drawings, information about reward programs, and other information that directly benefits them.
However, if you step up the frequency of that kind of messaging, you could very easily overwhelm your subscribers, leading to list fatigue, unsubscribes, and spam complaints.
That’s where adding other kinds of content into the mix can help. Don’t just sell. Also use your emails to educate and entertain your list. Helpful tips, customer/employee stories, or even light-hearted entertaining content won’t come across as “salesy.” But it still keeps your brand name in front of them. It also might build trust when you offer something for nothing.
Sources for innovative content
This kind of non-marketing content can come in many forms. This additional content could be newsletters, customer stories, or third-party reviews. The possibilities are numerous. Consider these many oft-overlooked sources of email content:
- Employees: Read through your customer service forms for ideas, such as solutions to common problems. Check the FAQ page of your website and poll your customer service and sales teams to find out the questions they get asked most often. Then address the questions and answers via email.
- Blog: Make a downloadable compendium of the best articles from your blog and deliver that as a digest to your email subscribers. Check the comments too for possible content.
- Facebook: Ask questions on Facebook for insight into what matters to customers, and use their input in an email. You can solicit photos this way too.
- Twitter: Ask questions on Twitter. Survey answers can provide great statistics to share in an email.
- Customers: Share a customer’s story in an article. Then post the article on your website and send them a link to it, so they can tweet it and share the link on their Facebook page.
- Existing content: Mine existing content you’ve put together for other purposes. If it’s lengthy, cutting large amounts of content into smaller chunks gives you plenty of fodder for shorter emails. For example, perhaps you have a three-part guide on how to use your widget. Rather than send the whole article as an email, send parts one, two, and three separately.
- Imagery: Email content can be more than words. Photos or videos from your customers, product developers or sales teams have a visual appeal words can’t match. (Just remember to use detailed alt text in your email for those subscribers with images turned off. You want to intrigue them enough to show the images, if you can.)
There is a caveat to this content-focused approach: you still need to test to see what works. You’ll need to test for types of content to see what appeals, frequency that works, and also the amount of content to send, meaning short versus long.
When testing to determine what works, remember your goals. We know of one case in which a smaller amount of content sent more often had lower open and click-through rates, but increased multiple opens by 95% and multiple clicks by 292%. As impressive as those numbers are, this approach also resulted in more sales, which is the goal of most–if not all–email marketing. If you’re not mindful of the real goal, you might think the lower open rate means increased frequency doesn’t work. Test to see what works best for your organization, but test for the results that matter.
Also be sure to add additional types of content strategically rather than haphazardly, and do so based on test results. Develop a plan for your content, to make sure your mix of marketing and non-marketing messages stays consistent. Then be willing to keep testing and trying and mixing it up, because incremental improvements in your email marketing solutions can only lead to better results and ROI.
*MarketingSherpa Email Marketing Benchmark Survey Methodology; Fielded Sep 2012, N=1,115