Email Marketing: Frequency

The Line between Annoyance and Engagement

The Line between Annoyance and Engagement

We’ve already discussed the value of email marketing and how to capture the illusive email addresses. The next question to be answered is how frequently should a small business distribute its email newsletter.

Let’s remember that the ideal is to hit the sweet spot with those willing to turn over their email addresses.   It is a bit like straddling an invisible line between annoyance and genuine engagement.

Unfortunately, the attitude I hear and see being expressed by many small business owners when it comes their email marketing is:

I’ll get to it when I can. 

This attitude does nothing to keep your small business in front of your  customers so you can…

  • build and strengthen awareness
  • move interested prospects into actual paying customers
  • get current customers to become repeat customers
  • transform current customers into promoters of your store, services, products to their networks.

Question:  If you’re not willing to make a date for the opportunity to talk to those who were willing to give you their email addresses and to keep that date,  why should they care about you and your company?  I’m just asking.

Some small business owners assume it really doesn’t matter when they get around to their newsletter because not all of their subscribers open the newsletter.  Open rates or the number of people who actually open the email are typically driven by the industry, product or service.  Open rates can be as low as 20% or one out of five.

Low open rates don’t tell the whole story.  It is true not everyone will open your email, but one out of five or less is far better than zero and it is probably much better than the number of people who actually see your expensive, ineffective ads in the local newspaper with all of your other competitors!

The other factor that contributes to low open rates are that customers are bombarded with millions of messages and calls for their attention every day.  The answer is not to give up on trying to get their attention.  The answer is to repeat your email marketing campaign with some established frequency so your email subscribers come to expect your email and sooner or later they will open it and possibly take action.  Just seeing your email serves as a subtle reminder that they have a connection to you.  This reminder has real value that small business owners shouldn’t ignore.

Remember, truly effective marketing, including email marketing, isn’t sporadic.  It is a continuous, on-going campaign of reminders that chip away and begin to break through all of the clutter.

So how does one find the email frequency sweet spot? 

We defined the sweet spot as the line between annoyance with too much communications and just the right level.  Think about your industry.  Is there a lot of volatility or news around your industry to share?  For most, the answer will be “not so much”.  If you’re a retailer of women clothes or appliances, chances are once a month will be sufficient. If you’re a financial planner or a stock analyst, however, you may want to communicate more frequently than once a month.

Think about  those customers who turned over their email addresses.  Are they rabid users of your product or service (e.g. exercise, diet, biking, golfing)? This rabid focus may warrant email communications more than once a month.   Or is your product and service a commodity or seasonal in nature (e.g. real estate, electrical, shoppers, landscaping, etc.)?  Once a month is probably sufficient.

Occasionally, there may be events warranting special announcements or more frequent communications.  Just be mindful that you have responsibility not to abuse the trust your customers gave you when they turned over their email addresses.  Step over the line and you’ll begin to see a lot of unsubscribes.  This is a clear sign you are distributing with too much frequency and your subscribers are beginning to feel abused.

As your email list grows and as you become more sophisticated about segmented your audience, you can begin to test different email frequencies to determine what works for your particular audience.  If you feel you’re already at this level, then you may find this article on email frequency to be helpful.

A contributing factor to strengthening the bond with your email subscribers and to encourage higher open rates is your email newsletter content.  We’ll be discussing the Dos and Don’ts of content in the next post about email marketing.  In the mean time, you should use the comments section below to share your stories about email marketing (good and bad).



Sheila Hibbard

Sheila Hibbard takes the fluff, hype and confusion out of marketing and social media. She provides small business owners with straight forward, no nonsense marketing guidance and techniques that produce results based on her 35 plus years in advertising, communications, research, strategic planning and social media. Author of Marketing Online Made Simple - WHO.

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