As a digital marketer, email frequency is one of those factors that gets mulled over to the point of analysis paralysis. It makes sense, though. Perhaps more than any other type of digital marketing, email is the most personal.
You're serving your list of contacts content right to their inbox, where you may be among important work correspondence, emails from friends, notes from loved ones — and about a million marketing messages.
It may come as no surprise, then, that the average email open rate hovers at around 20 percent, depending on the industry, according to research by MailChimp. And click-through rates? You're lucky if 3 percent of those who open your email click on a link.
Many factors contribute to email marketing success, including aforementioned industry, the cleverness of your subject lines, your reputation among current customers and at least a dozen things that can't be quantified or qualified. But email frequency is 100 percent in your control. It's testable and can make a huge difference in your email marketing success metrics.
Frequency matters because if users feel bombarded by your messages, they'll either start to ignore them or unsubscribe. If you don't send enough, you fall off people's radar. It's a fine balance.
In this post, we'll focus on how you can strike the right balance with your audience and see healthy open rates and better overall email marketing performance.
Check Your Email Performance Metrics
There's no one-size-fits-all answer to how often you should be sending emails, so a custom approach is best.
First, determine whether email frequency is a problem and, if so, how severe. The best benchmark you can use to see if open rates are an issue is your historic data, looking at the degree to which metrics have fluctuated and whether trends are moving downward.
Looking at your historic email performance, examine the points at which things start to go south and look into why that could have been. Did you trim or augment your list? Did you change subject line conventions? Were there any internal or external events that could have led to a drop in email performance?
If you answer affirmatively to any of these questions, frequency may not be the issue (or just part of the issue). Next, look at the send dates over time to see if frequency changed at all, and if that appeared to have an effect on open rates. You'll also want to sort by day of week and time of day to gauge whether your recipients are significantly more likely to open on a Sunday than a Monday or more likely to open in the morning than the afternoon, for instance.
Gather as many learnings about email frequency as you can from your current data before you think about testing, as those nuggets of wisdom will help structure your tests. If your open rates are well below industry average and always have been, you might want to look at your email strategy as a whole rather than focusing on frequency. Still, the following information will be useful to you.
Test Email Frequency Wisely and Often
You've put in the hard work to analyze historical data and have gleaned some insights. Some marketers may think that's enough to go ahead and alter strategy according to those learnings.
The problem with this thinking is that the "insights" you culled may not be statistically significant. They may merely be observations that didn't take into account a slew of other factors that can affect email open rates. The only way to get statistically significant insights is to test, and then test some more.
For example, if it seems that sending emails once per week is your sweet spot, divide your list in two and send one group weekly messages and the other twice weekly. If your stat sig results (the math behind this is tricky, so here's a calculator from AB Testguide to help) confirm that weekly is most effective, test weekly sends against biweekly sends. You may also want to test days of the week and send times to see how much of a difference they make in your performance metrics, tweaking as you go along.
For those with segmented lists (and you should all have segmented lists), you'll want to conduct tests within each segment, not your list as a whole. Chances are, you've segmented your recipients based on interests or behavior, so performing an A/B test across segments may give you skewed results. Testing and segmentation are email marketing best practices because they allow a tailored, informed approach, which is ultimately what leads to success. Email frequency is just one factor, but its significance can be underestimated.
Businesses that need outside perspective and expertise in email marketing can turn to agencies to augment internal teams, and get the best of both worlds.