Don't Spam Your Customers!: How Often Should You Send Marketing Emails?

With all the "new media" out there, email sounds like a relict from the past. Yet, email continues to be one of the most effective means of engaging customers and driving sales.

Companies across all industries and sizes have been using this medium for years to send out informational newsletters, initiate promotions, and entice customers to stay connected to their brand.

But getting an email marketing campaign right takes a combination of know-how, research, and a bit of trial and error. One of the most difficult aspects of email marketing is trying to determine how often customers want to get email communications from your company. You don't want them clicking on that "unsubscribe" link, and you certainly don't want your emails to be doomed to the spam folder. On the other hand, you don't want your customers to lose interest or forget who you are either. Moreover, pinpointing the perfect schedule is difficult because different businesses have different products with different seasonality.

Finding the Balance: How Many Emails You Should Send Out

Though there is not a one-size-fits all approach to email frequency, the perfect schedule for your business can be gauged through experience and some trial and error. Here are some general time frames you can use as reference points in figuring out the right frequency:

  • Once a month- Most email marketing experts recommend that companies go no more than a month without sending at least one correspondence to subscribers. Keeping this monthly schedule is good for companies whose products and service offerings stay relatively the same over a long period of time because it helps them to remain visible without unnecessarily bombarding consumers. It's also a strategy that works best with business-to-business transactions. For example, a strategically timed email could be sent to purchasers during budget review periods. For many businesses, however, monthly mass mailings (or "blasts") would to be too few and too easily forgettable. It could also result in overly-bloated newsletters if too many updates are packed into that single, monthly email.
  • Once every two weeks- Sending out two emails a month allows the businesses to be up-to-the-minute without being too insubstantial in their content. There is enough time to gather information for meaty, informative updates and interesting content while maximizing visibility. Companies marketing clothing, accessories, and gadgets will like this schedule, as it can be made to target pay days. It is, however, a more inconsistent schedule, and can result in blasts being tagged as spam. Moreover, for companies with fast-moving products, such as food, it can be too limited. Competitors can get a leg up on a company that does not notify consumers of new offerings quickly enough
  • Once a week- This is a pretty good time frame that is popular among many companies. A weekly mailing will continually keep a company and its products at the forefront of a customer's mind, which comes in handy when he or she goes shopping over the weekend. Sending on Thursdays is best for consumers, as it is the day of the week when they are starting to make plans for the upcoming weekend. (For B2B emails Tuesday or Wednesday may be more appropriate). For some companies though, weekly updates can be detrimental because they do not contain enough significant, informative content. The requirement to constantly churn out weekly messages can also be a drain on limited resources.
  • Twice a week- Tuesdays and Thursdays are generally the best days of the week to send out consumer emails. People have gotten over the "Monday blues," are feeling motivated, and are thus more open to emails and any calls to action these messages may have. This is a good time frame for companies with fast-moving or constantly changing products. It allows businesses to send out the latest news on their products and services while giving consumers some time to think about the offerings.
  • Once a day- This is the upper limit of proper email frequency, according to many email marketers. It is particularly suitable for businesses that offer different content or promotions every day, such as bloggers or deal-type sites, because consumers are alerted immediately to the latest releases of information and promotions. It is one of the most tricky schedules to maintain successfully, however, because it increases the chance that an email will be tagged as spam or that jaded consumers will unsubscribe from the list.

Additional Tips and Factors Affecting Email Marketing Frequency and Engagement

When creating your email marketing campaign, there are several points that you should consider, all of which will affect how often you should be sending out emails and how successful your efforts will be to increase engagement and ultimately sales:

  • First and foremost, is getting your customers' consent before sending out any emails. By having your customers opt-in, they will be more willing to read your emails. Two additional points with this: 1. It may be a good idea to let customers know from the beginning how often you plan on sending out emails; 2. You can set up a short subscription questionnaire/ sign-up form that can give you vital information about your customers interests. Then you can better target your emails. Also, give your subscribers the freedom to unsubscribe themselves by creating an easy unsubscribing process. This allows you to maintain goodwill with your customers and gives them more incentive to subscribe again if they wish to do so in the future.
  • The next important factor is the content of the email. It needs to be compelling enough to get consumers to both notice and read the email- an email that may be sitting in a sea of other emails- but not turn readers away by being overly promotional or misleading. Implicit to the above is that the optimum frequency at which emails are sent will depend largely on the content that you are able to offer.
  • The email should also be "user-friendly."This means a lot of white space, clear language and calls to action. Don't rely too much on images either since many people have image blockers on their email accounts and readers. If you do use images then make sure to minimize their size so the email will load easily.
  • Don't just consider what days to send out blasts; also consider the time of day. People tend to focus on non-work e-mails better during their lunch breaks, so targeting emails between 11am-2pm would be optimal.
  • Finally, look for ways to personalize your emails so your customers don't feel like they're just another name on the mailing list (even if they are). They want to be recognized. So, be respectful, address them by name, ask them what they are looking for, and as much as possible try to bring in to your content their personalized interests. If customers feel like you are making the effort really find out what they are about, they will be more likely to read your mailings and do business with you.

In email marketing, as in other forms of marketing, there are no cookie-cutter answers. You need to get to know your consumers and act accordingly. So don't hold yourself to a strict set of rules right at the beginning. Try to experiment a bit with email frequency and content based on the tips above so you can find your own perfect path to email marketing success.