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EMAIL MARKETING BEST PRACTICES - Fortune favors the ones who learn
What is the best frequency for sending newsletters?


What is the optimal frequency for email marketing to be able to optimize response rate? Is it one email a quarter, week, month or day? Does the well-known formula “less is more” apply or more is better?
To find the answer to these questions, we should look at some data coming from regions with tradition in email marketing: Great Britain and the United States of America.
Average UK Email Frequency
The 2010 edition “UK DMA National Client Email Marketing Report” survey provides useful insight on this question.

If we try to get the right balance between email overexposure and underexposure, we should start by considering the risks associated with to each case. With overexposure, the recipients receive e-mails from the same company so frequently that they don’t have the time to keep up and read it or they feel they are being spammed.
On the other hand with underexposure, opportunities and sales are lost.
Average US Email Frequency
In the United States, there is a survey available on the retail email frequency.

Emails sent weekly
The chart above shows that the frequency varies – from a “peak” of 5 emails per week in the period before Christmas, to an average frequency of  3 newsletters per week in other periods of the year.
In order to be able to assess which is the optimum frequency we must take into account three factors:
The frequency curve:
This is a tool that shows how profit grows in relation to the frequency.
If you are in point A, you initially obtain more profit as the frequency is increased. At time B you reach an optimum frequency level. Sending more emails may mean additional sales offset by the exhaustion impact and by the increase in the unsubscribing rate...therefore profit decreases.
What do consumers tell us about the optimum frequency?
There are several customer behaviour surveys warning about the hazard of sending too many newsletters.
  • In Merkle’s “View from the inbox” survey, 73% of the respondents stated that “sending too frequently” is the main reason for opting out of an email mailing list.
  • In Epsilon's "Beyond the click" email branding study, 71% of respondents said it wasn't OK for companies they know and trust to send email more frequently than they already do
  • According to a MarketingSherpa survey with the same object, since 2009, 25% of the respondents who reported an email as spam gave "too much email from the sender" as a reason for doing so”
Looking at this data we can conclude that higher emailing frequencies looks a bit like a game of Russian roulette. But if we turn these figures around, we can discover a new angle of seeing the phenomenon:
  • 25% of the respondents did not cite "sending too frequently" as the main reason for opting out of an email program
  • 29% said it was OK for companies they know and trust to send email more frequently than they already do
  • 75% didn't report a sender as spam because they sent too much
The lesson we can learn from this is that we are very different.
We tend to think of frequency in terms of how the whole list behaves. But we do not take into account the fact that each address on that list has its own unique frequency/profit curve.

In other words, the optimal amount of email for one recipient is not optimal for the next.
Frequency is tied to value
The debates about frequency often ignores the fact that what you send impacts how much you can send. The problem is often not that you send too much email per se, but that you send too much of the same email.. Or too uninteresting emails.
However, if you increase the value given to the recipient in the email, the more the frequency/profit curve shifts in your favour:

If you increase value, then...
  • you can earn more profits at the same frequency
  • recipients will respond positively to more email for longer than if you're sending rubbish
  • you can earn more profits at lower frequencies
The answer is through value, which is why so many experts talk about relevancy, targeting, and segmentation. All concepts designed to make your emails more valuable  so you can improve results without playing Russian roulette with frequency.


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