One of the most difficult things for business owners to figure out is how often to send marketing emails. There are so many factors to consider: your industry, your audience, and the types of content you send via email are just some of the factors that can impact the ideal frequency of marketing emails.
In this guide, I will explore:
- How to define a marketing email
- Why less is more in email marketing
- The importance of consistency
- How to figure out what your audience wants
- How to balance marketing emails with newsletters
- When to send follow up emails
- The power of offering multiple subscription options
When you’re finished reading, you’ll have the knowledge you need to create a successful email marketing plan.
How to define a marketing email
Technically, every email sent to your list is a marketing email. You’re always trying to reinforce your brand, strengthen relationships, and remind people about your products/services.
For the purposes of this article, however, I’m going to define marketing emails as emails with the sole purpose of selling a product/service. This definition doesn’t include things like newsletters, email courses, or requests for feedback. We’ll talk more about the importance of this in the section on balancing your email schedule with different types of content.
Why less is more
Everyone wants to spend less time on their inbox. There are dozens of articles and even whole books about the topic. Moreover, a survey by TechnologyAdvice revealed that 45% of adults want to receive fewer marketing emails.
The other reason to minimize the number of marketing emails you send is to ensure a consistent quality level. Customers can tell when an email is rushed; if it happens often, they’ll stop paying attention to your emails. Automation is a huge help here, since you only need to create an automated email once and it’ll send every time someone completes an action. Luckily, MailPoet makes it easy to create several types of WordPress autoresponders.
All in all, you’re better off limiting the number of marketing emails you send during an average week. When I help brands develop an email marketing plan, I usually recommend one or two marketing emails per week, with an increase to 3-4 emails per week during major sales.
The importance of consistency
On the other hand, you don’t want to send emails too infrequently either. A long gap between emails can lead subscribers to forget about your brand and why they signed up in the first place. Moreover, people sign up for your list because they want to hear from you. A full 60% of users want to receive emails at least once a week, and 80% want to receive emails at least once a month:
(Image from https://jilt.com/blog/email-marketing-frequency/)
So what’s a marketer to do? Well, you need to give your audience clear expectations and stick to them. To do this, make sure your sign up forms and landing pages contain the following information:
- How often you’ll send emails
- What types of emails you’ll send
- Other benefits of signing up for your list, like your opt-in bonus
Of course, you also need to deliver on these promises. That means if your site says you’ll send emails once a week, you send emails once a week. You can make this easier by creating your emails in batches and scheduling them in advance.
If you notice yourself regularly failing to meet your promised schedule, take some time to reassess your email marketing efforts. Is there a way you can make it easier to create campaigns? Can you delegate email marketing to an employee? What about switching your weekly emails to a product or article roundup so you can focus on your website content? Whatever you decide, make sure to tell your subscribers about it and update your signup forms & landing pages to reflect any changes.
How to figure out what your audience wants
We talked about how to set audience expectations in the previous section, but that’s only half of the equation. Your scheduled content must be rooted in what your audience actually wants.
There are three main ways to figure this out: by considering industry trends, taking a look at your analytics, and asking your audience directly.
The first thing to consider is what brands in your industry are already doing. Luckily, companies like MailChart do an enormous amount of research on email marketing. The MailCharts Industry Insights area includes reporting on a variety of popular industries, ranging from health & fitness to air travel. This can give you a snapshot of how email marketing works for your industry as a whole.
This broad information is great, but there are dozens of niches within every industry. To get a clearer picture of your ideal marketing mix, you’ll want to take a look at what your direct competition is doing. Choose 3-5 brands in your niche, sign up for their newsletter, and take notes on the emails they send over the course of a month.
Some things you’ll want to pay attention to:
- What percentage of their emails are marketing emails.
- How their marketing emails are designed.
- What percentage of their marketing emails promote a sale and/or offer some kind of discount.
- If they have a separate automated welcome sequence and, if they do, what that sequence contains.
- What other types of content they send + how often each type of content is sent.
- The length of each email.
This can help you understand what your target customers are used to in terms of brand communication.
This is the data your email marketing service tracks about how people interact with your email campaigns. There are five main email marketing statistics you need to pay attention to in order to determine your ideal email frequency:
- Subscribe rate. The number of people subscribing to your newsletter over a given period of time. If your subscribe rate is low, it typically means you’re not doing enough to promote your newsletter. However, it might also be a sign that people aren’t interested in receiving what you’re offering. For example, if you’re sending emails every day and nobody’s signing up, you might need to reduce your email frequency to once a week.
- Unsubscribe rate. The number of people unsubscribing from your newsletter over a given period of time. If this number is high, it’s typically a sign that you’re sending emails too often or focusing too heavily on marketing emails.
- Open rate. How many of your subscribers open a specific email. You can track these across campaigns to get an idea of your typical open rate. Pay attention to what types of emails are opened most often and the times/days of the week that emails are most likely to be opened.
- Conversion rate. The percentage of subscribers who buy something after receiving an email promotion. This can help you track the effectiveness of individual marketing emails. MailPoet makes it easy to track this through our integration with WooCommerce.
- Money earned. The amount of money made from conversions in a specific campaign. As a MailPoet user, you can view this information for all of your campaigns at a glance in the “Emails” section.
You want to pay extra attention to these statistics when your email marketing schedule changes. This can help you determine if you’re under or over-promoting sales, sending too many emails, or sending your emails at inopportune times.
For more information on how to use analytics to improve your content, check out our guide to email analytics.
Asking your audience
The final way to figure out the best frequency for your emails is to ask your audience directly. There are a few ways you can do this:
- Send a survey to your subscribers.
- Include a question like “are you happy with the frequency of these emails” at the end of an email campaign.
- Ask your followers on social media what kind of content/promotions mix would convince them to sign up for your newsletter.
- Create a specialized poll that asks unsubscribers to share why they’re unsubscribing.
The key here is to make it as easy as possible for people to tell you what they like/what they want from your emails. Only a small percentage of your audience will answer, and that percentage gets smaller when the process is difficult or not clearly explained.
How to balance marketing emails with other content
To figure out your business’s ideal mix of marketing emails and other content, you’ll need to consider three factors:
- Your goals. Every email will have its own goal, but it’s also important to consider your overall goals for your list. You obviously want to sell your products/services, but that’s probably not your only goal. This means that along with your promos, you’ll need content tailored to meet your other goals. For example, you might send a monthly newsletter to strengthen relationships with your audience.
- Audience expectations. As we’ve already discussed, your content needs to line up with what your audience expects based on their previous experiences with your industry and the expectations laid out in your sign up forms/landing pages.
- Value. Your email marketing schedule should aim to maximize value for your audience. For most companies, this means sending out a mix of newsletters, promotional emails, and educational content. Other companies, especially companies that sell a wide range of products, will send purely promotional content and provide value through discounts and other rewards.
With this information, you’ll be able to create a successful email marketing schedule. This will look different for every business, but I’ve created a couple of examples to help you envision what this looks like.
Example: Fitness Store
Goals: To provide subscribers with the knowledge they need to safely use the fitness products we sell + increase sales of our best fitness products.
Audience expectations: A mix of short educational emails, longer monthly updates on what’s happening in-store + occasional product promotions.
|Content type||Frequency||Day of the week/Send date|
|Fitness tips||1/week||Monday mornings|
|Newsletter||1/month||Last Friday of the month|
|Product promotion||When a product releases/is on sale||One email per week for three weeks before a release/sale and three weeks after release/sale|
Example: Art Supply Store
Goals: To inspire artsy people to level up their skills and try new artistic mediums, using our products to do so.
Audience expectations: To receive updates about new products, maybe some cool project ideas, and discounts.
|Content type||Frequency||Day of the week/Send date|
|Project idea||1/month||Last Monday of the month, in the morning|
|Newsletter||1/month||The 15th of every month|
You’ll note that this example doesn’t have any details for promotions around sales or product releases. Many businesses switch to completely different email schedules in the months before, during, and after a big sale or product release.
The power of offering multiple frequency options
Another way to make sure you’re sending the right number of marketing emails for your audience is to offer multiple list options with different email frequencies. For example, you might send a weekly newsletter to one list and a monthly newsletter to another. This lets your audience decide how often they want to be emailed.
This tactic is common among large companies, but you don’t need a marketing department to make it happen. You can use MailPoet’s automated “Latest Post Notifications” feature to schedule post roundups daily, weekly, or monthly.
MailPoet offers several templates for these emails:
At the end of the process, you’ll be able to select the lists that receive this email. You can include as many lists as you want. MailPoet will make sure that subscribers on multiple lists will only receive one email.
You can run an unlimited number of recurring post notifications at once and send each one to a different list. You can then add an area to your signup forms asking users to choose which list they want to go on.
What about follow up emails?
The final type of email you need to consider is the follow up emails that exist outside of your regular email marketing schedule. More specifically, I’m talking about the WooCommerce autoresponders you can send in MailPoet: abandoned cart emails, first purchase emails, “purchased this product” emails, and “purchased a product in this category” emails.
Figuring out the balance here is a bit tricky. Since we’ve already established that most people want to receive fewer emails, you can probably assume customers will get annoyed if they receive an email from you every day. This means that if you’re sending a newsletter every week, you don’t want to send more than 2-3 follow-up emails in a specific week. But you can’t control when people will perform certain actions.
So what’s a shop owner to do?
Well, there are also some best practices you can follow for each type of follow up email:
- Abandoned cart emails should be limited to 3 follow-up emails, with the first one typically sent 24-48 hours after the card is abandoned. If someone made a conscious decision to not purchase your products, they probably don’t want to keep hearing about those products for weeks on end either.
- First purchase emails are an opportunity to thank your customers. To best fulfill this purpose, you want to send a single first purchase email immediately after a purchase is made.
- Product purchase emails are a great way to tell people about products they might like based on their proven experiences. You can also use them to encourage people to replace consumable items. However, it’s important to remember that these emails are triggered by the sale of an individual product, not by order. If your store has a large inventory, you might want to stick with “Purchased in this category” emails.
- Purchased in this category emails are the most flexible in terms of how many you can send.
Most of all, remember that the worst thing you can do for your business is overwhelm your customers with follow up emails. You never want to be considered a spammer or have your emails reported as spam.
Final advice on how many marketing emails to send
Deciding how many marketing emails to send is all about finding the balance between marketing your business and providing value to your customers. You’ll probably need to do some experimentation to find the best content mix for you, but there are some best practices you can use to guide your email marketing schedule:
- Remember that less is more.
- Keep a consistent email marketing schedule and tell potential subscribers about it.
- Use industry trends, email analytics, and direct communications with subscribers to discover how you can better tailor your content to their needs.
- Consider offering multiple lists or list segments with different email frequencies.
- Pay close attention to how you use follow up emails and how people react to them, with an eye towards making sure you’re not flooding people’s inboxes
And of course, be sure to track your email analytics so you can optimize your schedule over time.