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To Send or Not to Send More Email: That Is the Question

By Elyse Dupre, Associate Editor

DMNews, August 2014 issue 

"It's not a matter of 'one email a day is fine, but two emails a day is too much.'"

Will marketers suffer the slings and arrows of customer ire by sending more than one email? Ross Kramer, CEO of omnichannel solutions provider Listrak, says the answer may be a surprise.

“Most CMOs will say, ‘I think we're mailing too much,'” he says. “Until they do hold-back testing...[and then] every CMObecomes a believer.”

Sending multiple emails in a day doesn't have to be a marketing misstep. In fact, here are four situations when marketers should increase their email frequency, as well as two circumstances for when to hold back.

Send more if…

Your target customers are in market: When customers are ready to buy, marketers should increase their email frequency. Kramer says revving up emails may prevent potential customers from going to competitors. Sending subscribers alerts on specifics like price changes, he says, can help marketers retain and grow business. In addition, increasing the volume of merchandise-related messages may help convince customers who are interested but undecided to commit to a purchase.

Kramer also recommends using CRM data for triggered email programs. This should enable marketers to send the right of content to the appropriate audience, he says. For example, a B2B tech company might want to send content citing financial benefits to CFOs, but sent product-related messages to CIOs.

You've segmented your list: The number of messages individual customers prefer to receive varies. Segments can help marketers determine the frequency of emails best suited for specific customer groups. Alex Creswell, marketing supervisor for Lisa Leonard Designs, says it's essential that the jewelry company determines its customers' email thresholds because 60 to 65% of the company's revenue comes from email campaigns.

To do this, the brand's marketers segment its subscribers into three categories: casual (opened an email in the past six months); family (opened an email in the past three months or subscribed in the past two months); and addicts (open nearly every email). Marketers assign subscribers to a group by factors, such as open rates. Each of these factors builds on the others, giving the jewelry company's marketers a more holistic view of each email subscriber; this view helps to determine the email frequency for each group. Currently, the company emails the casual group once a month and the family subscribers weekly emails, plus the emails sent to the casual group; addicts receive every marketing email—ranging from about five to seven a week. Determining each segment's threshold gives the brand confidence that it won't frustrate its addicts when emailing them more than once a day. If customers stop opening the company's emails, it bumps them down to a lower frequency segment.

“It's not a matter of ‘one email a day is fine, but two emails a day is too much,'” Creswell says. “It's really just knowing your clients…and what people want.”

It's Black Friday or Cyber Monday: Millions of consumers celebrate Black Friday and Cyber Monday by dropping loads of money during the holidays; often, marketers partake in the festivities by dropping several emails over the course of each of those days.

For marketers wanting to cash in on consumers' holiday cheer, Listrak's Kramer advises emailing during four key shopping times: before work, before lunch, before consumers leave work, and after dinner—with early morning and post-dinner send offs being the most important.

You're leveraging scarcity: After marketers announce a sale on a particular product or category, they can later tap into a sense of urgency by sending follow-up “sale extended” or “last chance” messages, Kramer says. They also can simplify by reusing their creative or templates but changing the subject line.

Don't send more if…

Your customers are making big-ticket purchases: Certain purchases, like buying a house or a car, require significant consideration. Tamie Nuxoll, Internet manager of car dealer Gilchrist Chevrolet, sends one email every two to three days for 30 days after receiving an inquiry from prospects to give them “breathing room.”

“When you bombard them with several emails a day, you get an opt-out rate that's higher,” she warns.

Your customers aren't receiving your emails: There's no point in emailing customers if they're not getting your messages. This is yet another reason to keep email lists clean and current. Some marketers use software or services to do so; Nuxoll follows up with a phone call to ensure that customers actually receive her communications.

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