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The “I’m sending too many emails” debate

Overheard in every marketing department in the world:

“I’m worried we are annoying our customers – I think we should cut down the number of emails we send”

Who hasn’t had this debate? Again, yes it sounds logical doesn’t it that if I send too many emails my customers are going to think:

“Wow – I’m feeling overwhelmed, I’m going to hit that unsubscribe link at the bottom of the email”

But that doesn’t ever seem to happen at scale.

In all instances we have been involved with this exact debate (and it feels like hundreds now) unsubscribe rates at worst stay static between somewhere like 0.1% and 0.15% of each campaign sent no matter how many extra emails are sent weekly.

So yes, if you double the amount of emails you send you will get double the amount of people unsubscribing. Therefore, if you send an extra email every week over the course of a year that will be an extra 5% of your database you see unsubscribe. For some businesses with large databases captured over a period of time this creates negative list growth, but that’s more down to the fact they are not doing enough at the top of the funnel to add more email addresses in.

So that’s the downside quantified. But what are the upsides of sending more?

Again, a quick rule of thumb would be if we were to simply re-send the email again to those that did not open it the first time, we would expect half the rate of opens and clicks again.


Email 1: 100,000 send and 20% open rate = 20,000 opens

Email 2: 80,000 remaining and 10% open rate = 8,000 opens

This now gives us 28,000 opens instead of 20,000, a 40% increase in reach. Clicks and conversions would follow the same pattern.

“Yeah, but what about long-term damage?” I hear you say.

Well this is overstated as well. We need to understand why people don’t open your emails. It’s not just because they are not interested (that is not a problem I am denying exists whatsoever!) but it can also be because they are busy or distracted. Just look at your own Gmail promotions folder at certain times of day and unless you are near the top it dramatically reduces the chance of you opening the email.

Fundamentally increasing email send frequency is the quickest and best way to introduce growth into your eCRM programme for minimal long-term impact. It isn’t particularly sophisticated or clever but it works.

The longer play is to improve the relevancy and value within all of these emails to also tackle subscriber fatigue.

Proving increased frequency works

It goes without saying if you were to double your email frequency in a week you will see benefits straight away. Any damage to overall database health will take several weeks to a few months to notice. Even then it might be hard to see change as adding new subscribers will generally be more engaged, while longer term subscribers might be sliding into non-open mode if they are bored with irrelevant emails coming through.

So if you hit a block on getting a frequency change signed off perhaps try putting a percentage of your database on the new frequency, and overtime compare the overall engagement of both pots of data to highlight your case.

You’ll need to run this for several weeks to see any impact. Measure not just open and click reach (not percentages), but unsubscribes and most importantly what number of transactions did each group spend.

Finally don’t assume results will be the same across all segments. Compare within your test segments such as:

  • New customers – who have not been exposed to month’s of your former email frequency and will be most reactive to the test
  • Active customers – does increasing frequency here push them away or make them spend more?
  • Inactive customers – if they are not reacting to your current emails turning up the volume is a down and dirty tactic that can work

Is there a tipping point?

Absolutely. Everyone has unsubscribed from Groupon at some point haven’t they?

My promotions folder every single morning…

It’s not just there is a tipping point but also a point of diminishing returns. Each additional send costs money in send fees, design, copy and sign-off.

Your goal is not to find the ultimate frequency as such a thing doesn’t really exist – usually one test of frequency change is enough to satisfy us.

What we want to achieve is answer whether can we create a really quick low cost win that delivers a significant boost, and challenging that conventional wisdom that exists to give you the freedom to set the frequency you choose.

CRM questions? Let’s talk.