No Bullsh*t Advice From Email Experts
Raise your hand if you are starting to feel a bit claustrophobic when you check your email (raises hand). As our inboxes become fuller, it’s apparent that email marketers are ramping up their sending ahead of the holiday season to attract more buyers. And for a lot of brands, it works.
But, before you follow suit, you’ll want to consider the impact that increased send volume will have on your overall engagement and your reputation. After all, it can get annoying to get too much email from a sender, especially if subscribers are already overwhelmed with email or aren’t in the right frame of mind to receive your message.
That’s why we’ve rounded up email experts from Hubspot, Campaign Monitor, dotdigital, eFocus Marketing, Email Uplers, Holistic Email Marketing, and our resident email geek Lauren Meyer to help you find the right send volume for your business this holiday season and beyond.
Here’s what they had to say…
Stay Focused on Quality Content
Savvy marketers striving to protect their brand’s sender reputation should only focus on the quality of sends and allow their contact’s engagement to drive the quantity of promotional email sent over a given time period.
Focusing on how much mail a brand sends without thoughtfulness around contact engagement is likely to result in a decline in email performance. If contacts being included in bulk sends are not permission-based, are being overmessaged, are not consistently engaging with promotional emails, or any combination of these – your brand’s deliverability could be negatively impacted.
Here are some general tips to help your brand focus on the quality of promotional mail sent, which will, in turn, help to foster a healthy sender reputation and better inbox placement:
- Only send bulk mail to contacts who have personally provided both their email address and permission to your brand directly.
- Set clear expectations at the time of opt-in about the type of messaging a contact will receive, and the frequency at which they will be emailed.
- Don’t email a contact about subjects/content/products they haven’t expressed interest in or opted into receiving. Not every contact will want to receive a company newsletter, even if they engaged with your brand’s other channels (such as your website, social media, etc.).
- Suppress contacts who are persistently not engaging with your marketing emails. These contacts demonstrate through their lack of engagement that they are either not interested or aren’t seeing your messages at all. Continually including disengaged contacts in your marketing campaigns will “train” inbox providers to send more of your next message to spam – and this can even impact contacts who are engaged with your bulk sends.
Many marketers will feel pressure from within their organization to send more mail regardless of contact engagement. Educating your internal teams on how a focus on quantity can negatively impact your ability to reach the inbox can help to protect your sender reputation and business goals for marketing email.
Consider Checking In With Subscribers Before Shifting Your Strategy
Unfortunately, there is no special equation to tell you what the exact number should be for your email send volume this holiday season. But luckily, there are a few easy tips to keep in mind that will ensure you put your audience first, the best way to keep unsubscribes and open rates at a good level in times of higher send volume.
People expect—and want—more emails during the holiday season. They are looking for special deals and promotions that they know brands send in order to get the most bang for their buck when doing their holiday shopping.
This is great news for you because your audience will experience less email fatigue than they would any other time in the year.
However, you always want to be mindful that you don’t suddenly send too many more emails than your usual cadence for any reason. An extreme increase will seem suspicious to spam filters and inbox providers, hurting your sender reputation. You can avoid these problems though when you remember to authenticate your email sends to prepare for the shift in your strategy.
Another way to determine what your audience wants from your send cadence is to ask them. Consider asking your subscribers to update their email preferences before the holidays so they only get the emails they care about. You can also send a short survey asking your readers how many emails they’d like to receive from you.
This benefits your email strategy in two major ways:
- You learn important information that shapes your email strategy.
- And it proves to your subscribers that you have their best interests at heart and builds loyalty with your biggest fans.
Remember: Email is powerful because it allows you to foster a connection with each of your subscribers. Keep their interests and needs at the center of each email and you’ll send the exact number of emails your subscribers want to receive.
3 Tips For Finding The Right Balance Between Quantity & Quality
The holidays are coming up, and for brands, it’s tempting to ramp up email sends – both in terms of frequency and audience – to increase engagement and orders.
Email volumes are already staggering, estimated at 306.4 billion per day. And this year, with the economic strain of the pandemic hitting your bottom line hard, sending more email seems only natural.
But don’t be fooled. Your customers’ inboxes are going to be heaving – and the best way to get noticed is not by sending too many emails but by sending the right emails.
Here are my three best tips on how to balance quantity with quality in your email campaigns:
- Capture the right data to inform the relevancy of your campaigns
There’s an array of data at your fingertips – you just have to ask for it or track it. From data-capture forms to preference centers, website behavior to purchase history, basing your content and promotions on your customers’ activities will always make your call to action more compelling.
- Timing is everything – especially during the peak holiday season
While send time optimization is key, it’s important to schedule and stagger your sends around key holidays like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Thanksgiving. Remember, you can tailor your proposition with the timing of the email – such as a countdown promotion or last-minute deals. What’s more, make sure you segment openers and non-openers and nudge them to redeem any offers before time runs out.
- Take a good look at your email before hitting send
It’s super-easy for marketers to build emails and send them off without a second thought, in what’s likely to be a jam-packed schedule of campaigns. But – and trust me on this one – taking time to review your email and its message, in the context of the intended audience, will help assure you of its relevance and value. If not, then revise the campaign until it oozes customer relevancy.
For more seasonal inspiration, check out dotdigital’s holiday marketing lookbook.
There Is No One-Fits-All Answer
Much like a lot of questions about email deliverability, the answer here is the ever-unsatisfying: “It depends.”
There are a multitude of factors to consider, including the types of products or services you offer, the makeup of your email audience, the types of emails you send, the length of your sales cycle, the frequency and recurrence of conversions by your customers, and ultimately, the goal(s) of your email program, just to name a few. As a result, there really is no one-fits-all answer to this question.
Before deciding how often to send to each of your subscribers, my recommendation is to consider each of the following questions:
- What are your goals with email?
Collecting lots of sign-ups for your email list is great, but if those people are there for the wrong reasons, they will not drive conversions for your email program.
And they could end up hurting deliverability if you send a high volume of email to destinations who care about engagement, like Gmail.
Identify what you hope to accomplish with email first, and then build out your email strategy accordingly.
- What type of content do you / will you send?
It might be perfectly acceptable for you to send daily if you’re sharing news pieces like Morning Brew, daily deals like Groupon, or maybe even highlighting sales or product availability for a retail shop or grocery store.
But for others, sending more than weekly might be overkill.
Ask yourself: How often can you send an email that actually provides value for the recipient? If you don’t have something meaningful to say, you may want to consider not hitting ‘Send’.
- What are the needs and interests of your email audience?
To answer this question, you’ll need to look to your data. Not just your email metrics (like opens, clicks and unsubs), but your performance metrics as well.
Peaks in website traffic or conversions or any other signals of activity outside of email can help guide you in understanding what content resonates well with your email recipients.
The answer here may differ from one recipient to another, so do not treat everyone on your list exactly the same! Identify the different buyer personas within your email audience and then target them accordingly.
- Is my program as effective as it used to be?
Deliverability and recipient engagement with email are not static things. Your audience’s appetite can evolve over time, and so can your ability to hit the inbox. So always be testing and reviewing your performance to ensure your email program continues to drive optimal results.
By spending some time answering these questions, the answer to your original question will become much more apparent.
Ask These Questions to Determine How Much Is Too Much
As always, there isn’t one answer that works for everyone.
There are three areas that I believe decide how much is too much for your audience:
- What expectations did you set on sign up? Did you clearly let them know how often you’d be emailing them and what the benefits were?
If someone doesn’t know how often they’ll receive emails from you, or makes an assumption and your sending frequency is greater than that, it can cause negative sentiment with your subscriber.
However, if you’re sending a daily email and let them know they’ll receive daily tips to grow their business or daily deals to help them save money, for example, they know to expect this high frequency and are choosing to subscribe to that.
If you tell them you’ll send a bi-weekly newsletter and then start to send them daily emails, expectation and reality are not aligned.
- Is your content interesting, relevant and helpful?
If your content is something subscribers want to receive and engage with regularly, send it to them! Understand your audience to understand what they want to receive from you.
- Have you seen unsubscribes and complaints increasing and positive engagement decreasing in your send results?
Of course, these symptoms could point to many other causes, but frequency of sends overall or if you’ve recently increased your frequency can also be factors worth investigating. Find your tipping point between good and bad engagement levels depending on how many emails you send.
The Answer Lies in Testing
Email fatigue is very real, which implies that sending too many emails can wear down your subscribers even if you send out useful content. Therefore, you must build an email marketing strategy that strikes the right balance between the number of emails and the value it delivers to the subscriber.
When I come across this question: “How many emails are too many,” I think the answer lies in “TESTING.” There are plenty of articles on the web that suggest that sending one to two emails in a week is a good idea, but then, IT ALL DEPENDS…
The factors that you must consider while deciding the frequency of emails are:
- Your business industry
- Personality of your business
- Purpose of your email campaigns
- Preferences of your subscribers
While the first three variables depend on you (marketing professionals and email campaign managers), your subscribers get to decide the last one.
The key to understanding the subscribers’ preferences is to test your email frequency or simply ask them directly about what frequency they would prefer.
Along with the “unsubscribe” link, include something like “Receiving too many emails? Set your preferences here”. This would keep the subscribers engaged and reduce the churn rate as well.
The same applies to the quality of your emails. A good email is the one that is relevant to the subscribers and gets them to take action. Many brands give the subscribers an option to choose the products or services of their interest at the time they sign up (as Simple Recipes does).
Another aspect you must consider is the email open rate of your campaigns. In other words, you can send out yet another email to people who have not opened your email on the first go. Such a tactic of following up can help you increase the open rate and click-through rate by drawing the subscriber’s attention amidst his or her busy schedule.
The bottom line is don’t be afraid to ask your subscribers how many emails they would want to receive. Keep testing and optimize your frequency according to the results.
Frequency Should Not Be An Issue If You Deliver Value—But Test To Be Sure
This is an age-old question that has always been a struggle for marketers to answer and identify. The answer, and solution, is actually quite simple. If you take onboard the Helpful Marketing approach, every email that you send can be a marketing email, and as you’re delivering value, frequency shouldn’t be an issue as you’re delivering to the customer’s needs.
This is on the basis that when your customer signed up to receive emails from you, you made a promise to them. Whether you said you would deliver great deals, useful insights, timely news, etc., as long as you honor your promise and deliver this, and are helpful to them, then frequency shouldn’t be too much of an issue. I told you it was simple – possibly too simple.
Given that, I would also recommend performing an A/B split test over a long period of time – say, at least 6 months. Group A would receive the control frequency – the current frequency that you send, and Group B would receive the new frequency, whether it be more or less than the control’s frequency.
For your success metric, choose a metric that supports your main objective. For example, if you’re in retail, you would choose either conversions or revenue in total for this period and potentially Customer Lifetime Value (CLV).
As this is a test to determine what frequency is best for your customers, other subscriber metrics to measure are Open Reach and Click Reach. For these, you simply report on how many subscribers have opened (or clicked) at least one email in this 6 month period. You do this for both groups. This will show you whether you have reached a wider audience by sending more volume or a lesser audience by sending less volume.
For this type of test, your campaign metrics play a lesser role, as frequency (less or more) will impact open and click rates in a campaign but can lead you down the wrong path. The reach is what counts with frequency
More No Bullsh*t Advice From Email Experts Coming Soon
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