Like many people, the first thing I do upon waking up every morning is check my email. This habit defies logic, as I couldn't tell you the last time I received a personal email or even a marketing email I was particularly interested in overnight, yet I do it anyway. With eyes barely open enough to adjust to the bright light emitting from my iPhone, I delete marketing emails from the same brands over and over again, sometimes deleting without even opening the email in the first place.
The most frustrating part of my morning email-deleting routine (aside from the fact that it keeps me from the only thing that actually matters in the morning: coffee) is that the daily emails I receive are incredibly frequent – and incredibly repetitive. No matter the day, I can count on an email being there from my friends at DSW, Ann Taylor Loft and Gap, all bombarding me with a similar message as yesterday: "check out our sale!".
While common marketing gurus drill mantras like "consistency is key" into our heads as a reminder for how often you should send out marketing emails, many brands are taking it too far. For most, consistency doesn't need to involve multiple emails sent daily. It doesn't matter whether you are a B2B or B2C organization: it's possible for any company to send too many emails.
If you're wondering what could be so bad about sending emails on a highly-frequent basis, I have a few answers.
You'll lose the attention of your email list
It's annoying to get emails from the same person or company over and over. Our time and attention is precious. Although each email you receive may require your attention for only two or three seconds as you read the subject line and decide whether you should open or delete it, having to go through the motions for the same email sender frequently can become a hassle.
When you send out so many emails that it becomes annoying to recipients, one of two things happen.
The first is that you will have more people unsubscribing for your email list. While unsubscribes aren't always a bad thing (unsubscribes are ok when they weed out people who were never going to engage with your content or convert, no matter how perfect your offer is), they're not so great when the people unsubscribing would have stayed if you scaled back on the frequency of communication.
The second thing that may happen, and the one that may actually be worse than simply having people unsubscribe, is that your recipients will remain on your list but pay less attention to each email you send. When every subject line is about the same sale, or your new eBook, or an upcoming event that you've already emailed about five times, the chances of the third or fourth or fifth email being of interest to your readers has severely diminished. By the time you have something new and of value to share, your reader's eyes will glaze over it, as they've done many times before.
Email clients might mark your emails as spam
You might not think your emails are spammy, but it’s possible that some email clients will disagree.
How could that be?
When an email client, like Gmail, sees that emails from a particular sender consistently have low open rates or click through rates, it takes it as an indicator that something isn’t quite right with the emails being sent. Surely more people would open and click on the links in an email that was legitimate and providing valuable information, right?
If you are constantly sending emails that have low open and click through rates, your emails might be delivered to your receipients’ spam folders instead of their inboxes. This is just about the last thing that you want to happen to your emails, as it means your emails won’t be read and all of that work was for nothing.
You’ll damage your brand by appearing like you’re always having a sale
A few of the back-to-back Ann Taylor Loft “sale” emails residing in my trash folder, prior to my eventual unsubscribe. Sorry, Ann!
Consistently receiving emails from the same retailers about some sale they are having has legitimately changed the way I shop. No longer will I waltz into an Ann Taylor Loft or Gap if they don't have a sale. Why would I? Based on the emails I receive, I can expect to get at least 40% off for two weeks out of the month, any given month. Any consumer would be crazy to pay full price after getting emails day and night about a sale that seems like it is never actually ending.
The problem with promoting sales so frequently is that it devalues the price of your product in the eyes of the consumers (not to mention, it makes you seem pretty desperate). Now, as a consumer, I love sales. Sales are happy days for my bank account. But if you are a brand that doesn't consider its products to be "cost-conscious" or "low-budget," you can do serious harm.
If you have sales frequently, avoid leading with this fact in back-to-back daily emails. In the image above, Ann Taylor Loft could have included one email subject line with info about the sale, and only included a reminder about the sale within the body of subsequent emails. That way, the email would have appeared to include different information than the three preceding it, upping my chances of opening it up.
Strain your email marketing team, resulting in repetitive emails
One of the reasons that your emails may be so repetitive is because your email marketing team has been told they need to send a certain number of emails every day. Having a quota for your email sends is good if it motivates you to keep on top of your email marketing, but it's terrible if it forces you to scrape the bottom of the barrel as you figure out how to send the third email of the day about the sale that has been going on for the past week. You can only say "check out our sale!" in so many ways.
Instead of living and dying by a send quota, create an editorial calendar for your emails. Jot down the topics to be covered in each emails based on larger activities going on within your marketing campaigns or business – whether it be a sale, an ebook launch, an event or something else.
While you may feel pressure to promote your message as much as possible, remember that most of your customers aren’t aching to see you pop up in their inbox every day. Just because they opted-in to receive email communication doesn’t mean they opted-in to be bombarded. Do them a favor and save your emails for when they really count.
How many emails should you be sending to your list?
There is no one right answer for how many emails you should be sending, but there are a number of ways to determine a suitable number for your business.
The most important thing you can do is to look at your analytics for your current emails. Take a look at the last few months of email sends, taking note of what types of emails had:
- Highest open rates
- Lowest open rates
- Highest CTR
- Lowest CTR
- Highest unsubscribe rate
- Lowest unsubscribe rate
- Highest conversion rate
- Lowest conversion rate
To do this, you'll need to pay attention to not only the time stamp and day of the week each email was sent, but also the language, tone and content in both subject line and in the email. If you send email one or more times a day, make note of any drop off throughout the day in reader responsiveness or fatigue that may be a result of seeing the same message come through too frequently.
You may be surprised what you learn from this data, whether it’s the time of day that generates the most email clicks or the type of content that is driving unsubscribes. Once you’re armed with data about how your email recipients are – or aren’t – interacting with your emails, you’ll be able to better create and send emails that people actually want to open.
If unsubscribes are an issue or engagement in general is trending in the wrong direction, consider providing readers with a choice to receive emails on a less frequent basis (with options like “monthly,” “weekly” or “daily”) or to only receive emails pertaining to a specific topic. If your reader does care about your brand, but doesn’t care to hear about it every day, this can be a good way to attempt to keep them on your list and reduce any damage that has been done by overloading them with email communication. Be forewarned, though: once someone clicks the “unsubscribe” link in your email, they might brush aside your offer to reduce the number of emails and go straight to removing themselves from your list.
Whether you determine that you should be sending one email a month or one email a day, be sure to keep your content (starting with your subject line) interesting, curiosity-provoking or useful for your readers. They respected you enough to sign up for your list; respect them enough to make it worth their while.