There’s No Magic Number for How Many Emails to Send – And That’s Okay
By Monica Montesa February 12, 2016
How often should you email subscribers?
It’s an age-old question for anyone who sends email. You want to keep subscribers engaged, but you don’t want to give off that needy, stage-five clinger vibe. Nor do you want to get lost in the inbox.
So what’s the magic number of times you should email subscribers?
The answer is…
I know, I know. That isn’t exactly what you were looking for. But let me explain.
How often your subscribers want to receive emails from you depends on a variety of factors, including the people who make up your email list, the type of content you’re sending, and even the time of year.
We’ll dive deeper into each of these factors in a minute, but first, let’s take a look at things on a wider scale.
How often are other brands sending emails?
According to Direct Marketing Association’s email marketing report, 54 percent of companies were sending emails 1-3 times a month, while 30 percent sent emails 4-8 times a month.
That means the majority of companies are sending at least one to two emails a week, which seems to match up to subscribers’ expectations fairly well. According to a survey from Marketing Sherpa, most subscribers said they would rather receive emails at least once a week or once a month.
However, while most companies tend to prefer a lean email sending strategy, automation may be changing the game.
As advancements in email automation continue to improve, more brands are exploring the idea of sending targeted communication to subscribers who want it most. In this case, we might see the overall number of emails sent increase, although each subscriber may only be getting one or two emails a month.
Should you send fewer emails?
For the most part, most email senders would rather send a few emails a month vs. many. And subscribers seem to be happy about that. Plus by sending less emails, you:
Avoid email fatigue. Brands that send daily emails run the risk of overwhelming their subscribers to the point where their messages go ignored. Unless your subscribers are the “Inbox Zero” type, they likely have hundreds or even thousands of unopened emails sitting in the inbox. By preventing the issue of email fatigue, your subscribers will likely look forward to your emails.
Have more time to craft your emails. Designing and writing engaging emails is a time-commitment. And the more you commit to, the harder it becomes to create valuable emails you’re proud of. It’s easy to fall into the rinse-and-repeat habit of creating content, but your subscribers deserve better. When you only send a few emails a month, you allow yourself more time to create awesome content.
However, there are a few risks that come along with maintaining little email communication with subscribers:
You might miss important opportunities. If you maintain a rigid once-a-week email schedule, you might inadvertently prevent yourself from communicating something awesome to your subscribers, like a hot new industry trend or product announcement.
Subscribers may forget about you. There’s a reason why the old adage “Outta sight, outta mind” exists; unless something is right in front of a person’s eyes, chances are they’ll forget it completely (kinda like how you forget to move your laundry from the washing machine to dryer if it’s located in the basement). Unfortunately, the same happens to subscribers when they don’t see any emails coming from you in their inbox.
You risk getting marked as spam. If your subscribers aren’t used to seeing your messages in their inbox, they might forget they signed up for your emails in the first place. And if that happens, they might mark you as spam, which can hurt your email sender reputation… which can then make it more difficult for you to get your emails delivered to your other subscribers. That’s a snowball-effect you definitely want to avoid.
What about sending more emails?
Most seem to agree that sending multiple emails a week can be overwhelming and a bad user experience. Readers may unsubscribe if you send emails at a high frequency — even if they love your content. Plus:
It can hurt your open rates. If you’re sending too many emails, readers may just start ignoring your messages. This can tank your open rates and hurt your list deliverability.
Through testing, find the time of day that most of your subscribers open your emails, then stick to it. On your sign up form, tell people how often they can expect to hear from you, then stick to it. If you signed up for a monthly newsletter and started getting daily updates, you wouldn’t be too happy, would you?
You run the risk of getting repetitive. The more you send emails, the more difficult it becomes to come up with unique and compelling content. Think of the emails you get from retailers for the latest incredible sale you must take advantage of now – the more often you get that same message, the less urgent and exclusive it seems.
But just as there are both pros and cons to sending a small number of emails, there are some benefits to increasing your email frequency, too:
You’re engaging subscribers with targeted content. Although you’re technically sending multiple emails a week, you avoid overwhelming your list if you send targeted emails to different segments of subscribers. (If you send two emails a week, but each goes out to different segments of subscribers, that’s only one email for every subscriber on your list).
You’re keeping up with the competition. There are certain times of the year when subscribers expect an influx of emails to show up in the inbox (like the entire period of time after Thanksgiving). In these situations, sending more frequent emails could help capture the attention of frantic shoppers looking for the next best deal.
You’re setting expectations. Whether you plan on sending three emails a week or once a month, include this detail in your sign up form. This way, subscribers know what they’re getting themselves into.
For theSkimm, a popular newsletter that curates all the latest news into a witty, neatly packaged email, sending daily emails is their shtick. When I signed up for their emails, I knew what I was getting myself into. And since they delivered each day on their promise, I was delighted when their emails showed up in my inbox.
How many emails should you send in an automated series?
We often get asked by our customers about how many autoresponders they should include in a series. While it depends on the information you plan on communicating, our rule of thumb is to only send emails if they’re relevant to your series and to your subscribers; in other words, avoid sending 10 emails just because you think having more equates to being more effective.
In fact, most usually find that the more emails you have, the more engagement decreases over time.
Still unsure? Consider your audience.
Every list of subscribers will be different. So what works for one email sender might not work for another. theSkimm, for example, is successful because they send emails daily, and communicate that clearly before you sign up. But that cadence might not work for someone else, like a vocal coach whose subscribers are only interested in hearing from them once a week.
Whether you’re just getting started with email marketing or you have a list in the quadruple digits, it’s important to establish a consistent cadence from the get-go – and communicate that clearly with new subscribers. Whether you mention it in your sign up form or your first welcome message (or both!), this helps set expectations so there aren’t any surprises.
If you find that a lot of people are unsubscribing from your list or marking your emails as spam, you might want to see if your email cadence impacted that in any way. On your unsubscribe page, give people a chance to provide feedback as to why they’re leaving. (This is also a good time to reiterate the value of staying). If you find a common theme about sending too many emails or not enough, it may be time to try a new send frequency.
Or, consider surveying your current subscriber list to gauge how they feel about how often you send emails. (And while you’re at it, why not do a quick temperature check on your email content and ask for their feedback on that, too? You never know when you might need a refresh!)
Another thing to consider about your email list? There will be differences among individual subscribers.
We often think of frequency in terms of how the whole list behaves, but content that works for some might not resonate with others. This is where automation and segmentation can be a powerful tool to help you better communicate with your audience.
Focus on quality email content.
Once you’ve established an email cadence you’re comfortable with (and that you think your subscribers will enjoy), your main focus should be on providing quality, relevant content. If it’s something your subscribers will enjoy, they’ll look forward to every email you send.
Choose a frequency that works for you.
Think about how often you email your own subscribers. Once a week? Once a month? Maybe it’s time to change things up or survey your list to see if they’d like to hear more or less from you.
Have any other thoughts on sending emails? Leave a comment below – I’d love to hear about it!