Adventures in Mobile Marketing

Social Media Basics: Email Frequency

Tuesday, 06. October 2009 by Anna Billstrom

This is a series of basic questions, and tips, for email marketing.
Question: How frequently can, or should, I email?

Answer: The quick response is once a week. Very few of your customers will get upset if you email them once a week. Some folks use 1 every 5 business days, as a rule of thumb.

The longer answer depends on what kind of content you have in your email. Some email, such as daily stock alerts, can be sent every day. If your customer selects subscription with some kind of tip to frequency- “bi-monthly newsletter,” for example. Otherwise, if it’s regular promotional email “white sale,” etc. then you really should just send it once a week.

This frequency control is why more and more marketers are moving towards lifecycle, triggered, event email. That means the schedule isn’t dependent on you, the marketer, but on the user’s interaction with your site or products. Recipients don’t mind an email if it is super relevant to their communication with you.

A quick word about metrics: a way to find out the perfect frequency for your email is to do the following reporting work:
Determine the cost of acquiring email.
Determine the lifetime value of the average recipient on your site.
Watch and monitor the number of unsubscriptions per campaign, and the number of received emails per average user.

Balancing the ratio of acquisitions to unsubscriptions, along with the value of an email (the lifetime spend) enables you to carefully moderate the frequency with which you send emails. Once you lose a subscriber, it is very hard to get them back.

Letters From the Mailbag: Throttling

Friday, 19. June 2009 by Anna Billstrom

I got a great question a few weeks ago (so sorry for the lag!) regarding this:

We’re installing a new commerce server, and recently discovered it has no ability to throttle outgoing emails. A stand-alone server outside of this platform has been configured to distribute our marketing emails, but we have been unable to find a throttling solution for the transactional email server.

Kate, at SuppliesGuys


Frequency control is managed by some tools using business logic that determines exceptions- “only email this person once per day” or “never email this person with a similar promotion for the last 6 months.” The frequency control software I’ve seen has been either manual SQL scripts filtering each outgoing campaign, or part and parcel of an email marketing software solution.

For transactional emails that are triggered by the customer’s activity, it’s not really recommended to introduce a frequency control. Basically because the numbers are rather low, and real-time triggered emails are more appropriate than scheduled marketing emails. If you do have special events- I’ve seen systems support live pay per view wrestling matches that resulted in a very high volume of traffic, and usually launches, releases, or other time-based online traffic generate unusual loads- then throttling is a great idea.

One thing that is a little bit of a fly in the ointment, is that transactional emails and promotional emails have different CAN-SPAM requirements. So I’ve seen these split up in a few different organizations. One system sends the transactional, another sends the opt-in, “once-a-week” promotional emails.

Strongmail is an inhouse solution that is expensive, but I usually point to it to clients if they do want to have real control over transactional & promotional emails in one system, by one IP. There are issues with SM and it’s not the solution for everyone. You can optionally offput those transactional emails to your ESP, and then they control the frequency and throttle for some domains like AOL. The benefit to this is that you have one IP that your client base whitelists. The downside is that it’s a point of risk for any failure, and transactional emails are usually very key to the operational income to your site.

As for freeware that does throttling, I’m not aware of any. I’d actually recommend that as the best solution- keep it inhouse, and setup a “ticker” to count the number of outgoing transactional emails. when it reaches a recommended threshold, setup a delay mechanism.

Thanks and good luck!

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