How Often Should You Email Your List?
What is the best email frequency?
Maybe you've been told you'll make more money by emailing more often... But you're afraid you'll annoy your subscribers?
Or maybe you've been following a certain emailing schedule... But you're not happy with the engagement you're getting?
And anywhere you look, you bump into different opinions...
A lot of people say that you should email once a month. Other people say bi-weekly. Others say weekly. Some say daily.
Guess what, there are research and case studies that back up pretty much every one of these claims. (We'll get to those later...)
So should you just test what email frequency is best for you?
It's not that simple...
how not to find out how often you should be emailing
If only there was a scientific and accurate way to find out how often you should be emailing...
Oh, but there is!
It's called A/B testing.
Not so fast, skippy!
A/B testing is not the magical bullet that some people make it seem to be...
When you're doing A/B tests with your email list, you're playing against your subscribers' expectations.
For example, maybe they're used to getting emails from you once a week...
In fact, that's what you promised when they joined your list.
And suddenly, you start sending daily or monthly emails...
Is that really a good environment for A/B testing?
You also need a sizable list to do any kind of testing... And you may want to use a smaller segment instead of your whole list...
Testing your emails is hard.
HubSpot has outlined a way to test email frequency. But it's definitely not for everyone.
"Are you saying there's no clear answer and no way to find it out?"
There is, in fact, a very clear answer to this...
But we have to change the question.
YOU ARE ASKING THE WRONG QUESTION
The question “how often should I email my list?” is wrong.
The right question to ask is:
“How frequently should I reach out to people who need my help?”
“How regularly should I keep in touch with people I care about?
To which the right answer is: “as much as is needed.”
Are you doing your subscribers a disservice by not emailing them when they need your help (and you could help them)?
Look. If you are doing business online and have news of value to your followers, why *aren't* you telling them?
I think the only reason you wouldn't tell them is --- fear of being flamed, which means fear of receiving hate email.
If you are afraid of being flamed, then you probably know you don't have anything of value for your list.
Think about it.
I'll repeat my statement: If you are afraid of being flamed, then you probably know you don't have anything of value for your list.
Now, consider this:
If you feel confident about your expertise in your market...
Wouldn't you have something valuable to bring to the table... every single day?
Daily emailing? Is that the perfect email frequency?
The answer may lie in the most basic principle of doing business...
the answer that brings the most value to the table
You're in business.
Generally, the more profit you make, the better you can help people.
So let's talk about how you can make the most money.
Let's first go to Ben Settle. He's someone who has worked for 13 years in various markets. He is THE biggest proponent of daily emailing I know. Because, according to him, it increases your bottom line every time.
He gives an example on how even a pool maintenance business can make more money by emailing daily (even during winter):
He should be marketing himself even harder during the winter sending emails each day.
Yes, he can talk about pool stuff still.
(Whatever problems pool owners face in the winter.)
But he can also write about local deals.
Special offers from other businesses.
And maybe even sell info products.
(He could publish a free or low cost print newsletter about pools and general domestic fixer-upper info, and include paid ads — or joint venture offers — from his fellow local businesses).
This way, he stays top o’ mind.
Is a trusted community leader.
And, is the ONLY choice for pool cleaning come summer.
(Plus maybe even make more scratch than he does cleaning pools all summer…)
That sounds all nice and dandy... But let's look at the other side of the coin:
In this test conducted by Arthur Middleton Hughes, a company tested sending 12 times a month as opposed to 5 times a month:
See the two bottom figures?
That's a big drop in profits when they increased their frequency...
What does this case study tell us?
Increasing your emailing frequency isn't a cure-all.
There's nothing much else to take away from this... Because they don't tell you what kind of company is sending these emails and what kind of emails are they sending!
That's a problem because...
We have no idea how much value they are providing in their emails.
"Won't frequent emails annoy my subscribers?"
Of course you'd make less money if all you sent was, for example, daily promotional emails that have no inherent value (unless your subscribers open their wallets).
But what about, let's say, daily soap operas, talk shows, podcasts or newspapers?
Ok, soap operas are pretty annoying...
But if you're a fan of, like, Conan O'Brien, you'd watch his show almost daily, am I wrong?
That's over 40 minutes out of your time every day.
Local newspapers have so many more words in them than any daily email newsletter.
Yet, there's nothing annoying about them.
Yeah, email is a very different medium than TV shows or newspapers or whatever...
But it's not all about the medium.
Case in point: Think about all the email lists you are subscribed to. What's your favorite? Would you mind getting more emails from them?
I sure wouldn't.
But that's not all...
I also have some numbers to show you (woo! data!):
According to a study by HubSpot, there doesn't seem to be a penalty for frequent emailing, even if you're emailing daily.
Clickthrough rates stayed relatively consistent:
And you're getting more clicks because you're emailing more often!
Also, unsubscribe rates seemed higher when they emailed less frequently:
But, as I said earlier, there are always research that tell a completely opposite story...
What do you make of that?
The reason why these studies tell opposite stories is because there are so many other factors in play.
Would you agree that your email engagement and profits will decrease if you do something like this:
- Your emails are pure pitches and you promote different stuff every time you email. People don't have to capacity to buy all that stuff, so there's no reason for them to keep opening your emails.
- Your subscribers get emails from you that, most of the times, aren't interesting to them. If someone gets 90% irrelevant emails and only 10% relevant emails from you, they might as well stop opening your emails altogether.
- You promised to send emails once every week and you suddenly start sending daily emails without your subscribers' permission.
On the other hand, here's when more frequent emailing can help you get more sales:
- The more you email, the more you'll be able to showcase benefits of buying from you, overcome objections and so on.
- When you stay fresh in their mind all the time... When they are about to purchase something, you'll be one of the first things that come to their mind. So they might very likely come to you to buy something.
- Among other reasons mentioned in this blog post...
The risks of not emailing often enough
Listen, emailing less than a few times a week can be dangerous.
Let me demonstrate with a short story:
When I was a kid, I had 2 best friends.
I thought I would be best friends with them forever.
But then my family had to move to another town...
There was really no good way of keeping contact with these friends. Internet wasn't common. And phone calls would've been lame (only girls call each other!)
So we grew apart from each other.
I haven't heard from these guys in years and I have no idea what they've been doing for the past few years.
If we were to meet suddenly, I think that meeting would be pretty awkward. We probably have different interests and nothing to talk about (except the past)... That wouldn't be a good restart for a friendship.
That's what will happen if you stop emailing your list for a few years a few months a few weeks.
You're not best friends with the people on your list. Far from it.
So it doesn't necessarily take long for you to "grow apart" from each other - it doesn't take much for your subscribers to forget about you or at least forget the fuzzy feeling they got when they first started reading your emails. Once the momentum's gone, it's hard to build it back up again.
Especially since we're talking about the Internet.
We're talking about super-long-distance relationships.
We're talking attention spans shorter than that of a gold fish!
If you want to keep up that bond with your subscribers, you need to keep in contact with them frequently!
"Won't my subscribers grow tired of my emails?"
Imagine this -
There's someone you like. Someone whose advice you respect.
You love getting emails from them.
But they haven't emailed you in a while. 🙁
But today, you suddenly see their name in your inbox! Woohoo!
There's something special about that...
When you hear from someone who hasn't been in touch with you for a while.
Won't your emails become mundane if you emailed more frequently?
Will your subscribers grow bored of you?
But "mundane" isn't necessarily a bad thing.
"Mundane" is something that is an inseparable part of your day. Isn't that a pretty good thing?
If you're afraid your subscribers stop appreciating you and your content...
Then keep things fresh.
Keep them on their toes.
Surprise them once in a while.
Some old couples keep their relationship fresh by, for example, doing weekly date nights (just like when they were young).
If you can do something like that with your list, "mundane" stops meaning "dull".
Guess what else is part of everyone's lives and is far from dull?
If reading your emails becomes a habit for your subscribers...
Then it becomes that much harder for them to stop reading your emails!
Here's how you can help them form those habits:
The biggest benefit to emailing daily?
Does this ever happen to you:
You follow a TV show or a podcast or something. The newest episode comes out but you don't have time right now so you leave it for later.
And that "later" never comes... Soon you have a huge backlog of episodes you want to watch... But your interest in that show wanes as time goes on...
If you're like me, that happens with email newsletters too.
Sometimes I get an email from someone and I think...
"I'll leave this for later." or "I don't have time right now, I'll read his next email."
"Later" never happens, of course. And if you ever skip an email, that easily becomes a habit. Soon you notice you haven't read any of their emails in a long time and you unsubscribe...
That happens especially with weekly (or monthly) email newsletters.
People are habitual creatures.
And it's easier to create daily habits than weekly habits. Your "streak" grows faster. Daily habits also die harder.
In this article by The Irish Times, Laura Slattery writes about newspapers that changed their schedule from daily to weekly. They all saw drops in their circulation and some of them underwent a fast death.
When you email your subscribers weekly, you're giving them only one chance a week to get to know you better and fall in love with your content.
But when you send daily emails, it's harder to ignore them.
You have to act upon them. Either read... or unsubscribe.
(And getting unsubscribers isn't a bad thing. You don't want people on your list who leave all your emails unopened. It's better if they leave on their own.)
We can learn another lesson about forming habits from one of the biggest companies on Earth:
Apple's guide to email frequency
Hate it or love it, they're one of the most successful companies on Earth right now.
When they're launching new products, people line up for hours in front of their stores to get ahold of their stuff. Even if there's plenty of iPhones for everyone who wants them.
What makes these people anticipate their products so much?
One thing is their consistency.
Apple releases a new iPhone or a Macbook or an iPad very consistently. For example, new iPhones get released every year.
People learn to expect them.
They learn to anticipate them.
Throughout the year they get hints on what the new products will be like. That creates excitement.
Of course, consistency isn't the only factor. But it is a biggie.
When you're consistent and show up frequently, you show your audience who is the "alpha boss" in your market who knows more stuff than your competitors.
As Jeremy Reeves wrote on the Daily Egg, you'll prove to your audience that you are in it for the long run.
You are like a rock they can lean on.
But that is not all...
Let me show you another weapon you can use to condition people to read your emails...
how to get your subscribers addicted to your emails
This is one of the most addictive "substances" in the world...
I'm not talking about drugs, you dirty mind!
I'm talking about soap operas.
There are a ton of psychological tricks we can learn from them.
Have you ever wondered why soap operas are (usually) daily and not weekly?
Nah. That's a stupid question.
But let's think about it anyway:
First, because of habits (as we talked about earlier).
Second, because open loops and cliffhangers are that much more effective when used daily.
Soap operas use a ton of open loops.
And if they would broadcast only once per week, there would be that much more time to forget those open loops.
It's easier to keep people hooked on a daily show.
Why does this matter?
Because open loops and cliffhangers are some of the most powerful weapons you can use to keep your subscribers hooked to your emails.
A lot of people open your emails because they know, like and trust you.
Some of them open because of the subject line.
But how much do you think your open rates would increase if you had one more psychological weapon in your arsenal?
So, we've talked about your subscribers' habits...
But there is another side to that coin - your OWN habits and how you can benefit from them:
A shortcut to mastering email marketing
If you ever feel you lack ideas for your blog posts or products...
If you feel like you don't know your audience well-enough...
If you feel like you want to improve as a writer...
Frequent emailing helps with that.
It forces you to generate new ideas every day. These are ideas that you can expand into blog posts and products.
And when you're interacting with your audience more frequently, you get to know them much better.
It also helps you develop your writing and your voice. Because practice makes perfect.
That's it for the positive sides of frequent emailing...
There are actually real problems with it also:
the real problems with daily emailing
Daily emailing VS. segmentation
Do you segment your list?
Do you sometimes send emails only to a certain segment (so you won't annoy your other subscribers with content that is irrelevant to them)?
I've got bad news for you.
Daily emailing doesn't mesh with segmentation that well.
Let's say you're promoting a product and only a certain segment of your list would be interested in it...
Do you write just one email per day and send it to all segments?
Or do you have to write multiple emails for different segments?
You have three options:
1) If your niche is relatively narrow, you might get away with writing one email and sending it to everyone. But you might be angering people who don't find your email interesting to them.
2) Write one email for your "main segment" and another for the smaller segment. You'll have to do more writing and that might not be worth your time. But everyone will get the daily email they are expecting from you.
3) Pause your emailing for the main segment and only write for the smaller segment. There will be people on the main segment who will wonder where your daily email is (unless you inform them about it). But you can concentrate on the smaller segment fully and you won't have to do extra writing.
Which is the best option?
There is no right answer. It really depends on your situation.
Daily emailing VS. marketing automation
When you use marketing automation...
For example, when your subscribers visit a certain page on your site and they get sent an automated email relating to that.
That's when they'll be getting multiple emails from you, if you're sending them daily emails.
They're getting the daily broadcast AND they're getting the triggered email.
You may be able to set it up so they won't get your regular broadcast if they get an automated message from you.
But that might actually piss some people off - they're expecting to get your regular broadcasts!
In a lot of cases, your subscribers won't mind if they get more than one email from you some days.
How to optimize your emailing schedule (without a/b testing)
If you want to test emailing more frequently...
But you're afraid of backlash... Or if you don't have the capability to do A/B testing...
There are other ways to get data. And ease your subscribers into a different schedule.
Below, I'll list some ways to help you figure out your best email frequency.
Are these methods scientific and accurate like A/B testing? Not necessarily. But they can be helpful to some people.
In what email frequency is your market used to?
Subscribe to other email lists in your market.
How often do they send emails to their list?
Usually you'll find examples of monthly, weekly and daily newsletters. That just means it's possible to condition your subscribers for pretty much any frequency.
Are there any case studies on email frequency in your market?
That might give you a better idea about your particular market than the vague case studies I showed earlier in this post.
Step #3 (optional)
Sometimes it's ok to vary your schedule.
For example, when you're launching a product. Your subscribers might just expect to get more frequent emails at a time like that.
See how they react to that.
Then you could ask them if they'd like to continue this more frequent schedule regularly.
Build a new email list segment.
Ask your subscribers if there are anybody who'd like to receive more emails from you. If your emails have been good, I bet there will be people who'd like that.
Move those subscribers to a new segment for which you'll send more emails.
See how that affects your bottom line.
If this test goes well...
Now you have two different segments.
One of them gets emails less frequently. The other gets more frequently.
If you'd like to maintain both of these segments, you can integrate it into your list building - ask your new subscribers how frequently they'd like to receive emails from you. And move them to the right segment based on their answer.
Or if the idea of maintaining two different schedules doesn't appeal to you...
And one of the segments is outperforming the other...
You could tell the rest of your subscribers that from now on, you'll be sending emails only to the other segment. They'll have to join or they stop receiving emails from you.
That will force the fence-sitters to decide.
You will lose subscribers. But it keeps your business more simple.
So, how often should you email your list?
Probably more often than you are now.
The more you keep in contact with your audience, the more you're helping them.
That is, if you bring something valuable to the table every time...
But if you're knowledgable in your field, that shouldn't be a problem. Even if you were emailing every day.