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Tips for improving your email timing and frequency

Tips for improving your email timing and frequency Spencer Kollas

When I was younger, I was a drummer and played in both my middle and high school marching bands. We were actually pretty good -- good enough, in fact, to march in both the Cotton Bowl and the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Being part of the drum line, it was our responsibility to keep the rest of the group moving together as one, even when no one was playing a song. A drum line does this by playing something called a cadence. Each cadence has a specific rhythm that makes it easy to follow, fun to listen to, and predictable enough for everyone else in the band so that they know what to expect next.

What does this have to do with email and digital marketing you ask? Everything. Creating a marketing cadence for your programs and your end users is extremely important if you want to keep your customers involved with your products and your brand.

Being a drummer is all about being the heartbeat of the band. If the drum line speeds up or slows down, it will affect the rest of the band and people could start to get confused and lose their place. Overall, the song just won't sound like it should. The same thing is true with your digital marketing plan and programs.

I have mentioned in my past columns the importance of setting proper expectations within your welcome messages. This should include how often customers will be receiving messages from your company and your brand. By doing this, you are letting your customers know when the parade will start and on what foot, thereby ensuring everyone is in sync. Once one member of the "band" gets out of sync, you will start to see issues.

Some companies, such as HauteLook, don't need to worry about changing up their cadence because their business model is to send one message to their members every day to let them know about that day's sales. The problem for most senders is that during their "busy" season, most marketers are expected to send more email because their bosses see the great ROI they are getting from email. They figure that if they send X more emails, they will make Y more in revenue. This busy season for many senders might be during the end-of-the-year holiday season. This is when the cadence between the marketer and customer can become confusing, often times causing the customer to no longer wish to listen to the music of that particular marketer.

Proper cadence comes down to understanding your customers, knowing your product cycle, testing multiple elements, and setting proper expectations. Let's say, for example, that I enjoy water sports and boating. If I have signed up for Overton's weekly newsletter, I might not be as interested in the company during the colder months, but as summer gets closer, I would expect -- and likely enjoy -- more emails. This would especially be the case as the weather gets warmer and I start thinking about what I might need to enjoy it. The key is to test how many emails fit your customers and what works best. Take a look at your lifecycle -- many companies even offer their customers an option during the signup process -- and this will allow you to set your cadence moving forward.

Of course, you should always make it easy for your customer to change the cadence of your messages as their interests change. It is better to have a customer dial back your messages than unsubscribe completely. If you offer this capability, you can also try launching a re-activation campaign to get recipients to update both the desired frequency and focus of your messages. Your customers' needs will change over time, and allowing them to fine-tune their communications will help ensure that they will remain customers over the long haul.

In the end, make sure your customers know what to expect from you, test different frequencies, and constantly review critical response rates like opens and clicks to see how they are affected by varying frequency. If you have a fanatical customer base, increasing the cadence might actually increase interest and responses; however, the same action for another audience might spike unsubscribes and complaint rates. Every business is different, and that's why you need to make the proper investment now to understand the proper cadence for your email marketing communications. Anything less, and you risk marching your band off a cliff.

Spencer Kollas is director of delivery services for StrongMail Systems.

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Spencer Kollas is a recognized industry leader in email deliverability and subscriber engagement. For more than a decade, Kollas has worked with the world’s foremost email marketers to help them connect with their customers and increase the...

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