Go Ahead -- Send More Emails

In fact, send a lot more emails. There, I said it.

I feel better now.

As email marketers, sending emails is what we do. It's what we get paid to do (or we get paid to tell marketers how to do it better). We love email marketing because it generates brand awareness, conversions and revenue, and recipients value it.

But every week I run across a blog post, article or discussion in some online forum where well-intentioned people argue about frequency and sending too much email.

Frankly, I'm sick of the topic and am opening my hotel window right now and yelling, "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore."

See, we are arguing about the wrong thing. While those of us in the industry are biased, we know that email rocks -- and for many companies, is thehighest-ROI marketing channel. So, why do we tell people not to send more emails?

We should be telling marketers to send MORE email that provides customer value and drives increased loyalty and revenue. Shouldn't your goal as a marketer be to find ways to send more emails, not fewer?



The issue is quality and value, not frequency. The issue is not to be lazy or stupid, to quote my friend Dela Quist of AlchemyWorx.

We have a client that sends 50 emails a day. Another one sends more than 75 emails a day, and they are working on creating more emails to send.

These are mostly transactional and triggered emails. Now, of course, most people in their databases might not receive a single email on any given day. Others might receive several based on their behavior and preferences.

When we talk about frequency, almost everyone assumes that "sending more" equates with a brand sending irrelevant batch-and-blast emails every day to its entire database, which will drive hordes of unsubscribes and spam complaints.

"Sending more" can and should mean sending more segmented, targeted, real-time behavior-based emails, as well as fun, timely broadcast emails that are engaging and provide value.

Increase Your Mix of Emails for Smarter (Higher) Frequency

Let's enjoy email's renaissance and stop beating ourselves up about email volumes because we're afraid a few bad apples will mess up the industry.

Of course, some companies probably overdo it with the frequency of their broadcast emails, but most companies have only started to scratch the surface on sending emails to individuals based on their behavior, profile or customer lifecycle stage or value.

"Happy birthday" emails are a simple example of where the majority of email marketers are leaving money on the table by sending too few emails. Last year, I analyzed my own inbox receipt of birthday emails from 15 brands and found that only one of them sent more than one email.

What a lost opportunity. Your recipients are busy and need a nudge and reminders. One email simply isn't enough.

A simple program could be set up to include a track of several automated emails sent to recipients based on their interaction or lack of it with your emails, pages they might visit on your Web site, the number of days remaining in your offer and more.

Multiply this by 50 other types of email programs, and you have a tremendous opportunity to send more emails that drive not only revenue, but also value for your customers.

Let's Switch the Dialogue

Email marketers love to argue with each other, but on the frequency topic, I believe we are arguing about the wrong thing. It’s time to move on. Instead, let's discuss what's holding marketers back from sending a lot more, more-sophisticated emails.

Emails rock! Why would you want to send fewer of them?

Until next time, take it up a notch!

19 comments about "Go Ahead -- Send More Emails".
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  1. Fred Swain from Harriet Carter, May 3, 2013 at 9:58 a.m.

    Loren, I chuckled at the thought of you screaming out the window.

    I would say the frequency debate is a dead horse by now but it won't die. It's perpetuated by lazy talking/typing heads who want an easy topic that they don't have to work hard at to get a post/article in.

    Kudos to you and to Dela to stand up and shout that we as an industry don't need to send less email but need to send smarter to keep our subscribers engaged with our offerings!

    I'm working on several now...thanks for the inspiration.

  2. Chad White from Litmus, May 3, 2013 at 10:16 a.m.

    When retailers are sending each of their subscribers 15% to 20% more broadcast emails each year for years on end with no end in sight, there is a real frequency debate to be had. Thankfully it doesn't appear to be affecting consumers' satisfaction with the channel at large, but that doesn't mean it won't at some point. So let's not pretend that's not an issue.

    Sending more triggered and segmented email is another issue entirely--and one where there's no debate. Every marketer should be sending more targeted email, especially since most of it ends up going to your most engaged subscribers. If you're not building out these programs then you're falling behind.

    Let's not confuse the issues of sending more broadcast email and sending more targeted email.

  3. Pete Austin from Fresh Relevance, May 3, 2013 at 10:45 a.m.

    Most email marketers do not have enough behavioral data to send "more segmented, targeted, real-time behavior-based emails, as well as fun, timely broadcast emails that are engaging and provide value". Email clicks and opens are not enough - you need triggered analytics from your eCommerce system

  4. Patti Jagger from Potent Language, May 3, 2013 at 10:50 a.m.

    You don't address how many emails each recipient will tolerate before they stop opening them regardless of topic.

  5. Paul Gordon from bubblebox:media, May 3, 2013 at 10:51 a.m.

    I'd like to believe that all email marketers are aiming for the utopia of sending triggered relevant messages. The challenge for most is either having the relevant data available in the email tool to then create the segments or the time to generate the segments from the massive volume of data available. You need an easy way to send these triggered targeted emails.

  6. Loren McDonald from IBM Marketing Cloud, May 3, 2013 at 10:58 a.m.

    Thanks Fred - and of course I kne that you have tested frequency a lot. Chad, my core point is still not the increased frequency - but the quality and value of those emails. If the value is there that increased frequency is a non issue. Agreed Pete -,but you and I know the technology is available to everyone.
    Patti - the variables that determine that number is different for everyone, the brand they are engaged with,where they are at in the buying circle, etc.

  7. Loren McDonald from IBM Marketing Cloud, May 3, 2013 at 11:04 a.m.

    Paul, many of the more sophisticated ESPs pull in this data from disparate sources - web behavior, ecommerce systems, CRM, POS, etc that can then be triggered in real time.

  8. Ray Silk from Real Magnet, May 3, 2013 at 11:20 a.m.

    Loren, great article. I think you and Dela are right on target, but I also understand the points being made regarding the difficulty of cultivating "behavioral data and the time it takes to create targeted, real-time email campaigns. I agree with the premise that sending more email is a good thing, especially when something has changed that I might want to know about. I receive email from ( and I get multiple email messages from them daily. The reason why this works for….and me for that matter is because I am engaged. I open their messages, click links and most importantly make purchases and they know it. Why wouldn’t they send me more email? When the time comes and I stop opening, clicking and buying I would hope they would reduce the frequency they send to me and segment me out for a “win back” or “re-engagement” campaign. Thanks for the article….I wholeheartedly agree….we just need to be smart.

    Read more: have a valid poin t regarding whwre to I think fear is what guides allot opf marketers

  9. Paul Gordon from bubblebox:media, May 3, 2013 at 11:21 a.m.

    Sure, the more advanced ESPs are able to now ingest 'Big Data' but it isn't automatically configured to do so. It's generally not the capability of a sophisticated ESP in question, but the high cost of getting the data into these ESPs that's been the barrier in my experience.

  10. Loren McDonald from IBM Marketing Cloud, May 3, 2013 at 11:46 a.m.

    Paul - it becomes a bit of a change management issue. Marketing teams need to transition away from just calendar-based campaigns to behavior driven, automated programs. You make the ROI case to mgmt, get the resources and budget -.and you can make it happen.

  11. Dela Quist from Alchemy Worx Ltd, May 3, 2013 at 12:02 p.m.


    As you know Loren I have ever recommended that any serious email marketer send everyone on the list exactly the same message exactly the same number of times every month. That would just be stupid!

    What anyone who actually has to take responsibility for making their numbers knows is that if you send any given segment more email you will make more money and if you send them less you will make less money.

    So if you have 2 segments an active segment that you send 2 emails per week to and a less active segment you send 1 email a month you will make more money from BOTH groups if you increase the frequency of the actives to 3 a week and the inactives to 2 a month.

    The problem is that it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work that out and stating the obvious doesn’t sell software or strategy. However the process of sending more email without compromising quality does however require a lot more resource. And to declare my interest, what Alchemy Worx does is provide highly skilled strategic, operational and analytical email marketing resources to our clients, enabling them to send every segment BETTER campaigns more often. And yes Chad some of those emails might not be triggered and go to the whole list.

    We have to stop our desire to sell our technology and expertise creating an environment where the very idea of wanting to send more email to be seen as Neanderthal or worse still spammy behavior!

  12. Janet Roberts from Content by Janet Roberts, May 3, 2013 at 12:04 p.m.

    I know email people are not like normal folks, but maybe a real-world example would help here.

    I buy a lot from Nieman-Marcus, mainly because their emails are spot-on. Not too long ago, I got four emails in one day.

    One was the regular broadcast email. The second was a weekly feature with the subject line "I think you'll like what I found for you at Nieman-Marcus" populated with clothing suggestions that reflect previous purchases or browse sessions. The third was a browse-abandon message triggered by my recent web visit (probably initiated from an email). The fourth was a shipping confirmation on a product that had come back into stock.

    So, the total was 1 broadcast email and 3 triggered/targeted emails. I can tolerate that because I am conditioned to find value in most N-M emails and because 3 of the 4 related to my behavior and interest.

    I know I buy more from N-M because of that higher frequency of more relevant emails. N-M isn't sending me four irrelevant broadcast messages. That's what Loren is talking about. Yeah, it costs more to email that way, but I think it's paying off for N-M.

  13. Paul Gordon from bubblebox:media, May 3, 2013 at 12:22 p.m.

    I agree Loren. If we can drive down the cost of common data integration issues this would help to make it easier for management to see the benefits of using the sophisticated ESPs more quickly. Obviously the ROI is much higher if the cost to deploy more segmented campaigns is lower.

  14. Tim Roe from RedEye International, May 3, 2013 at 12:29 p.m.

    Great post Loren, I completely agree, the true value of email is in addressing the barriers that hold many back from making the most of their email lists. Targeting, segmentation and an increased use of marketing automation will ultimately mean more relevant emails to those that want them. More email equals more revenue.

  15. Mike May from Huge, May 3, 2013 at 1:13 p.m.

    Janet, thanks for the example. I agree that in the current landscape, brands that are really smart about data integration and triggered messages can lift frequency without any real threat to the customer relationship. Play it forward though and what happens in a future where every brand does the same thing - increases their technological and operational capability to send multiple targeted messages per day based on various customer contact? It's easy to pay attention to 4 emails per day from a brand that you a) have an affinity towards and b) uses email better than 98% of your inbox. But if it's 5 brands you like, or 10, or 20 that all do it, suddenly that's 20 or 40 or 80 messages a day that are "targeted and relevant." Instead of 2% of the 100 messages in your inbox, it's 50% of the 200 messages in your inbox. If everyone follows that best practice, the channel collapses.

    Email is different from other media because people can't control how much advertising they see. If you're sick of TV ads, turn off the box, and stop hanging out on FB if the sponsored posts annoy you. But with email, we need to dig through the chaff to get to the wheat. Email marketers are quick to tout ROI, but I believe the consumer ROI of dealing with message overload - whether the time invested to manage a swollen inbox is worth it - is playing a larger part in the landscape than people think.

  16. Graeme Grant from CQuotient, May 3, 2013 at 3:54 p.m.

    Definitely agree that the key issue is not frequency, but relevance!
    Automated programs (birthdays, etc.) are one way to be more relevant, but if you really want to move the needle for total revenue then you have to impact your main, daily emails. This is where the big money is.
    The results we see with our retail customers bear this out!

  17. Loren McDonald from IBM Marketing Cloud, May 3, 2013 at 9:53 p.m.

    Mike, most of these emails Janet and I are talking about are triggered based on a consumer's behavior - while possible it isn't likely that most shoppers will abandon a site or cart across 10 or 20 sites each day - more likely just a couple. Let's focus on making emails more relevant and of greater value to each individual consumer - and frequency will generally take care of it self.

  18. Loren McDonald from IBM Marketing Cloud, May 3, 2013 at 9:58 p.m.

    Graeme - have you been handing out with Dela Quist? :-) Yes as I wrote in an Email Insider column last November - Why Email Is Not 'Either-Or' - - it takes a "village" of emails for ultimate success. For most companies their broadcast emails still generate a majority of their revenue - but my point is that you reach a saturation point with broadcast emails - with 1 to 1 triggered, you can keep adding them and adding them - as long as they are relevant. But I don't disagree, that getting your high-volume broadcast emails right will move the needle in a big way. But adding lots of triggered emails can as well. I'm arguing for doing both!

  19. Andrew Kordek from Trendline Interactive, May 6, 2013 at 10:53 p.m.

    I agree with everything that you have said Loren and Dela not only because of the behavioral and triggered aspect of your argument, but also with the "don't be stupid" aspect. In addition, I am also inclined to recommend that resends to non-openers/non-clickers at specific times work great for some brands. I think in this high paced/digital distracted world, people sometimes need another nudge or push to read email. I think we can all agree that sometimes we don't listen to people and some of us have selective listening skills and so do subscribers. If we send an email at 3:34 pm on Monday and are not due to send another until next Monday at 1:25 (because we are doing TOD testing) that a resend on Wed/Thurs to those that did not open and/or click is not a bad thing to test into. I think what this frequency debate boils down to is that there is no one size fits all answer. There are no magic bullets to be had and there is no reason to be stupid. We have to remember that we are competing for the recipients time in the inbox and that competition is everyone else that is more relevant than you.

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