Integrating Content And Frequency Preferences

Dear E-mail Diva,

In an article about frequency preferences, you wrote, "It requires better planning--you have to have a firm editorial calendar and create decision trees to integrate content and frequency preferences, but, as they say, we have the technology."

Can you tell me more about this technology? Is there software? Or is there a simple strategy/process to do this? We have several different segments of customers that we e-mail on a regular basis, and I have run into problems of hitting them multiple times with different offers. I want to take some of the confusion out of an already too-confusing database.

Daniel Reardon
Online Marketing Coordinator

Dear Daniel,

Sometimes the E-mail Diva is a bit too glib with her answers. While I can answer the simple strategy question, I don't know if there is a tool that can aid the process. As I pondered the problem, I also realized there are factors that throw the simple strategy into a tailspin. But fear not, help is on the way. I have reached out to my network of smart people to help you out and will provide their responses in a follow-up column.



Here's the simple strategy. Let's say your customers have these options for contact frequency:

  • Once per month

  • Twice per month

  • Weekly

    We'll assume that you can rate the importance of your content; you can easily differentiate "must know" from "nice to know" messages. We'll assume also that your content is not time- sensitive, within a few weeks; as long as you send the message out in the month intended, all is well.

    Send your most important content the first week of the month to all opt-ins and your next most important content the third week of the month to opt-ins who selected twice-per month or more frequent contact. Less important content is sent to the weekly content opt-ins on weeks two and four. Your selections from the database would look like this:

    1st week: Select all with once/month (or more) preference

    2nd week: Select all with weekly preference

    3rd week: Select all with twice/month (or more) preference

    4th week: Select all with weekly preference

    This way everyone receives the top priority content and less important content is sent only to those who requested more frequent contact. If you employ dynamic content, each e-mail is sent out with not only the desired frequency, but with the desired content as well.

    We can easily see how, in the real world, stakeholders for various content areas with time-sensitive information could complicate this problem. Say, for example, Stakeholder A has an important offer, but it doesn't launch until week 2, and Stakeholder B has an important offer, but it doesn't launch until week 3. If you select opt-ins with Content A/once per month preferences, you cut off a part of Stakeholder B's audience, and part of Stakeholder A's audience was already mailed to in Week 1.

    I believe this becomes an optimization problem, which I learned about in B school but could not apply today without countless hours of (non-billable) effort. So I am sending up the Bat signal to the smart people out there: is there a technology solution to solve this problem?

    Good luck!

    The E-mail Diva

    Send your questions or submit your e-mail for critique to Melinda Krueger, the E-mail Diva, at All submissions may be published; please indicate if you would like your name or company name withheld.

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