May 20, 2011

Four Ways to Effectively Send More Frequently

by Kelly Lorenz, Marketing Strategist at Bronto

Send Email ButtonThis April, Bronto hosted our second annual User Summit. We had numerous sessions on all facets of email marketing, from transactional messages to list growth to segmentation. I presented on a combination topic: holiday planning and frequency.

I have written extensively about holiday planning and analysis previously (see bottom of post), so I want to write a follow-up on how to effectively send more emails that results in a net gain in revenue.

I often hear the following from clients: "We need to send more frequently." And listen - I'm in the email business, so that's always great to hear, but all kidding aside, I tend to caution clients before they leap off the frequency cliff to really evaluate the reasoning behind that statement. What need are you addressing by sending more frequently? Yours or the consumers'? For most marketers, the answer is "Yours". Consumers are savvy to this and are tuning out.

The biggest issue I run into with clients that want to send more frequently is addressing what additional value that additional email is providing. Is it content that the subscribers will be interested in? Is it a "blast" email that we just hope sticks with someone? If the extra email isn't actually providing something extra to the subscriber, rethink sending. If you lose the subscriber's attention due to over-sending, your truly valuable messages are going to get ignored as well.

And the inbox is only becoming more crowded. According to Forrester, by 2014 the average email user will receive 9,000 marketing messages per year. That equates to 25 marketing emails hitting their inbox every single day.

To compound the problem, ISPs can only accept so much mail at a time. So the more you and everyone else ramps up email frequency, the harder it will be to

  1. Get to the inbox in a timely fashion.
  2. Get through at all.

With all of that said, even though many marketers approach it with a flawed strategy, sending more frequently can not only be okay, it can bring in massive dollars. As long as you are setting expectations early in the email relationship, you can break out these tools to ramp up sending. Let's talk through a few of the ideas:

  • Remailing. The easiest of the bunch, you can remail based on email behavior ([non-]opens, [non-]clicks, [non-]conversions). You can also remail when you have a major sale or promotion to push with messaging like "Last day!..." But be smart and don't overdo remailing by pulling this trick for every campaign.
  • Segmentation. By segmenting your audience, you enable yourself to send more frequently based on behavior or preferences. These types of messages tend to be more valuable to your subscribers (remember to always address "What's in it for me?" from the end user's perspective), so they also tend to produce one of the highest ROIs of any type of email campaign. We've talked about segmentation quite a bit in the past.
  • Automation. Creating automated messages to supplement your mass market campaigns like abandoned cart, site behavior, reorder reminders, and other types of triggers will produce incremental lift by deploying a send around current interest and behavior.
  • Holidays. In addition to the Q4 holidays (see below for ideas), you have other holidays throughout the year to utilize. Chad White over at The Retail Email Blog posts some of the best examples of holiday campaigns to provide inspiration. In addition to the traditional US holidays, if you have an international audience, don't forget some other opportunities like Boxing Day and their national birthdays. You can also consider some holidays that are off the beaten path - like National Garlic Day if you have cooking or food products that could utilize garlic. Don't go crazy, but explore what's out there. Also, don't forget that birthdays and anniversaries are subscriber-specific holidays that you should be taking advantage of.

Don't be afraid to test sending more frequently, but be smart about it. Have an end goal in mind beyond "We need to message this promotion" or "We need to hit our revenue goals for this month" and always, always keep the subscriber in mind. Put yourself in their shoes and ask "Will I want this email?" If the answer is no, put down the trigger finger.

What other ways have you found to increase sending safely? Share thoughts below.

Holiday posts for reference:

Kelly Lorenz
Marketing Strategist at Bronto
@KNLorenz

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Kelly Lorenz, Marketing Strategist at Bronto

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Comments

Submitted by Max (not verified) on

Hi Kelly,

Thanks for the good post.

With the company I am working with, I haven't been able to demonstrate how high frequency negatively affects their customers. They currently see email campaigns as crack. Every time they email, they make several thousand dollars, and it becomes hard not to hit that send button. Yes, they have many customer who unsubscribe; yes they have lower transaction rates, but they still make money. We have no view to show financially how it may be a bad thing. What is the financial impact of hitting the send button? How would you quantify it for them in hard numbers showing that the negative impact outweighs the benefit?

BTW: I have access to their full email log history (and smart guys to help me process it).

Thanks!
Max

Hi Max -

Kelly is away from the office on a exciting trip to China. Wanted to thank you for reading the Bronto Blog and commenting.

Trying to channel Kelly's thoughts here, mixed with my opinions, I would say that the biggest factors to monitor when increasing sending frequency is list attrition and conversion rates. Neither of which it sounds like the company has an issue with. It would however, be a good test to see how much a subscriber is "worth" to you. In looking at your list attrition, equate that to potential dollars lost. Compare that loss (per send) to the revenue gained (per send). That maybe a helpful way to evaluate if frequency is really paying off. Of course however there is just a natural list attrition element, to help balance this I would recommend some list cleaning/re-engagement tactics http://blog.bronto.com/2009/08/17/saying-goodbye-list-cleansing-re-engag...

If you find an issue with frequency, (loss of subscriber value is greater than $$ in), that would also be a great time to implement Kelly's recommendations above. ie. "I know you want to send email like a drug, but let's send smarter, more targeted messages." AND, I would highly recommend discussing deliverability implications of your current sending patterns. If subscribers aren't clicking through read: engaged it will adversely impact the deliverability of your email to all subscribers and you don't want to those high performing subscribers to not get your message.

I'll be sure to let Kelly know about your comment when she returns so she can agree or disagree with my thoughts :) In the meantime, would love to hear about your findings.

Thanks again and good luck with your program Max!
Caroline

Submitted by Max (not verified) on

Thats an excellent answer. Thank you very much for your feedback.

That seems more straightforward and simpler than my method:

We are trying to build a model that finds the point of diminishing returns of high frequency sending. Emailing brings in income at the rate of transaction rate * # of subscribers * average purchase size. But if the email frequency affects the transaction rate and the number of subscribers, then there must be some optimal rate of send. This is some sort of differential equations (although I need a high school math teacher to step in and help me out)

The problem I am having is getting the relationship between email frequency and transaction rate and unsubscription rate. Unsub rate doesnt seem to go down with higher frequency according to the data history, but there must be something I am missing.

Thanks for your help! Look forward to what Kelly says too.
Max

Max,

Caroline has already provided an excellent response to how to measure impact of sending more frequently. To add on to her thoughts, it's important to remember that at every volume you send, it's going to be optimal for someone and not for another. What that means is it's important to measure on an individual level, like it sounds like you are, so that you can adjust for each accordingly.

I've found trying to find the optimal send volume across an entire audience doesn't work. What does work is setting a set mass sending schedule - say sending a marketing message to everyone once per week - and then layering on the types of messaging I outlined above to hit those that are more responsive. This is what I've found to be most effective as you properly set expectations upon sign-up and adjust volume according to responsiveness.

It's also important to note that as a contact ages, they become less responsive naturally. That means that even if your unsubscribes don't increase, your inactive or non-responsive rate likely will. To analyze this, I recommend grouping contacts by age and analyzing email and purchase behavior over time. For those that have a significant drop in email and purchase performance, perhaps it's time to run a reactivation campaign and let them go.

I hope that helps. Let me know if you have any additional followups on this and we look forward to hearing how you ended up analyzing the data and the results!

-Kelly@Bronto

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