Frequency: Email others as you wish to be emailed

Jason Sisley, President & Chief Strategist

Jason Sisley, President & Chief Strategist

I'm increasingly wary of any company that "auto" subscribes me to email promotions without first asking, or at the least using my previous engagement metrics, to determine how relevant they are to me. In most cases, a company's emails are the most frequent I will interact with that company, and bombarding me with everything you've got to offer reminds me a lot of a sales associate that follows you around the store asking if you need help with every stop you make. I'm more likely to leave the store empty-handed, or to bluntly ask for a little distance, than to pick up one of every recommendation.

Email marketing is still considered a cost effective tool for engaging with your loyal customers, but that doesn't give you the right to abuse it. It's easy to lose them (hopefully at the click of their mouse), so make sure you're losing email subscribers because they no longer have a need for your product or service, not because you're bombarding them.

By my last count, the average number of emails I receive from any single retailer in a given week is at least 4. Between the actual email I signed up for, the recommendation based on items on their site I viewed, the product I abandoned in my shopping cart, the discount, free shipping notice, etc., that's a lot to sort through. And when you consider that we're dealing with an increasingly crowded inbox to start, it can be downright confusing.

Then, you layer in a new series of emails for either a new product or new service offered... I'm getting annoyed just thinking about it.

Combine messages. If you've got enough discount ideas (free shipping, 20% off), combine those messages. A single email with the cost saving enticements is likely going to interest me more than multiple messages. For me, free shipping may not be much of an enticement if the store is within walking distance. For others, maybe it is the most important. Point is, just as email marketing gives you an opportunity to speak to your loyal customers all at once, let them choose what is most important.

Give me a break (or properly set the expectation). With daily deal senders changing what is acceptable in terms of email frequency, don't try to compete if that's not your game. The term "daily deal" already sets the expectation up front, so if you're not one of them, I'm not going to like it if you take liberties and assume I'm ok with you sending me a daily email. Give your customers a break, even if for a day in between emails. Whatever you set your frequency at, stick to it and set that expectation up front. Any deviation from this should be a mind-blowing deal. Otherwise, I'm likely to dismiss the mind-blowing deal or overlook it because I know I'm going to hear from you tomorrow, too.

Ask for permission when a new email promotion is created. If you've got a new email promotion for either new products or services and you think it's relevant to me (I'm assuming you're at least using past engagement metrics to determine this), just ask. Announce the new promotion, product or service to your customers through a single message, but tell them how they can shut it down. Not having a message wasted on those that legitimately aren't interested isn't a bad thing. They'll tell you and they'll appreciate being asked.

I know some of these are a hard sell because there is a real shot at lost revenue by making it so easy to declare disinterest. But as marketers, we've got an obligation to our customers. Short term thinking can damage your credibility and, once all of the dust settles after the holidays, the ones that set the expectation up front, honored it and listened to their customers are going to stand above the rest.

Our gift to you -- more effective emails through the holidays


Brent Hartings, VP Email Operations

The holidays are coming! And it’s a great opportunity to connect with your customers. But it’s also an idea that occurs to quite a few marketers at this time of year. 

So how do you stand out among the crowd of emails vying for attention in your customer’s inboxes? In the spirit of the holiday season, we at Den Aviary are sharing our top 11 tips to make the most of your holiday email program. 

1. Don't underestimate the number of messages your subscribers can handle during the peak shopping season. Yes, it’s true that people get a bit deluged at this time and because of this, your unsubscribes will likely spike a bit. But you will actually come up ahead in a cost/benefit analysis. Typically the holiday season’s ability to generate so many new subscribers, who may turn into longer-term customers, will offset any increase in unsubscribes.

2. Identify which subscribers don’t mind more email over the holiday. Review individual subscriber email engagement rates to see who can handle additional sends. For example, one can surmise that those that have an open rate of 40% over the last 6 months are more inclined to engage in additional messaging volume compared to those with a 2% open rate.

3. Segment and target the customers who tend to engage even more heavily during the holiday season. Review your order data from the previous year’s holiday season and find those who are truly holiday shoppers. Don’t rely on recent engagement as a predictor of their holiday engagement.  

4. Don’t risk ISP blocking. If you plan to increase your send volume during the holidays, ramp it up slowly, starting in early November. A sudden spike in volume will raise concerns at ISPs and increase a risk of blocking. 

5. Monitor your delivery rate and sender score obsessively. Nothing can be more catastrophic to your holiday email revenue than a deliverability issue. It not only prevents your messages from getting into the inbox, but as you emailers know, it's a time suck - time that could be spent figuring out how to make tomorrow's send better than today's.

6. Be proactive about preventing unsubscribes. If you have unsubscribe spike concerns resulting from increased send volume, create a holiday opt-out option.

7. Be unique. One way to do this is to monitor trends and go against them. If everyone is sending at 7 am, try 11 am. If everyone is including a snowman emoji in their subject line, melt them away with a sun character. Test out a holiday-themed “From” name. Do whatever you can to stand out.

8. Plan your message schedule around your product/service delivery times. Physical products require the most lead time, followed by services and ending with gift cards. By syncing your messaging with delivery, you can be more timely and urgent with your messaging.

9. Agility is the key. Of course you should have a plan, but be able to modify and optimize it at anytime as you learn new information. Test your strategy with a small, sample email run and if you learn something significant, incorporate it into your larger send.

10. Outdo competitions’ offers. Know what your competitors are doing and prepare yourself to top any offer they serve up. You should have a pre-set notion of how rich of an offer you are prepared to deliver to your subscribers in order to beat the competition.

11. Make the purchase cycle as easy as possible for your customers. A majority of customers are reading your email on a mobile device, so make sure that they can initiate and complete a purchase cycle seamlessly and successfully. 

Companies can make or break their budgets over the next two months, and it's important that every channel, specifically email, is optimized and working at its best. As long as you maintain the same kind of control testing you use year round, you can now look at your holiday email program as an opportunity, rather than a challenge.