Impact: Jenna Tiffany asks, “how many emails are too many?”
A whopping 84% of consumers have stated that they find less than half of the emails they receive to be ‘relevant or interesting’. Let’s be honest that’s a scary figure for any email marketer to digest. But what’s more if you continue to send irrelevant emails, you risk marketing to one of the 19 million ‘ghost’ email accounts, that a consumer has abandoned as a result of irrelevant marketing, according to the DMA’s Consumer email tracking study 2016. So what does this mean to you, an email marketer for a brand? Jenna Tiffany, CIM London Communication Ambassador and Founder & Strategy Director at Let'sTalk Strategy looks at the critical purpose of email and sets out your checklist for improving email performance.
Jenna Tiffany has over ten years’ marketing experience in B2B and B2C, both client and agency side. As well as being a Communications Ambassador for CIM in London, she’s an elected member of the DMA’s Email Marketing Council. Her expertise spans small and large brands, with best in class digital marketing strategies to deliver ROI. As a proven thought-leader, Jenna regularly shares latest trends and key industry topics.
The rationale for email
Despite these concerning statistics, the basic purpose of sending the email in the first place has remained unchanged.
“The purpose of email marketing is to build relationships that then convert”
Dr Dave Chaffey, Smart Insights (speaking at a digital marketing conference in May 2017).
Email marketing is the highest ROI generating digital marketing channel, yet it is an art to be mastered. It’s all too easy to create an email and press ‘send’ without strategizing and planning your campaign. Gone are the days where blast sending the same message to everyone on your email database generated high returns. Consumers want personalisation and the recent Accenture Personalisation Pulse Check reveals are more likely to buy from retailers that provide personalisation, ahead of brands that don’t provide any.
The question of frequency vs relevancy
Given this basic tenet of email marketing, we still get hung up as an industry on the question of whether or not we’re sending too many emails to our subscribers, regularly questioning what is the magic frequency number. The truth is, there isn’t a magic formula for the total number of emails you should send your subscribers each week or month. The threshold number of emails you can send to your subscribers before engagement wanes will be different from one business to the next. The key point is that if you continue to provide emails of value, that are personalised and relevant to your subscribers, there won’t be a limit on the number you can send. However, if you’re sending emails that are not tailored and more of a ‘batch and blast’ approach where the same message is sent to everyone, you’ll reach the threshold where your engagement levels drop and unsubscribes increase the more emails you send.
Measuring impact reveals lessons
The best way to measure the impact that increasing your send volume has on your subscribers is to monitor on a weekly and monthly basis, your email engagement (opens, clicks), unsubscribe rate and number of dormant subscribers. If you start to see your opens and clicks performance decrease this will start to indicate there is an issue. Trending the performance weekly and monthly means it’s not just dependant on one single email sent. Measuring unsubscribes and the number of dormant subscribers in the same way will highlight quickly that your current email strategy isn’t engaging your subscribers if this begins to grow. It also means you’re not meeting their expectations, particularly when the content triggers an unsubscribe.
It’s also important to consider the overall journey your subscriber has with your brand, as email is likely to be one part of that entire journey. The rest of your marketing activity can also have an impact on email performance. For example, your Facebook advertisements may drive more email sign-ups but may not clearly set expectations for consumers as to what they will receive from your brand.
Your email performance checklist
Aside from frequency and once you have defined your email marketing strategy, there are five key areas of focus to improve your email marketing performance.
1. Design for mobile first
More than 60% of email opens are on a smartphone, but how many times have you designed your emails mobile first? If the majority of your subscribers are opening your emails on a smartphone, and you’re still designing desktop first, their experience of your emails isn’t going to be as you’ve designed. It’s important to put yourself in your subscriber’s shoes for every part of your email marketing activity. That way then, you are experiencing what your recipients are experiencing.
2. Make email content relevant – personalise
Consumers have been crying out, for several years now, to receive relevant content from email marketing. It’s still the channel with the highest ROI at £30.01 for every £1 spent (DMA, 2016). However, there are several ways to provide relevant content to your subscribers and make your subscribers feel special by incorporating personalisation:
- Get to know and understand your subscribers’ interests
- Use preference information about your subscribers
- Use behavioural data from your website and previous email campaigns to personal email content
- Content can also be personalised in real-time, meaning that every time your email is opened the content dynamically updates. Weather, location, time of day, image personalisation and social media content can all feature.
Create a testing plan to incorporate these approaches and measure the impact on engagement with your audience.
3. First impressions count – focus on your subject
Subject and super subject lines are the first areas your recipients will see before they open your email. They are also ironically the last piece of content to be created for an email campaign. They need to be relevant and convincing to open the email. Better subject lines improve relevancy. For example, include location personalisation to improve this subject line of “25% off everything” by using “Stop shivering, Cardiff. 25% off all extreme weather gear”.
4. Use segmentation to talk authentically with distinct groups
Another area to consider to ensure your emails get opened is to segment your mailing list. Your recipients will be generating a lot of data and interaction with your brand. There are several ways you could segment your subscribers, for example:
- New subscribers
- Recent opens
- Long-term non-openers
- Lapsed recipients
- Behavioural & transactional data
Try sending a different message to each segment by incorporating tip 2 and tip 3 and analyse the results. If you monitor on a regular basis you’ll be able to identify trends in behaviour that can inform future campaigns.
5. Ask yourself, “Do my emails drive action?”
A call to action (CTA) within your email is the main action you want your subscribers to take. Your email content may include several CTAs, but there should always be one primary CTA, which is the primary action you want your subscribers to take. Determining this primary action should relate back to achieving the objectives of the email campaign and strategy that you set out at the very beginning. Use those goals as stimulus when finalising your CTAs.
Step back to go forward
Gone are the days where you know if you send your email marketing at 8am on a Monday, you can expect to be first in the inbox. It’s no surprise with email being one of the top performing digital channels that it’s an increasingly competitive place. Brands which continuously sending irrelevant and untargeted email marketing to subscribers are going to drastically impact their engagement levels – and not in a good way. By taking a step back and reviewing your email marketing strategy and approach, you can establish what your subscribers want to receive from you. Getting the frequency right (of how often you email your subscribers) is no longer a concern when you’re consistently sending relevant and useful emails to your subscribers. Sending emails that your subscribers value will drive better results.
Follow Jenna on Twitter @JennaTiffany
More from Jenna
Jenna comments that the impending General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) law is “a wakeup call to London marketers” in this news story, ‘Permission: time to pledge to get your data right’
See Jenna interviewed about GDPR on Cloud Moves TV at Ungagged London 2017
Upcoming CIM courses in London
Email Marketing, best practice for a core digital channel, 2 November 2017
Advanced Email Marketing, taking email marketing to the next level, 1 November 2017
Find other CIM training courses
Share your own email know-how
What makes email marketing effective?
Have your say on twitter: share your own #EmailMarketingTips, tweet @CIMinfo_London