After the recent post encouraging small business owners to try out online mailing list platforms, I’ve had several people ask the same question – how often should someone post to their mailing list? This week I’ll explore the three possible answers to this common question.

 

The simple answer

The simplest answer is that there is no simple answer. Sorry.

Instead, there are three possible answers, each of which suits specific businesses and situations. Your choices are to send email marketing messages constantly, regularly or irregularly. Depending on your business and the content of your emails, any of these could be the right answer for you.

 

Open the floodgates!

I consider a “constant” email stream to be anything more than one email per week.

A constant email marketing campaign is a high-risk, high-reward strategy. It’s also very hard to maintain, and for that reason alone, it’s not generally a wise choice for sole traders and small businesses. Someone has to create those emails, and that costs time and/or money.

The benefits of flooding your customers can be huge. Some commentators claim that it was this sort of aggressive email marketing that contributed to the success of the Obama Campaign.

Your brand is always visible in the customer’s inbox, and every time your message is about to drop off the first page, you send another to refresh their memory. Your readers are constantly kept in the loop about your latest deals and specials, and your company is always at the front of their minds. Done well, a frantic campaign can create urgency, desire and enthusiasm.

On the downside, you run a serious risk of annoying your subscribers. When people tire of your messages, around 30% of them will click “Mark as Spam” instead of unsubscribing from your list – this means your messages may quickly find themselves blocked by Spam filters.

Throwing out emails on a daily basis could also make you look like Jim Carey in The Cable Guy – eager to be your readers’ best friend, and incapable of taking no for an answer. (Spoiler alert – it’s an awful movie!)

 

A dependable friend

A “regular” email stream sends a message to the list once every week or two.

Regular emails are a good idea for most businesses. However, it’s also the strategy with the biggest risk of growing stale.

The benefit is keeping your customers in touch with your business and offers without making them feel smothered. It’s tempered by the danger of running out of worthwhile things to say, or sending a formulaic weekly summary. Once customers get bored reading the same thing every week, they’ll stop opening the emails.

If you have a stable business with regular clients, a weekly or fortnightly newsletter might suit perfectly. But if you require novelty and excitement to drive sales, a weekly sales email needs a lot of time and attention to keep it fresh.

 

Remember me?

The final option is to post to your list irregularly. I consider “irregular” mailings to mean sending without a set schedule – sometimes it may be a couple of weeks between messages, sometimes more frequent.

The great thing about irregular mailings is that you’re less likely to annoy your subscribers, because you’re only sending when you have something to say. This should make people want to open and read your emails.

But what happens when a month passes and you still feel like you have nothing worth saying? In marketing, the old saying “Out of sight, out of mind” rings true. If you don’t check in with your subscribers from time to time, they could quite understandably forget you. When an email finally reaches them, there’s the possibility they’ll believe it was unsolicited spam.

The other problem with irregular mailings is that they are almost never part of a considered and strategic email campaign (although, to be fair, many of the regular emails I receive seem equally lacking in strategy and purpose…).

In the long run though, irregular emails may be the best choice for sole traders and small businesses – they feel personal and meaningful, and they don’t demand a regular input of time.

 

Finding the right fit

Whatever frequency you pick, a good overall design is essential, and having a plan is better than just emailing for the sake of it. Your plan needs to align with your business style and customer demographic.

So which option works for your business? Do you have the capacity and the justification to send emails every few days? Or are your customers more likely to respond to less frequent, but potentially more meaningful emails?

Let me know what you think. Next time we’ll talk about a major element of successful email marketing: the subject line.