How Often Should I Email My Database?

A client writes: “What’s best practice in terms of how many times per month you hit each key contact in your database?”

This is becoming a common question, driven in part by the trend in B2B towards more proactive lead nurturing and the rapid adoption of marketing automation systems. Suddenly, companies have the tools at their disposal to create and deploy email campaigns to prospects, customers and partners with much greater frequency. The question is: should they?

It’s a cop out, I know, but the answer is: it depends. The primary variable is the type of content being delivered. As a general rule, we’re recommending that most of our clients email their database at least twice per month, but that assumes that the communications aren’t all exclusively promotional in nature – i.e. that one of the two might be a blog or e-newsletter or feature other, more “informational” offers.

Think about your own, personal experience. For me, there are companies who show up in my inbox regularly, whose content is relevant, targeted, and personalized, and from whom even a daily email doesn’t seem onerous. Conversely, there are others from whom even a monthly email seems invasive, mostly because I have no idea why they’re communicating with me in the first place.

The best way to improve relevancy (and thus open rates and response) is to utilize list segmentation. If you’re sending the same content to your entire database every time, you’re greatly limited in the frequency with which you can deliver those messages since, by default, some subset of your database will find specific content completely irrelevant to their interests.

Today’s email broadcast and marketing automation tools such as Marketo provide the ability to segment your database not only based on demographic (e.g. geography, company size, industry) but also behavioral criteria (e.g. visitors to specific Web pages, prospects who have opened past Webinar invitations). The more confident you can be that your content is relevant to a particular contact based on either profile information or past activity, the more aggressive you can be with frequency.

Content is key. If your entire lead nurturing or customer communication strategy consists of pushing offers – Webinars, white papers, case studies – to your database, that kind of constant solicitation wears out quickly. You’ll establish a greater trust with your recipients, generate a greater awareness, and even build thought leadership, if not every one of your emails is an outright call to action.

For example, e-newsletters are a pain to create and manage, but in the context of an ongoing lead nurturing program they serve to mix up the communication by delivering information of value and not just another in a string of offers. A better solution than e-newsletters – and a lot less hassle – is to post what would otherwise be newsletter content to your blog (as we do at our agency), and then email those posts once a month to your database in a newsletter-type template.

For more information on lead nurturing strategy and building a business case for lead nurturing at your company, download a copy of our white paper on Lead Recycling.

6 thoughts on “How Often Should I Email My Database?

  1. Leigh Anne Wallace

    Howard, I could not agree more, great post! While creating custom content for each segment can be cumbersome, the payoff is unbelievable.

    I believe that not everyone digests information the same way which means that your blog readers and newsletter subscribers will often not overlap. If your blog posts are full of great content, why not repurpose them into great newsletter content? That is exactly what I do for mine and it has the highest open and click through rates of any email I send.

  2. Howard Sewell

    I completely agree, Leigh Anne. Or put another way, why just create a newsletter that once broadcast only has a limited shelf life? Why not host that same content in a blog where it can also attract search traffic and generate net new leads outside of your newsletter subscriber base?

  3. Jim Gilbert

    The simplest way for an email marketer to know how often to mail their database is to monitor their opt out rates. Assuming relevant content, test the frequency of your mailings. Too much frequency, the opt outs go up.

    Find a balance that you care comfortable with.

    Regards,
    Jim Gilbert
    http://gilbertdirectmarketing.wordpress.com/

  4. Christelle Flahaux

    Absolutely spot on advice! Its all about getting the right message to the right person at the right time. If you can increase relevancy, you increase subscription and ultimately conversion. And it doesn’t have to be a complicated segmentation or change of message. It could be as simple as adding a line specific to a particular industry or buyer behavior you’ve determined as “common’ in the opening paragraph of the email. Or simply adding a customer quote from the relevant industry. Its like a referral from a peer without the PR red tape. We’ve had great success in customizing the emails, not necessarily the content they are downloading.

    Best,
    Christelle Flahaux
    Global Field Marketing, Ariba Inc.

  5. Howard Sewell

    Great points Christelle. Companies can be wary of creating custom messages by segment because they fear the complexity and – let’s face it – the hassle. But the kind of segmentation you describe is simple to do and can reap real dividends. Re: content – I feel your pain. If only it wrote itself! Regards,

    Howard

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