The Best Email Marketing Sending Frequency Backed By 20 Studies 70
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How often should brands send marketing emails?
That’s a common question without a single definitive answer.
But, you’re responsible for establishing your company’s email schedule and managing the marketing calendar. If your boss asks, “Are we sending emails at the best possible frequency,” you can’t say, “That answer is unknowable, young Jedi.”
That’s not a helpful response. And it’s condescending to your department head (and you want to keep your job).
Plus, if your email frequency isn’t optimized, you might be missing opportunities to convert more leads (or stop chasing away those currently in your funnel).
Your list is an invaluable resource, and how often you send to it matters. The best schedule will vary from business to business, but you need a starting point and data to compare against.
In this post, you’ll learn what 20 different companies discovered when they tried to answer this question. By the time you’re done, you’ll be prepared to plan a complete email schedule optimized for frequency and pacing. It’ll all be backed by real data, and ready to be fine-tuned based on your own performance.
Snag Your Free Email Schedule Optimization Bundle …
Use the right tools for the right job. To help you get started managing an effective email schedule, here are three templates to use:
- Email Marketing Calendar Template: Schedule all those emails in one place (at the best dates and times, of course).
- Best Times to Send Email Guide: Get some additional insight into which times typically work best.
- Email Marketing Strategy Template: Plan and organize the complete strategy behind every email you’ll send.
… And Plan Your Email Frequency With CoSchedule
The easiest way to map out your email schedule is on a calendar integrated into a holistic marketing management platform. With its new email marketing integrations, that platform is CoSchedule.
With Email Marketing from CoSchedule, you can:
- Seamlessly integrate with your *favorite* email marketing platform. You already have a kick-a$$ email platform you know and love, so why give it up? With Email Marketing, you can easily connect your preferred email platform to CoSchedule with just a couple clicks.
- Write click-worthy email subject lines...every time. With Email Marketing, you can use CoSchedule’s *exclusive* Email Subject Line Tester to optimize and perfect every subject line to drive more opens, more clicks, and more conversions.
- Get full visibility into your ENTIRE marketing strategy. Say “buh-bye” to disjointed marketing content (and constantly jumping from screen to screen). With Email Marketing, it’s easy to see how your email campaigns relate to the rest of your marketing strategy and quickly make adjustments if necessary.
With Email Marketing, you can easily connect your preferred email platform (MailChimp, Campaign Monitor, Constant Contact, and ActiveCampaign) to CoSchedule with just a couple clicks. Here’s how you can get started.
About the 20 Studies, Blog Posts, and Research Reports
So, where did all the research in this post come from? Here’s a breakdown of all 20 studies and posts:
- Infusionsoft’s post on finding the best frequency to email customers.
- DMA’s annual email marketing report.
- Entrepreneur’s pointers on the topic.
- Campaign Monitor’s surprising findings.
- Constant Contact’s detailed guide.
- Sark eMedia’s thoughtful opinions on what offers most value.
- Traffic Generation Cafe’s syndicated advice courtesy of Daegan Smith.
- Smart Insights’ research-backed findings.
- Crazy Egg’s impassioned recommendation to send more emails.
- Benchmark’s practical guide to choosing days and times to deliver.
- Fulcrum Tech’s helpful delineation between the terms “frequency” and “cadence.”
- OmniSend’s original research from 2017.
- Aweber’s answer: there’s no magic number (plus rationale for that conclusion).
- MailPoet’s more philosophical answer: it depends (and an explanation for that, too).
- EventBrite’s concise tips specific to event promotion emails.
- Ignite Visibility’s advice for promotional emails.
- SendGrid’s useful tips on what to do if your frequency is too frequent.
- MailChimp’s email marketing field guide, which touches on frequency.
- Clickz’s collected research, which includes insights on how often top brands are sending email.
- ReturnPath’s original research on email frequency.
That’s a lot of difference perspectives, from all different types of sources. This ensures the advice in this post isn’t all coming from one perspective, while reflecting the diversity of opinion and thought on this topic.
Setting Benchmarks: Frequency Vs. Results
For comparison purposes, here are some benchmarks gathered by the folks at SendGrid, based on their own original research (based on “50 billion messages to over 100,000 different senders in the top 25 industries who sent email through SendGrid”:
A few things to point out straight off the bat:
- The average respondent sent around two emails per week.
- This marked a decline from 2016 to 2017.
- Which corresponded with a 3.3% increase in opens and a .4% increase in unique opens. However, unique clicks and clicks overall declined.
What does this tell us? We can make a few educated guesses:
- Consumers are overwhelmed with information overload. Not just in their inboxes, but all over the web. So, reducing email may be an effort to reduce content shock.
- So, sending slightly less email can potentially improve results. It makes each email appear more valuable (at least initially) if they’re received less often.
- But, that email needs to be engaging to get clicks. The fact that clicks went down somewhat is slightly concerning, even if CTRs didn’t drop precipitously.
This lines up with some other findings this post will dig into a bit later on.
What Can Happen When You Tweak Your Frequency?
Now, if you’re already sending marketing emails, you might be worried about adjusting your frequency. After all, if you don’t know what might happen, you may not want to risk something going wrong.
But, fortune favors the bold. If you really want to know what works, you’ve got to be willing to experiment at least a little bit. To alleviate potential fears, though, here are four possible outcomes that Campaign Monitor says can occur.
Unsubscribes Might Go Up
Even worse, SPAM reports might go up, too. So, take that as a warning not to go overboard.
That data aligns with possible solutions:
Engagement Might Drop
Citing (gated) data from Return Path, Campaign Monitor’s post reports that engagement could drop if too many low-value emails are sent. Not only could opens drop and unsubscribes increase, but even people who stick around might just disengage.
You make a change and … nothing changes. That’s … okay? Sort of? What this means is it’s time to test another variable.
… But, Your Results Could Improve (Dramatically), Too!
When you start testing, some things might not go your way. But, once you start to see positive movement, keep at it. The results are worth the effort.
In Campaign Monitor’s post, they highlight Aviva, an insurance company based in the UK. They were only emailing their list once a year.
You read that right.
But, then they increased their frequency. You’ll never believe what happened next:
- 48% more requested insurance quotes
- 304% more unique clicks
- 45% more email revenue
Those are some awesome results, and they never would have been achieved without pushing past status quo and the fear of change.
So, What is the Best Sending Frequency For Marketing Emails and Newsletters?
As the introduction established, this is tough to nail down definitively for all types of companies and situations across the board. But, there are some basic truths that generally hold true. Plus, different studies show different findings that may be useful in finding the best answer for you.
Should Brands Send Email Daily? Weekly? Monthly?
The answer might be “yes” to all of the above. But, that depends on your business, and who you’re asking.
According to the DMA:
- Once Per Month: 18% (B2B), 3% (B2C)
- 2-3 Times Per Month: 37% for both B2B and B2C
- 4-5 Times Per Month: 25% (B2B), 30% (B2C)
- 6-8 Times Per Month: 7% (B2B), 11% (B2C)
- More Than 8 Times Per Month: 5% (B2B), 14% (B2C)
- Don’t Know (???): 7% (B2B), 5% (B2C)
This doesn’t explicitly state which frequency works best, but it does offer several useful insights:
- Generally speaking, B2C brands should be sending email to their lists more than once a month. This may be due to people expecting offers and deals from consumer brands more frequently.
- B2C brands are more comfortable erring toward sending more email, not less. According to the DMA, “Close to two-thirds of organisations (62%) either don’t have a policy about the maximum number of contacts per month or don’t know.” That seems to imply these brands are sending email as long as its getting results, rather than sticking to a formula.
- B2B brands are more conscious about not oversaturating their lists. This makes sense, since B2B companies may be more mindful about taking professional’s time to entertain sales offers. Their email sends might also be optimized around key buying cycles, especially for big-ticket purchases.
So, from this data, we can sketch out some rough guidelines:
- B2C: Consider sending email bi-weekly to weekly. 67% of B2C companies send email 2-5 times per month. That would loosely fit a bi-weekly or weekly schedule.
- B2B: At least one email per month, and no more than five, appears to be considered an acceptable range. Tweak your approach, and adjust according to results.
Interestingly, a slim minority (if any) answered in a way that could imply they’re sending email every day. This approach may be more common for bloggers or news publishers sending daily post updates (while this study is focused on brand marketers).
Some Say “It Depends”
Other reports offer less definitive suggestions. Here’s a roundup on their thoughts:
- Entrepreneur suggests testing and seeing what works because “businesses are different with different goals and clients.” True enough.
- Sark eMedia says “Your subscribers generally won’t mind how often you email them as long as you are making it worth their while.” That sounds a lot like, “Test valuable email offers and see which frequency works best.” If your content is good, results should follow.
- Traffic Generation Cafe supports this hypothesis, sharing a case study where Daegan Smith earned $84,000 less per month from email when she didn’t send daily. It goes onto say that delivering value on a daily basis (emphasis on value) worked best.
- Aweber comes straight out the gate saying “there’s no magic number.”
Some Offer More Concrete Recommendations
Other studies hint at some more concrete recommendations (in some cases, they’re even based on real-world examples).
- Smart Insights reports that fashion e-commerce company Net-A-Porter increased their conversion rates when they reduced email sends from 10 times per week, to two.
- Benchmark recommends sending no less than once per month.
- FulcrumTech says that according to a survey from MarketingSherpas, 86% of respondents wanted to get at least one email per month. Just 15% said they wanted email daily.
- OmniSend says 54% of their customers send email 2-4 times per month, and claims this is the optimal number:
- Ignite Visibility says 43% of subscribers want to be emailed less often. 48% just want better, more informative email content. So, that supports the idea that most subscribers may tolerate higher frequency as long as the content is strong.
- SendGrid’s Global Email Benchmark Report says testing is always your best bet, but adds the average monthly send rate is 8.1 emails. Think of that as about two per week (similar to Net-a-Porter mentioned in the Smart Insights post).
- MailChimp says “there’s nothing set in stone” about email frequency, but recommends sending at least once a month, while news publishers and bloggers may opt for daily sends.
- Clickz cites MarketingSherpas once again, saying “weekly or less frequently is the preferred choice of the vast majority. Very few want daily emails.”
Crazy Egg Has Some Not-So-Crazy Advice
Over on the Crazy Egg blog, Jeremy Reeves says:
You will make more money if you communicate with your prospects and customers more often.
That’s a bold statement. He further clarifies that most businesses will fall into one of three camps:
- Email Daily: Companies that rely on selling information and seek to build thought leadership benefit most from sending email every day.
- Email 1-3 Days Per Week: Best for brands with busy audiences.
- Email Sporadically: This ties back to only sending email when you have something of value to share.
You can then determine which of these descriptions sounds most like your situation. Then, start from there, and adjust based on performance. But, lean toward sending as much as you can before performance starts to dip.
Set Clear Expectations and Be Consistent
Once you have a frequency that works, it’s best to stick with it (once you’ve tested and optimized for performance, of course). MailPoet says:
Ultimately, the answer comes down to reader expectations. If your subscribers expect to receive one email per month, they’ll be irritated when you start sending them 3 new emails every week. On the other hand, if you make it clear that your newsletter will be more frequent (daily or weekly), your subscribers’ expectations will be aligned – they will expect to get a lot of email from you.
They continue later on to say:
Writing content is tough and having a schedule makes it easier.
That tells you two things:
- Set clear expectations for your list. Disappointment is the distance between expectation and reality. If expectations are clear, it reduces disappointment and frustration.
- Be consistent. Not having a schedule means you’re liable to not send much at all. It also makes it difficult to deliver on clear expectations as outlined above.
What About Sending Email to Promote Events?
EventBrite has some good insights here (as to be expected, since events are what they do).
On a basic level, their advice follows what can be found elsewhere:
- Set a consistent schedule.
- Test your frequency.
- Let users set their own frequency preferences.
Standard stuff so far. Their more in-depth report (which is gated), however, adds this:
- The average send frequency was 1.51 emails per week amongst companies surveyed.
So, if you’re promoting an event, don’t go overboard with emails. One (or maybe two) per week should be sufficient to get you started.
Putting It All Together
From all this curated research and advice, here’s a condensed version that attempts to outline some guidelines and starting points for optimizing how often you send to your email list.
How Can Companies Determine Their Own Best Email Frequency?
Now, if you rely 100% on recommendations someone else gave you, you’ll never know if you’re actually delivering email as often as you really should be.
The best way to get that answer is to take direction from best practices as a starting point, and then adjust according to your own data (even if that means eventually ditching your original schedule completely).
Data talks and the rest walks.
First, Set a Basic Schedule
And tailor it to the type of organization you’re in.
- Blogger/Publisher: Start with every day (provide option for weekly roundup).
- B2C: Plan on starting with one email per week.
- B2B: Start with one email per month.
Then, track the following metrics (for one month for bloggers, publishers, and B2C companies, or 90 days for B2B companies):
- Open rates.
- Referral traffic.
Create a spreadsheet where you can keep this all organized easily (<--- or click this link, then click File > Make a Copy):
Next, track performance over 30 days. Make note of the following:
- Does sending email on certain days outperform others?
- Do certain times appear to get better results?
- If you increase your sending frequency, which (if any) metrics improve?
- Subsequently, if you decrease email sends, which (if any) metrics improve?
Tracking Email Metrics
In order to track email marketing performance per email, use your email service provider’s built-in analytics. Here’s where to find documentation for each of the most popular services:
To find email referral traffic (and website or blog conversions generated from that traffic), you’ll need to use Google Analytics.
First, make sure your Google Analytics is properly configured. Follow this help doc from Google if you’re unsure (you’ll probably need a developer’s help).
Second, visit your account and click through Acquisition > All Traffic:
Third, click Channels and find Email:
Fourth, make sure to adjust your dates according to which time period you’re gathering data on.
Fifth, pay attention not only to which days of the week you sent email, but the times those emails were sent, and how many other emails you sent that day. Then, keep this up over another month or two. Monitor changes in performance closely, and fine-tune your email schedule moving forward.
But What If People Complain They’re Getting Too Much Email?
This can turn into a thorny issue.
You don’t want to aggravate your entire list to the point where they unsubscribe. Even worse, you don’t want to be marked as SPAM, either.
There will be times where you are at fault, and you did screw up, and people do have grounds to complain. At the same time, there will always be people who complain, for one reason or another.
Before you throttle your frequency at the first sign of annoyance, consider the following.
Let People Manage Their Own Email Preferences
Some people may have different wants from your email. One subscriber might want daily updates, whereas another might only want weekly messages on certain topics.
Fortunately, most email service providers make this easy to manage. Follow the appropriate guide for yours:
That way, someone who might have otherwise left your list, can instead customize what they do (and don’t) get, and how often.
Compare Unsubscribes to Your Results
Now, you can expect some amount of unsubscribes to happen. Not everyone will stick around on your list forever.
That’s the harsh truth.
But, that’s okay as long as you’re driving profitable results from your email marketing. This is where it becomes key to know whether you’re sending too much email.
If your unsubscribe rate seems unusually high, and your opens, clicks, and traffic are in decline, it may be time to slow your roll. Of course, there are a number of other culprits that could be to blame, too:
- Weak subject lines.
- Unengaging copy.
- Or your content could be attracting people unlikely to buy from you (due to topical misalignment between your content and your product or service).
Amongst these (and many other) possible issues, your frequency rate is definitely something that should be put under a microscope. Try slowing your roll for a while and see if numbers pick up. If problems persist, isolate other issues, strive to improve them, and see what happens.
But, avoid rushing to assume you’re failing because you’re sending too much email, before you have data to support that hypothesis.
Conversely, if you send more email, and traffic, conversions, and the like increase, then ignore unsubscribes and complainers. As long as people are buying from you at a strong rate, the benefits outweigh losing those folks over the long term.
How to Manage Your Email Schedule in One Place
The best way to map out your email sends is on a calendar. That’s why there’s one included in this post that looks like this:
It includes fields to track your sending dates, plus all other pertinent details for emails you might send. Plus, it can easily be uploaded to Google Sheets or Office 365 for team collaboration.
Which leads into your next option: CoSchedule.
As an all-in-one marketing management platform, CoSchedule’s email integrations make it possible to schedule email marketing alongside all your other projects and campaigns. This is particularly useful considering emails are often part of broader campaigns (you need something to promote before you can send an email in the first place, after all).
Locate your Integrations page and find the right email provider (CoSchedule integrates with MailChimp, Campaign Monitor, Constant Contact, and Active Campaign):
Then, select a day on your calendar and select Email Marketing:
Next, create your email content on the calendar:
Build the email in your ESP. Once it’s ready to go, the send date and time will be accurately reflected in CoSchedule:
And you can see your email in context with other campaign pieces using Marketing Campaigns. Check out this full walk-through to get the 411 on how it works:
Rock Your Email Marketing Schedule
Hopefully, this post has helped clear the mystery around how often you should be sending emails. You’ve got all the information you need to start tweaking your frequency, and some tools to help you manage it all, too. Have questions or more tips to share? Drop us a comment and start the conversation.
May 14, 2018