How Often Should I Send to My Email List?

Proper Care and Maintenance of a Writer’s Platform

Good EmailYou’ve built your web presence. You’ve established your expertise. You’ve offered your e-newsletter or your tips. Your fans (prospects) have accepted and given you their email address and permission to contact them. So what do you do now?

I won’t state the obvious and tell you to send them the promised tips or newsletter. The nagging hang-up question is how to you insert your marketing message without making your prospects feel so abused that they unsubscribe? There are two schools of thought on managing an email contact list.

Hard-Core Marketers


One thing to remember is to follow all the rules regarding the CAN_SPAM Act.

I mention a few ways to keep out of trouble in my blog post “Will Internet Email Marketing be Regulated?

The traditional marketing wisdom says to contact them often and hit them up for a sale at every opportunity. Marketing studies have shown that a customer won’t respond an advertisement until the third time they’ve seen your message. There is also compelling data to support the fact that a customer will forget about you if they don’t see your message at least once a week. For this reason, the hard-core marketers believe that you should contact your prospects at least once a week with some sort of offer.

In the email world, that can lead to list fatigue and a huge rate of unsubscribes. I attended a conference on marketing for writers. The speakers advocated frequent contacts — as often as every three days. I asked the speaker about his take on list fatigue and his response was that if the prospect unsubscribed, then they weren’t interested in the message anyway and were, therefore, not worth marketing to. In his words, “I’ve learned not to lose sleep over it.”

This makes a certain amount of sense. Who wants to waste time and energy marketing to people who are only on for a free lunch? The thing is, that it assumes that those who unsubscribed did so due to lack of interest. This same marketing person had not done an exit survey to find out why those who had unsubscribed had done so (I asked). Could it possibly have been because those prospects were simply annoyed at the constant sales pitches?

I watched a Vice President of Marketing at another big-name company treat his prospects the same way. As long as every mailing was generating sales, he didn’t care if there was a huge rate of unsubscribes.

This marketing approach also assumes that there are an unlimited number of prospects out there from which to replenish your list and that the sales you make to the ones who stay will more than pay the cost of acquiring new prospects.

If it sounds like I don’t approve of this method, then you’re dead on. I hate it. I’ve unsubscribed from a number of lists due to annoyance – not from lack of interest. It doesn’t take a marketing genius to figure out that there are dozens of other companies out there offering the same or similar products or services. Those companies might just care enough about me as a customer to treat me with a little more respect and not clutter up my email box with constant offers.

The Gentle Approach

Not all marketing companies are so callous in their outlook. One good example is Marketsmith, Inc., who handles their list with velvet gloves. I’ve watched it grow over the years. They mail to the list an absolutely brilliant quarterly newsletter, and hand manage the recipients to make sure there are no bounces and that those who have unsubscribed remain unsubscribed.

There’s no surprise here. First, off, I’ve known the company four years now and they are lovely people who remember that their prospects are actually human beings. They also know that they are in a very small industry. Everyone knows everyone else, so a lost prospect could cost the company a huge amount of money and isn’t easily replaced.

You, more than anyone, know how much effort it took to get the prospects you have on your list. You wrote the content. You got it up on the web. You gave the lectures and collected the email addresses. You wrote the tips or the newsletter. You set up the autoresponse system or the email management service. You have a great deal invested in every address on that list either in time or in dollars.

How Often Should I send?

Email SPAMThat depends completely on the expectations of your prospects. If you promised a daily tip or phrase, then daily is it. It’ll be up to you to include your marketing message unobtrusively in each contact. If they’re getting a weekly, then weakly is it. Monthly and quarterly contacts do allow for you to contact them with special, supplemental offers or announcements — monthly (safely) at a rate of 1-3 and quarterly at a rate of 1-5 times. Each list is going to vary at to how much contact it can handle.

Regardless of how often you send, make certain that you offer your prospects something of value to THEM every time and you’ll keep them. Of value to them does NOT mean a weekly tip with 6 special sales discount offers in between. Before you send, ask yourself if you would want to receive that email from someone else.

Should I Include a Marketing Promotion in Every Mailing?

Maybe. If it is a genuine, special, limited time offer and you’re only doing it once a year or so, yes. In most other cases, you need to be a bit more subtle. Your signature and including your url will keep your name in front of their eyes. The content will keep them thinking fondly of you and will convince them that you have something to offer. Your email contact should be a gentle way to prod them to visit your web site and that is where you close the sale. Structure your contacts so that they are encouraged to click through to more content on the web. Offer part of an article and a link. Offer a tip and a link to a list of online resources that are on your site. If you’ve built your web presence correctly, your products or services will be plainly and professionally visible and purchasing them will be but a few clicks away.

Happy prospects become life-long customers and, unless you plan on being a one book author, the long term is what you should be thinking about when you mail to your list.

Originally posted on my hosted WordPress Blog, December 27, 2008.

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This entry was posted by on Friday, August 22, 2008.
Filed under: Articles, For Writers, Marketing
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