What’s Your Frequency?
Now that the days of simply blanketing your customer database with e-mails are long past, optimizing your e-mail contact patterns is as much about understanding where your customers are in the purchasing cycle and optimal timing, as it is about how often you mail. Optimizing for the long term takes testing, planning and a good understanding of your customers’ behavior patterns. All these factors will help you formulate a contact strategy that’s relevant to your customers, ideally lifting response rates and keeping unsubscribe rates low.
A successful e-mail contact strategy depends on an analysis of customer preferences, as well as where those customers are in the buying cycle. “The more you can tie your messages to the activity level of the customer or the customer’s lifecycle, the more success you have,” says Elaine O’Gorman, vice president of strategy for Altanta-based e-mail marketing services provider Silverpop. Analysis of open and clickthrough rates will help identify those customers who are actively engaged with your brand and e-mail program. “Early in the buying process too many mails from a vendor may be seen as ‘you’re pushing me,’” notes Michael Wexler, vice president of strategy and analytics for Lexington, Mass.-based e-mail marketing solutions provider e-Dialog. “We can use Web site behavior or other types of metrics to understand where someone is in the buying cycle and modulate the message frequency based on that, often pulling [segments] out of the standard [contact plan] and sending them a specialized sequence that may send at a different frequency.”
Maybe even more importantly, analysis will identify those who are becoming inactive. “If you’re able to identify a group like that, then the marketer can: a) create a new strategy to re-engage those folks, and b) look at frequency, particularly for that group, to try to get them more engaged and involved,” says Reggie Brady, president of Norwalk, Conn.-based e-marketing consultancy Reggie Brady Marketing Solutions. “Maybe [mailing] every week is barraging that group too much and the better tactic is mailing them twice or once a month.” Mailing once a week is a basic good practice to follow, according to Brady. For those firms just starting up their e-mail marketing program, she suggests to start slow with a once-a-month schedule until you fine-tune your contact strategy and then step up frequency as needed. As a general rule, mailing less than once a month is inadvisable, however, since customers may forget that they signed up to receive communications, Brady says.