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Are You Getting Too Many E-Mail Marketing Messages?

September 21st, 2011 by Bob Bly

The other day, one of my online subscribers, CR, complained about the e-mail marketing of a famous Internet marketer.

 “I unsubscribed from his list,” she told me haughtily. “As soon as I joined, I got e-mails from him once or twice every day – and there’s no one I or anyone else needs to hear from that much.”

 That begs the question: how frequently can you e-mail your online subscribers?

 Or: how much e-mail is too much?

 People have lots of opinions about this issue, which they support with arguments that are both passionate and logical.

 The problem is: their opinions are wholly subjective.

 The fact is: there’s an easy way to objectively and accurately determine the optimal e-mail frequency for your online subscribers.

 How does it work?

 Well, every time you send another e-mail blast to your list, a small portion of your subscribers will opt out of your list.


 They decide that your content is no longer of value to them … or you are doing too much selling … or they don’t like your style … or you are e-mailing them too often.

 The “opt-out rate” is a Web metric that you can measure: the percentage of online subscribers who unsubscribe from your list per e-mail blast.

 A 0.1% opt-out rate means that if you have 10,000 online subscribers, 10 unsubscribed after getting your most recent e-mail.

 When your opt-out rate is around 0.1% or less, you can rest assured that you are not sending too many e-mails to your list too often.

 If you were, the opt-out rate would be higher.

 On the other hand, when your opt-out rate gets much above 0.2 to 0.4%, you are losing subscribers at too rapid a rate.

 For instance, if you have 10,000 subscribers and an opt-out rate of 1%, you lose 100 subscribers every time you send an e-mail to your list.

 You should measure and keep track of your opt-out rates with every e-mail you send.

 Adjust your e-mail frequency, ratio of sales pitches to content, message length, and topics until your opt-out rate hovers around 0.1% to 0.2% or less.

 Now, watch what happens if you increase the e-mail frequency – for instance, go from one e-mail per week to two e-mails per week.

 If you get a sharp upward spike in the opt-out rate – double or more – your subscribers are telling you they don’t want to hear from you that often.

 And you should probably eliminate the extra e-mail.

 On the other hand, if you add an extra e-mail per week and the opt-out rate does not rise significantly, you are safe in continuing at the higher frequency.

 But should you?


 We have lots of preconceived notions about what our market wants — and doesn’t want.

 And one of these preconceived notions is that people don’t want too much e-mail.

 But when the opt-out rate is low, your subscribers are telling you they DO want to hear from you often via e-mail.

 That’s important, because the more times you can reach out to your list with a valuable offer or content, the more money you make online.

 My colleague Amy Africa, a top consultant in B2B e-marketing, says that one of the most common online marketing mistakes is not e-mailing your list frequently enough.

 And by making that mistake, you are leaving money on the table.



This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 21st, 2011 at 10:57 am and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

62 responses about “Are You Getting Too Many E-Mail Marketing Messages?”

  1. Mike Lyons said:

    KissMetrics actually put together a really nice infographic using data from …Pure360? I’m pretty sure it was pure360.

    Yes, it was.

    The infographic does a pretty nice job of covering this exact topic and looking at when to send & at what frequency you should be sending.


  2. Niels said:

    Isn’t there another metric to follow besides opt-out rates? Are your sales increasing? Aren’t the people who unsubscribe people who wouldn’t buy from you anyways? If so, should we worry about them too much?

  3. Bob Bly said:

    Niels: I simplified to cover this in a blog post. The other key metric is open rate: are people still opening your e-mails?

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