How Much E-Mail Is Too Much?

“If a fellow wants to be a nobody in the business world, let him neglect sending the mail man to somebody on his behalf.”

Charles F. Kettering

The other day, one of my online subscribers, CR, complained about 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 anybody else) need to hear from that much.”

This begs the question: How frequently can you e-mail your online subscribers?

Or, said another way: 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.

Why?

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” – the percentage of online subscribers who unsubscribe from your list per e-mail blast – is a Web metric that you can measure. A 0.1 percent 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 percent 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.

But when your opt-out rate gets above 0.2 to 0.4 percent, you are losing subscribers at too rapid a rate. For instance, if you have 10,000 subscribers and you’re losing 100 subscribers every time you send an e-mail to your list, you have an opt-out rate of 1.0 percent. That’s much too high.

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 percent to 0.2 percent or less.

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

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 drop 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?

Yes.

We have lots of preconceived notions about what our market wants – and doesn’t want. And one of those 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, the more money you make online.

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

And if you are making that mistake… you are leaving money on the table.

[Ed. Note: You can make sure that you’re giving your customers exactly what they need AND that you’re making the most money you can. The best way to do it? Master one vital skill. Learn how from two experts.

And be sure to sign up for author and copywriting master Bob Bly’s Direct Response Letter. Do so today and get over $100 in free bonuses.]

Click to comment on this article.

  • Interesting article about how often you can mail your list.

    A couple of questions:

    1. I have set things up so my list is automatically notified when I post to my blog, so that alters any calculation of frequency. Would you recommend automatic notification of blog posts?

    2. ETR’s newsletter looks great, but I’ve heard that plain text is better than HTML format because there are fewer issues with delivery. You obviously disagree. Why?

    Thanks,

    David Hurley
    http://grasp-the-nettle.com

  • I noticed quite a difference between the best steaks in the Netherlands and Canada. The grass in Holland is almost always wetter, whereas in Canada it is more of the harsher kind, due to a more dry type of climate. Cheese made in Holland tastes different from the same type of cheese made in Canada, even if they give it the same name.

  • Pat

    Re the article on email frequency:
    The suggestions about when an opt-out rate signals you that you’re emailing too frequently makes mathematical sense, and may be the only practical yardstick. But it may not take into account the psychological aspect. A subscriber may be very annoyed by your email volume – but if they subscribe to a number of business e-pubs and skim-read them regularly for highlights/info, may not find it worth their while to actually unsubscribe until a)more time passes b)they’ve accumulated too many of your emails in their inbox that seemed of little use to them c)your content actually offends or angers them.
    It’s easy to not satisfy subscribers, yet continue to keep their subscriptions for a time due to the default of inertia. The fact that they haven’t actually clicked the “unsubscribe” button this time doesn’t “tell” you they’re fine with the volume. What it also may not be “telling” you is they’re just too busy to bother.

  • Rosa N. Gubin

    Re: The article on the e-mail frecuency.
    I completely agree with the above comentaries.
    In my case I read them some times but they are too long and most of them is selling.So I delete them.Every day is too much.

  • RE David’s comment: “2. ETR’s newsletter looks great, but I’ve heard that plain text is better than HTML format because there are fewer issues with delivery. You obviously disagree. Why?”

    ETR sends out two versions of our newsletter everyday. A text only version and an HTML version. The version you see depends on the preference of the e-mail provider or receipient’s settings.

  • Jay

    Pat (above) makes a sound point. The volume of emails from ETR has recently increased significantly. Barraged by too much information, I’ve taken to archiving immediately your emails, emails to which I once would have given ten minutes of my day.
    Of course I could unsubscribe. But why would I? It’s more straightforward for me to blacklist your email address, auto-archiving everything you send.
    Relying on the opt-out rate as a measure of subscriber satisfaction is, at best, crude, at worst, naive.

  • This fear of emailing too much comes from the point of view that what we send is a nuisance to people. I have found that the people who unsubscribe never were really interested in what I was doing…It is far better to provide excellent opportunities to the people who want it then not tell them about it.

    I know that when someone I trust tells me about something they think is great it’s a gift…It is all the junk that everyone gets that is annoying–and then one person’s junk is another’s treasure–so you have to know what your audience really wants and then give them the best you can find in that interest they have.