Email Frequency: Best Practices For Email Marketers

Email Frequency

Email frequency is the line between helpful and annoying, timely and spammy, converting and unsubscribed. 

Sending emails regularly is the solution. But what is regular in email marketing? Once a month? Once a week? Every day? What is the perfect email frequency that won’t come across as too much or not enough? We’ll answer all of these questions, describe email frequency best practices for email marketers in 2020 and give you tips to keep your campaigns as converting as they can be.

The impact of email frequency

Email frequency affects your campaign in a variety of ways. Think of it as the main plank in your email campaign. First of all, it influences the open rate. Then, it determines the click-through and unsubscribe rates. Ultimately, you conversion rates depend on it too. The numbers prove it. 

Open rate

In case you don’t know, open rate is the ratio of opened emails compared to the total amount of sent emails (bounces excluded). So, if you send 118 emails, 18 of them return as hard or soft bounces, and 10 messages are opened, your open rate will be 10%.

The open rate is the first thing affected by the email frequency. By the most popular belief, the more often you send emails, the less value people see in them. Thus, the less they open them and the OR goes down. As a result, all the other rates reduce as well. However, in reality, things aren’t that straightforward. We will explain the differences in B2C and B2B email frequency practices and results further in the article.

No one can say for sure what open rate is the norm – it varies from industry to industry. On average, the OR across all industries is 20.81%. However, even within the same industry the open rate might differ because each prospect list is unique, each group of people is favorable to emails at different times, and each person wants to see a definite number of emails per month. 

Set the open rate goal at approximately 20% and always follow your own past campaign stats to notice any sudden changes. 

Click-through rate

Together with the open rate, CTR is one of the key measures of email campaign success.

On average, the highest click-through rate is demonstrated by the 1st and 2nd emails sent per week (4.88% and 3.53% respectively for newsletters). At the same time, the more emails are sent per week, the lower the click-through rate. The 14th and 15th emails (sent in one week) show 1.92% and 2.01% respectively. 

Number of newsletters per week
Source: GetResponse

Bear in mind, these are the stats for newsletter email frequency. Personalized email campaigns sent to small lists of highly targeted leads can reach much higher CTR.

Aim at an average CTR of 2.5%. If you’re just starting out and aren’t sure which email frequency best suits your industry and product, analyze which frequency usually shows best conversion results first to determine the ideal scenario. You can test and analyze this using an email drip campaign tool, which can monitor the click-through per email easier. 

Unsubscribe rate

The unsubscribe rate is the ratio of people who click the Unsubscribe link or button in the email to the number of people who received and opened an email from you. 

This indicator is obviously only relevant for inbound campaigns. An unsubscribe rate of around 1% is considered okay within most countries and industries IF you are a novice. But professionals stand their ground: unsubscribe rate of over 0.5% means that you need to work on your emails and reduce the rate. The perfect unsubscribe rate is 0.2%.

The main reason why people unsubscribe from you is because they are tired of receiving emails from you (69% of people named this reason as the primary reason for unsubscribing). If your unsubscribe rate is growing, it means you need to slow down on the email frequency. 

Try to stick to the ideal unsubscribe rate of 0.2%. Improve your email content and try to reduce the email frequency if your unsubscribe rate is growing.

Conversion rate

Conversion rate is the last but also the most important point under the influence of email frequency. This point is closely tied to the unsubscribe rate. If you’re confident in your email copy, look into the reasons why your conversion rate isn’t soaring. It’s likely that the high unsubscribe rate is your enemy. 

Email frequency
Source: GetResponse

Email frequency best practices

Each business is unique and there’s no one-size-fits-all way to fine-tune your email frequency. But there are a couple of things you can do.

1. Let recipients know what to expect

Sending the best email with the most attractive subject line and well-performing CTA means nothing if you send emails so often that the recipients start sending them to the Spam folder out of sheer annoyance. 

Of course, there are people who would like to get promotional and/or educational emails daily. But that’s only 15%. Getting bombarded with dozens of emails a week is the first reason why people unsubscribe.

This is why you should inform every new subscriber about the amount of emails you are going to send. Better yet, allow them to opt in for exactly the emails/frequency they want. This will not only let you personalize the experience but also give you a valuable insight into your audience.  

2. Build relationships through consistent contact

To build relationships with existing clients, send consistent, regular emails. This helps keep in touch with people who already expect emails from their favorite brands. It can be a weekly or a monthly email, just make sure they are regular enough for people to expect them. This way they are constantly engaged and can be easily pushed closer to a purchase. This works for both B2B and B2C.

3. More is more for B2C email frequency

Email frequency for B2B and B2C couldn’t be more different, so when analyzing the research it’s important to keep your eyes on the prize – the conversions.

I find Omnisend’s research on this fascinating. They are a company providing marketing services for small and mid-size businesses (up to 5,000 users), and they’ve analyzed the frequency at which their clients send inbound email campaigns. Here’s what they found:

Email frequency
Source: Omnisend

Most (54%) of their clients send emails 2-4 times per month, 32% – once per month. Less than 15% send emails over 5 times a month. Nothing unusual here, and the customers’ reaction to the email campaigns was expected:

  • the highest open and click-through rates are shown by the emails sent once a month (28% and 7% respectively)
  • in the chart, the next are the emails sent 2-4 times a month: 21% open rate and 5% click-through rate
  • the lowest open and click rates are within the campaigns sent approximately daily (20+ times per month): 12% open rate and 2% click-through rate 

But here’s where it gets weird. The analysis also shows that the more emails are sent per month, the higher the number of orders is performed:

  • Frequency of 10-19 emails per month (which had one of the lowest ORs and CTRs) resulted in most orders – 12.17 orders on average
  • Frequency of 5-9 emails/months resulted in 7.44 orders monthly
  • Using 2-4 emails a month resulted in 4.79 orders
  • Only 1.64 purchases were made on average with the frequency of 1 email per month.

If you work in the B2C niche and aim to skyrocket sales, don’t concentrate on the open or click-through rates – follow Omnisend’s stats and try sending emails 10-19 times a month. 

4. Automate your campaigns for better control and workflow

Regardless of how many subscribers and clients you have, how thoroughly you segment them, or how many email marketers you’ve got in the team, you need a tool to automate monotonous, time-consuming tasks and streamline your workflow. 

Automation tools for email marketing are nothing new, but email drip campaigns are currently the best. With them you can:

  • Send campaigns with multiple email flows depending on the recipients’ actions
  • Add complex personalization (including any custom variables)
  • Send from your own Gmail or SMTP
  • Schedule campaigns
  • Control email performance and recipient actions at any stage of the campaign
  • Edit launched campaigns based on real-time statistics and more

Mastering drip campaigns can help you nurture leads, automate follow-ups, improve blogger outreach, and free up insane amounts of time that can be spent closing deals with hot leads. You can find out more about all the drip tool features in our Complete Guide To Email Drip Campaigns

5. Let your subscribers control the email frequency

Sometimes the best solutions are the simplest: just ask the subscribers to choose the email frequency they’re most comfortable with. Giving them the right of choice will bring down the unsubscribe level. 

Make sure the frequency is easy to choose and change. Adding an Update subscription preferences link at the end of your emails is a common practice. Here’s how IFTTT does it.

Email frequency preferences

And here’s a choice Medium offers to their users, besides the offers to receive regular newsletters from selected publications.

Email frequency preferences

This approach has at least four advantages:

  • whether subscribers mean to or not, they still spend some time engaging with your brand
  • it shows that you respect their preferences and care about their needs and desires
  • consequently, they become more loyal to your brand
  • it makes segmenting your audience easier

6. Understand the difference between B2C and B2B email frequency

We have already talked about B2C email frequency and the unexpected results of experimenting with frequent emails. However, things are completely different for B2B email frequency.

Within the B2B niche, most companies tend to send emails twice a month. Upping that frequency to more than once a week skyrockets the unsubscribe rate. Here, the old and reliable approach of one monthly update with a couple of relevant articles works just fine – this does not overload the inbox, doesn’t annoy your recipient, provides just enough value for them to appreciate your emails, and keeps you top-of-mind among loyal customers. 

7. Know your industry benchmarks to analyze frequency effectiveness

To find your ideal email frequency, it’s not enough to know your B2B and B2C email frequency standards – you’ll only be able to analyze the effectiveness of your email frequency if you know what the average numbers for the click-through rate and spam reporting are in your industry.

Research by SendGrid found the average click-through and spam rates for the most common industries: 

Industry CTR, % Spam rate, %
Business services 13.3 0.018
Computers and electronics 38.4 0.019
Consumer services 10.5 0.016
Media and entertainment 12.7 0.012
Non-profit 5.7 0.011
Retail 14 0.015
Software and internet 10.1 0.013
Wholesale and distribution 11.2 0.013

Those are the average numbers – use them as a guide.

8. Segment your audience

Using one frequency for all of your list will never work, which is why the main tip we believe everyone should follow is – segment all your subscribers and clients, as much as you can. The more you segment and adapt your interactions with consideration to the recipients’ pain points and desires, the better. 

Never treat people like units of data, create buyer personas complete with photos for each segment to maximize results. This will help you create and send not just the right content, but also define the perfect email frequency. Additionally, conduct your own experiments to test email frequency for every segment.

Email frequency in numbers

Numbers speak louder than words, so let’s turn to the latest research and experiments results. With this data, it will be easier to define the best email frequency for your business. 

One-third of email marketers prefer to send weekly

According to Databox, 33.3% of professionals send email campaigns on a weekly basis, 26.67% – multiple times per month, and 13.33% each – multiple times per week, daily, and monthly.

Optimal email frequency
At the same time, two-thirds of specialists said they reduce the email frequency if the recipients do not engage.

Maximum B2B and B2C email frequencies have some commonalities 

As you already know, email frequency practices for B2B and B2C differ a lot. However, when asked about the maximum number of times they contact an email address in a month, answers by B2B and B2C email marketers showed some similarities.

Maximum email frequency

According to DMA Insight: Marketer email tracking study, two of the three most popular answers for both B2B and B2C marketers have also been the same. Both B2B and B2C marketers answered 2-3 times a month (37% each) and 4-5 times a month (25% for B2B and 30% for B2C) as the maximum email frequency they use. 

The general tendency is as follows: B2C brands are more favorable to sending emails often (on average weekly or bi-weekly), while most B2B companies tend to send fewer emails (most opting for 1-3 times a month). 

Almost half the subscribers mark emails as spam because they are too frequent

Having your emails flagged as Spam is one of the problems plaguing every email marketer. So why do subscribers do it?

Why flag emails as spam

According to TechnologyAdvice survey, almost half the subscribers – 45.8% – will flag emails as spam if they receive them too often. Other reasons for sending emails to Spam are: haven’t purposefully subscribed to emails (36.4%), irrelevant content (31.6%), lack of personal approach (10.4%).

Subscribers would like less emails and better content

Surprising to no one, that same survey by TechnologyAdvice found that subscribers would love less frequent emails (43.9%), but better content (24.2%) and more personalized offers (23.9%).

Email campaigns best practises

Customers would love to receive emails at least monthly

Just because your subscribers want less emails doesn’t mean they don’t want to hear from you at all. As we’ve mentioned, giving your subscribers a chance to choose their own frequency can be a great strategy. To discover exactly what the most preferred email frequency is, MarketingSherpa researched subscribers’ preferences and opinions on different email frequencies.

Customer email frequency preferences

Very few (15%) customers want to receive daily emails. Most popular email frequency preferences turned out to be: at least monthly (86%), at least weekly (61%), and weekly (32%).

The least popular email frequency preferences tuned out to be: yearly (1%), quarterly (4%), thrice a week (4%), and never (9%).

Adjusting email frequency to best sending time produces better results

According to numerous research and stats, the best days to send emails are Tuesday and Friday, as they show the highest OR and CTR. Adjusting your frequency for emails to be sent on these days will maximize your open and click-through rates.  

average daily email opens
Source: HubSpot

This can be explained by the schedule of an average worker – most will try to dig through their mail at the beginning and the end of the work week. Make sure to schedule your emails for a specific time, too. Same research by HubSpot shows the best highest email open rate is around 11 am. Scheduling emails is easy if you use an email drip campaign – set a sequence of emails to be sent exactly at the right time without sacrificing the personal touch.

Average email opens
Source: HubSpot

Define your ideal email frequency

Best practices, numbers, and stats are useful, but a solution that’s right for your business can only be found by asking yourself the right questions.

What are my goals?
You need to formulate your goals as clearly as possible. If your goal is to nurture leads, drive them to a purchase, or to re-engage former customers, sharing relevant and valuable content and offers with them once a week might be your best strategy. If the sales cycle within your field is pretty long, you may need to spread emails further apart.

What is typical for my industry?
As we’ve mentioned, knowing what’s normal for your industry will help you set realistic goals and not get too carried away experimenting. If you’re only a novice, analyze your competition – this will help you start off right.

Is the quality of my leads good?
No matter if you’re doing a B2B or B2C email campaign, outbound or inbound, you must always make sure your leads are clean and fresh. Even if your email list is only 6 months old, a good chunk of your list will already be invalid, leading to bounces and serious harm to your sender reputation. To clean your list, use an email verifier that checks for invalid, abandoned, and non-existent emails.

Do I target correctly?
The answer must be yes and nothing less. If you’re not sure (and even if you are), creating a buyer persona will help. It must contain the buyer’s pain points, their buying motivations and concerns, interests and challenges. 

email drip campaigns

Be on time with emails

Email frequency does not get much credit for campaign success or failure, and it should. Sending too often or not often enough can destroy all your email marketing efforts, no matter how good your content, offer, or service is. 

Trust in email frequency best practices and research to help you keep you campaign KPIs high: 

  • send your B2B campaign emails at least once a month; B2C business are recommended to hit their customers’ inbox at least weekly. 
  • Tuesday and Friday are the best days to send emails, especially if your email lands at around 11am.
  • segmentation will help you send relevant content and offers, with personalization helping establish long-lasting customer relationships.
  • let your subscribers control the frequency and opt-out; 

Know an email frequency tip we didn’t mention in the article? Comment below!

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