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Emails and Text Messages: How Many Is Too Many for Marketers to Send?

By Serenity Gibbons

The marketing industry is full of tough questions, but few invite controversy quite like the question of how many emails and texts marketers should be sending to their customers.

Some entrepreneurs swear that emailing customers every day is the key to building a six-figure business. On the other end of the spectrum, a quarter of companies send just a single email per month. In the middle are marketers like my friend, who obeys what he calls “the Golden Rule of marketing,” which means, as far as I can tell, that his email schedule is whenever he thinks about it.

So, who’s right? Let’s see what the email and SMS marketing experts have to say.

Frequency Matters — but There’s More

Talk to a few email marketing firms about send frequency, and the first thing you’ll find out is that funnel stage is key.

For sales prospects, email automation service Mixmax suggests sending emails no more than two or three times per week. For existing customers, ecommerce email tool Omnisend says that readers react positively to emails sent as frequently as 19 times per month, or almost every day. Digital marketing group CrazyEgg argues that, for both prospects and customers, anything from once a month to every day might make sense.

Despite their disagreements, email marketing experts agree that send frequency is only one part of the story. Mixmax data shows that emails are most likely to be opened when sent on weekdays at 9:00 in the morning Pacific Time, while content marketing agency Influence & Co. discovered that “friendly from” sender names increase open rates by an average of 144 percent. Social media consultancy Convince & Convert claims that 35 percent of email opens are driven by the subject line alone.

Rather than try to convert more recipients by sending more emails, first tweak your subject lines and sender names. A BlueHornet survey showed that too many emails was the top reason for email list unsubscribes. If you do decide to increase your frequency, don’t push it above once per day.

The Story with SMS

Unsurprisingly, SMS marketing groups are similarly split on how many text messages marketers should be sending. SimpleTexting says that best practice is to send two to four texts per month, but enterprise messaging firm Upload Software suggests that figure is closer to ten. SlickText says that sending as many as one message per day is OK. Because SMS is more intrusive than email, however, providers generally agree that marketers should be sending fewer of them.

Again, however, the text’s reason and recipient are important. Melani Dayto, member of Forbes’ Communications Council and Textmarks’ director of marketing, points out that best practices vary by purpose. A dental patient may only need one or two SMS appointment reminders per year, for instance, while a pizza fanatic may appreciate twice-a-week tips about coupons.

Don’t forget to take demographics into account, either. About ten percent fewer women than men say they read every text message they receive. Although SMS is now popular among all generations, about four-fifths Millennials and members of Generation Z check their phone every hour, compared to about three-fifths of Baby Boomers. While those aren’t huge differences, they do imply that marketers can text young males more often than the older, female counterparts.

Testing Tells the Truth

No matter the channel you choose or the audience you’re aiming it at, though, there’s ultimately just one way to figure out your ideal frequency: experimentation. Use A/B testing to compare the conversion rates of two campaigns that are identical except for their send frequency.

Say you’re trying to upsell your existing customers. If you currently email them every other Tuesday, split your list into two groups. For the control group, change nothing. For the other, try changing the cadence to every Tuesday. Over a three-month span, which group re-converted at higher rates?

That may sound like a lot of trouble, and it is. But the truth is, email and SMS marketing simply involve too many variables for a single frequency suggestion to make sense. That won’t settle the subject, to be sure — but did you really expect such a tough question to have an easy answer?

Emails and texts play a huge, urgent role in mobile marketing. Are you doing as much as you to achieve success with your mobile efforts? See how you can “Go Further with Mobile Marketing.”

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