Email Engagement

What’s the Ideal Email Frequency?

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What’s the Ideal Email Frequency?

What’s the magic number of emails you need to send to maximize supporter engagement and minimize fatigue?

The answer is “five”.

Kidding. It would be nice if it were that simple. But your ideal email frequency is unique to you—your content, your supporters, and your organization.

In truth, you’re searching for more than a frequency. You’re after the ideal cadence. Email cadence describes both the quantitative and qualitative forces that drive engagement and fatigue. This combines the nature of your content (unique to you), your audience (also unique to you), and the frequency. These unique factors explain why it’s impossible to pinpoint one ‘perfect frequency’ that works for all organizations. There’s more than one way to approach this problem. Let’s look at four.

1. Copy what other organizations appear to be doing

This is not a bad place to start, particularly if you’re short on time or resources. Sign up to every list you can find. Pay attention to the rhythm of organizations that look like they know what they’re doing. Better yet, talk to people in colleague organizations to better understand what’s working and what’s not.

2. Listen to your subscribers

Use a limited survey or email preference page to solicit feedback. This helps you approximate closer to an answer that is unique to your organization. However, it’s very possible the impression your supporters have of your email frequency may be conflated with everything in their inbox.

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3. Conduct a frequency tolerance test

This would be the gold standard. But you need to be willing to push some of your supporters (to the point that they may switch off). If you have a decent testing and analytics system (and a chunk of time), this approach shouldn’t be out of reach.

4. Follow these rules of thumb

You still just want a straight answer, don’t you. Okay. Based on Animals Australia’s experience (having ‘trialed and errored’ our way through delivering 100M+ emails), here’s what we found works best:

  • ‘Every week or so’ seems to be what most supporters are happy with as a baseline—provided those emails represent a variety of content including actions, updates, appeals and breaking news. More-engaged supporters can tolerate more. Less-engaged supporters can’t.
  • There’s flexibility when you need it. Supporters will forgive momentary spikes in frequency during times of urgency or fast-paced change. (Cadence allows for this).
  • High-frequency requests are unsustainable. Sub-lists that send action alerts daily or multiple times per week will exceed the tolerance of most audiences.
  • Think beyond email. Don’t over-rely on email to meet your e-communication needs. Consider how social media and off-site segmentation can reach the same audiences.

Good luck!

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Karen Nilsen

Hi there! I’m Karen. I’m on a mission to reach my former self. Had I known 10 years ago what I know today, I could have achieved more good, made fewer mistakes, and had more weekends. Every time we share what works, we win faster. Let’s create digital experiences that move people — that grow our base and fuel our movements. Are you with me? Please share this with someone you know who wants to up their digital game!

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