How often is too often when it comes to email frequency?

Recently my colleagues and I were asked by my boss for some “best practices” guidance on how frequently you can send email to your opt-in list without wearing them out. There is no simple answer available for this question, but here are some interesting statistics that were dug up:

From: Christensen, Lindsey (
Subject: RE: need a little bit of background research on email marketing

Here is some of my research, hope it helps!

From Marketing Sherpa: Open Rate for Email Blasts Continues 5-Year Decline

– This week’s chart shows the five-year decline in open rates for business-to-business email. On the one hand, we have some corroboration that the number of people reading the average newsletter or blast has declined. It’s almost impossible, however, to tease out the degree to which this is a result of true decline or a reduction in our ability to measure opens.

From Marketing Sherpa: Economy and Email – B2B Budgets

– Pressure to meet numbers has always been a problem for email. It forces marketers to send too many emails to too many list members – the ‘batch and blast’ mentality that has eroded the trust of consumers and businessmen over the last 10 years. This enthusiasm for email in the downturn is going to mean greater competition at the inbox, and that’s not necessarily good for the long-term health of the medium.

Those organizations that use email successfully throughout the downturn will be those that practice email responsibly and efficiently – through creativity, personalization, segmentation, testing and pristine list management.

33.9% of B2B email newsletters are typically sent once a month. – Marketing Sherpa (November 2006)

11.9% of B2B email newsletters are typically sent once a week. – Marketing Sherpa (November 2006)

42.4% of B2B email newsletters are typically sent less than once per month. – Marketing Sherpa (November 2006)

5.8% of B2B email promotions are typically sent once a week. – Marketing Sherpa (November 2006)

21.2% of B2B email promotions are typically sent two to three times a month. – Marketing Sherpa (November 2006)

36.5% of B2B email promotions are typically sent once a month. – Marketing Sherpa (November 2006)

32.7% of B2B email promotions are typically sent Less than once a month. – Marketing Sherpa (November 2006)

The percentage of professionals who bother to unsubscribe from email they no longer want was 22%. Consider unsubscribes to be only one-quarter of the real picture!! (source: Return Path)

The most interesting option I came across that I hadn’t considered before was:

– Provide a frequency-reduction option: “I would like to receive no more than 1 per week” or “I would like no more than 2-3 per month”



From: Connall, Danielle (
Subject: RE: need a little bit of background research on email marketing

I found this MarketingSherpa article, “Protect Your List : How to Fight 3 Internal Battles Over Email Strategy ” (click to view) which discusses common email marketer challenges around frequency, list -building strategies, and infrastructure. Here are the important points around the risks of increased email frequency:

· Subscribers are more sensitive to the frequency of email from one specific sender than to overall volume of email in inbox

· When MarketingSherpa asked email subscribers why they unsubscribed or stopped reading messages from a company:

o 58% said the emails weren’t relevant to them

o 44% said they received too much email from sender

o 31% said they simply receive too much email overall to pay attention to it all

Chart: 5 Reasons Recipients hit “Spam” or “Junk Mail”

· Benchmarks for the appropriate email frequency are difficult to come by, as it depends on the nature of the mailings and your audience. “I.e. CAD Tip of the Day” v. “CAD Tip of the Week” (there is a case for both) In addition, some people tolerate more than others do. So to handle this, check history of unsubscribe rates v. executed campaigns, and also there should be frequency testing done that is targeted to each segment (each segment will tolerate differently.)

We should be:

· Frequency testing

· Reputation monitoring (there are free tools available to check email IP addresses for trends)

Ideas for marketing:

· Consolidating efforts across teams whenever possible. Perhaps assign one designated neutral person responsible for overseeing the messages that are going out and recommending when it makes sense to consolidate.

· Continue highly targeted, relevant messaging to segments based on a variety of factors. More behavioral marketing – get them while they’re engaged. My guess is that the biggest challenge for marketers is bandwidth. Highly targeted, strategically executed email campaigns by nature require extra thought, planning and CRM rigor.

I hope this helps. There is a lot more info available out there, so let me know if you need more.


About Bob Hebeisen

My name is Bob Hebeisen and I'm a Boston-based marketer, currently seeking new full-time and contract opportunities. I formerly held the title of Head of Marketing for Glance Networks as well as Field Marketing and Channel Marketing roles at PTC and SDL. I have spent most of my 20-year career in Business-to-Business (B2B) technology marketing. Reach out to me at
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