Email Frequency: How Many Is Too Many?


Whether you are a double opt-in, only send email to people who have engaged with your email in the last 2 weeks person or a spammer, one fundamental truth stands out: the frequency of your email campaigns drives every aspect of your email metrics. From opens and clicks to sales and, yes, unsubscribes; email frequency is the largest single influence on results.

More is always more

In numerous discussions over the years, I've emphasized the significant impact of email frequency on sales. Contrary to conventional wisdom, I've argued, as seen in my piece for Entrepreneur, that more emails, mostly translate to more sales. The premise challenges the traditional notion of limiting email frequency to avoid overwhelming subscribers. The core idea is simple: each extra email sent can propel a brand forward in terms of engagement and revenue. However, this surge in engagement comes at a cost—the dreaded unsubscribes.

The data is crystal clear: with each additional email, brands witness an upward trajectory in opens, clicks, sales, and overall engagement. However, this surge in engagement is accompanied by a cost—typically ranging between 0.15% and 0.35% of subscribers choosing to part ways.

The CLTV Conundrum

Critics of more aggressive email strategies recommend you treat unsubscribes as the cautionary metric, signaling potential losses in terms of Customer Lifetime Value (CLTV). For instance, if a brand decides to send four emails a week instead of three and experiences a loss of 200 subscribers as a result, detractors argue that you need to assign a CLTV (let's say $100) to each unsubscribe resulting in a staggering cost of $20,000 over the next 3 to 7 years, depending on the product or service.

I propose a more pragmatic like for like view, by evaluating this cost in weekly terms. Breaking down the $20,000 cost over 3 to 5 years into a weekly figure yields $128 to $77 (let's call it $100). This reframing of the perceived financial impact makes cost-benefit analysis more straightforward, allowing you to calculate whether an additional email truly constitutes a substantial cost to the business.

Consistently, I've underscored the need to weigh perceived costs against potential upside when determining the optimal email frequency. For example, a brand with a CLTV of $100 and a list of 1 million subscribers could at a conservative estimate gain between $5,000 - $20,000 a week (let's call it $10k). Comparing this potential revenue gain against the perceived downside of around $100 makes a compelling case for increasing frequency from 3 to 4 emails a week.

Test your way to optimum frequency

Addressing the frequently asked question of "how many is too many?" or its variation, "The business wants me to send more email—how can I stop them?" This simple test provides a strategic roadmap. To safely send more, create a statistically significant test segment and expose them to a heightened frequency (four emails a week), maintaining the current frequency of three for the rest. Run the test for at least a month, then analyze the results for an informed decision based on empirical evidence.

For those concerned about sending too many, the reverse test is effective. Create a statistically significant test segment exposed to a lower frequency (three emails a week), maintaining the standard frequency for the rest. Analyze metrics as described above.

This test offers a strategic roadmap for marketers grappling with determining the optimum email frequency, providing data and insights beyond surface-level metrics and into the heart of effective email marketing strategy. As you navigate the ever-changing currents of email marketing, may this simple test help you find the balance between engagement, revenue, and subscriber satisfaction.

Learn to love unsubscribes

It's crucial to acknowledge that not all unsubscribes are detrimental. Some subscribers may have genuinely moved on, no longer requiring the brand's services. Others might have joined the list for a one-time purchase. Regardless, a significant proportion of unsubscribes would probably happen anyway. In my view, unsubscribes of this type are an essential part of healthy list maintenance.

Content matters!

A good marketer with quality content, good design and well thought out offers, will likely be able to send more emails a week than a poor marketer and will generally do better for any given frequency be that 3,4,5 even 20 emails a week.

In Conclusion: The Delicate Dance of Email Frequency

To sum it up, deciding how often to send emails doesn't have to be difficult or guesswork. It's all about testing to find the right balance between keeping people interested and not losing too many subscribers. Brands need a like-for-like comparison to weigh up the costs and benefits when deciding whether to send more or fewer emails. Managing a list that's both active and interested while making money is like a careful dance. Every decision in email marketing shapes how people see and engage with a brand over time, so make sure your decisions are based on all the data, not just unsubscribes.

A final word on Deliverability

My advice never applies to folk with any issues with deliverability.