Merrily Orsini's Thought Leadership

How many is one too many?

e-mail: In today’s day and age, it’s the most efficient, cost-effective and salient means of reaching your clients or potential clients. Online service providers such as Constant Contact make it easy to regularly get your name in front of your prospective customers’ eyes through the distribution of eNewsletters. With the aid of some arresting graphics and a subject line written to grab the reader by the lapels, you’ll have their attention the moment your e-mail reaches their Inbox. As long as you also give them something that they want to read.

One of the best parts is that it’s cheap and it’s easy. There are no stamps, no envelopes, no having to distinguish between First Class and Standard Overnight delivery. It’s quick. It’s free. And it takes little to no effort.

Which is why e-mail is one of the most abused forms of marketing in the 21st century.

The ease that accompanies e-mail marketing means that far too many marketers feel no impetus to get it right. They fail to learn the dos and don’ts of e-mail marketing, and as a result, they send out too many e-mails. Even worse, those e-mails often contain information that is irrelevant and fails to hold the attention of the reader.

We all know what happens then, because we’ve all been on the receiving end of these e-mails. Goodbye Inbox. Hello trashcan.

NPR’s Yuki Noguchi comments on email overload at NPR. Take heed.

Irate readers are not the only downside to a lackadaisical e-mail marketing strategy. If the e-mail is classified as “Spam,” there could be legal penalties. Just ask Jeremy Jaynes, the first U.S. citizen to be prosecuted via anti-spam legislation. In 2005, he was sentenced to nine years in prison.
So what can you do to keep your e-mails out of the spam can? Here are some tips.

1) Don’t wear out your welcome. It’s one thing when an old college buddy shows up on your doorstep for dinner once a month. When they start popping up daily, you know it’s time to throw down the gauntlet. It’s the same with e-mail. If you send e-newsletters too often, you’ll find your readers unsubscribing in bucketloads.

There are no hard and fast rules on how much is too much. Monthly e-mails are fine. You’re maybe safe with two a month, but weekly may be overload for many.

“Most of the time you will find that a lot more people will open your e-mails when you send occasional e-mails,” writes James Woolley in an article for ezinearticles.com. “I personally send no more than one or two messages a week and have always found this to be the most profitable strategy.”

2) …But don’t be a stranger either.  In the same article, Woolley warns that infrequent e-mails, or e-mails that come too rarely to have any effect, do nothing to help your marketing message.

“If you start e-mailing them after a very long absence, they may mistake you for a spammer,” he writes. “Even if they don’t, your open rates are likely to be low because a lot of people will have forgotten who you are.”

According to Woolley, an absence of e-mails of longer than two months will start to do damage to your brand.

3) Use the carrot and the stick approach. Readers want valuable information. They’re much less tolerant of advertising and irrelevant data. An e-mail that is pure advertising is likely to get their dander up, even if it’s only a monthly communication. Instead, give them a reward for taking the time to read your e-newsletter. Provide helpful tips and free information about things they care about before you start advertising. It’s simple courtesy.

4) Resist recession panic. There’s no denying the fact that the worldwide economic recession has slowed the income of most businesses. When that happens, some marketers might be tempted to send more e-mails to corral more customers. Bad idea, according to Aaron Smith, principal and co-founder of Smith-Harmon, a provider of e-mail marketing.

“E-mail is such a low-cost channel to send that people have the impression they can keep pulling that lever,” he told BtoB Magazine. “There’s a saturation level in the Inbox that is unprecedented right now, and you are far more likely to oversaturate your customer base, upset them and turn them off.”

The moral of the story: don’t let bad times trick you into breaking the rules of e-mail etiquette.  Too busy to implement these yourself?  Check out our newly launched email marketing service, careconnect for home care agencies.