Email Frequency Matters For Path To The White House
In the second piece of this four-part series, columnist Tom Sather takes a look at the email campaigns of the presidential contenders and explains why overmailing and undermailing both carry risks.
In my last column, I discussed the importance of list size and deliverability and how that impacts reach and engagement. The other important component in this equation is frequency and cadence, and is one of many factors that the Obama campaign tested during his re-election campaign to drive $500 million in donations.
Done improperly, the frequency of email campaigns can have negative consequences.
Undermailing Has Risks
When most people think of email frequency, they think of the consequences of overmailing. However, undermailing can be just as devastating as overmailing for a number of reasons.
First, mailing too little is a missed opportunity. For retailers, it means fewer chances to spur customers to purchase, and in the case of presidential elections, it’s fewer chances to receive donations and to inform voters of key messages and events.
The inbox is also an extremely crowded place where users go with usually two goals: read what’s important to me and delete, delete, delete. The lack of an inbox presence could mean lack of brand recognition in the long run.
Undermailing can also have negative consequences on deliverability. If brand recognition is damaged through undermailing, subscribers may find themselves scratching their heads wondering “Who is this?” and then reporting the email as spam since they do not recall giving the sender permission to email them.
A lower volume of email also means that subscriber complaints may have a stronger effect on inbox placement.
Sending too infrequently additionally means that reputation-based spam filters have a harder time predicting if your mail is wanted or not, and provides fewer chances for marketers to clean their lists from bounces and spam traps.
Effects Of Overmailing
Overmailing is a concept better understood by most marketers. Send too much email and subscribers become annoyed and unsubscribe or report the email as spam. They may also just take the approach of ignoring your emails and delete them as they come or set up a rule in their inbox to delete future emails.
Considering Engagement And Frequency
When looking at optimizing frequency, it’s important to consider the engagement makeup of your list. By doing this, you can make a better judgment of how well your list will handle increases in frequency.
In Return Path’s (my employer) latest study, “Frequency Matters,” we looked at three types of accounts: primary, secondary and dead.
Primary accounts are email accounts that receive a mix of personal and promotional email. These individuals are fairly active in the inbox as well.
Secondary accounts are accounts that are used as a promotional catch-all. You may have one of these addresses that you always give to brands when they’re asking for your email address.
Dead accounts are addresses that rarely interact with any messages in their inbox. They’re more likely a mix of secondary accounts that are rarely checked or they’re addresses that have been abandoned.
In the study, we found that the primary accounts accounted for slightly less than 25% of top retailers’ email lists, but accounted for a whopping 83% of all reads and 50% of all subscriber complaints. Not only are these your most loyal subscribers, but they’re also the most sensitive. Increasing frequency to this segment should be done with care.
Secondary accounts made up 67% of total lists, 49% of all complaints and only 16% of reads/opens. Dead accounts were less than 10% of lists, and only made up 1% of reads/opens and complaints.
While most best practices recommend focusing on increasing frequency at the primary — because they’re your biggest fans and least likely to complain — that’s not the case at all. And the people who recommend cutting the secondary and dead accounts because they perceive them to be more “grumpy” are also wrong.
How Frequency Matters In The Presidential Race
In the case of the presidential contenders, my column last month looked at list size, deliverability and reach, and read rates; the results showed that Ron Paul would likely “win” or at least have a competitive advantage over the others.
If we take frequency into the picture, things change dramatically. While more have thrown in their hat for the Republican nomination, I only looked at the candidates from last month’s analysis.
|Primary||Secondary||Dead||Primary Reads||Secondary Reads||Dead Reads||Primary Frequency||Secondary Frequency||Dead Frequency|
Source: Return Path, Frequency Finder
Rand Paul not only had the largest subscriber list, he also had the most subscribers with primary accounts signaling strong list acquisition practices, and an active and interested subscriber base. Carly Fiorina had the lowest number of active subscribers with only 36% of her list being a primary email address.
All candidates had low numbers of dead email address, but Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio had twice as many as the others (2% vs. 1%).
Presidential Hopefuls And Frequency Reach
When looking at frequency relative to the the candidate with the largest frequency reach, Paul loses much of his competitive advantage to Hillary Clinton, thanks to frequency. Clinton sent three per week to primary addresses, two per week for secondary, and only one email a week to dead addresses. Paul sent one email per week regardless of engagement.
When you look at the size of each email list, engagement and frequency breakout, Clinton is on nearly equal footing with Paul. Fiorina’s frequency is less than weekly, so her numbers weren’t included in this chart, but Rubio’s reach was 67% less than that of Paul and Clinton.
None of the candidates were sending so frequently that it caused higher-than-average complaint levels. Most were fairly conservative with their sending frequency, with the exception of Clinton intelligently sending more to her active base and less to the less engaged.
While we can’t tell yet how much was raised through donations from these candidates, Obama’s campaign learned that sending more indeed resulted in more donations, and likely more brand awareness. In the next column, we’ll look at how the candidates are optimizing subject lines for higher opens and donations.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.