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How Much Is Too Much Email Communication?

How Much Is Too Much Email Communication?


By Dr. Samantha Bietsch
Faculty Member, School of Business, American Public University

When you hear your smartphone ring or your computer beep to indicate the arrival of a new email, there is a good chance the email alert is for a sales solicitation or a marketing email by a company you may or may not know. These emails come in by the dozens and fill up your email box almost daily.

I am a marketer. I understand solicitors’ need to use electronic communications to help spread the word about new products, upcoming promotions or to keep their name in mind. I’ll even admit that some of these emails get me to go to their websites to browse or make purchases with my coupon code.

But there are other times when I just unsubscribe from those emails. My frequent unsubscribing has made me think about companies’ online strategies. I want to understand how marketers can best do their job without crossing the line of making consumers want to opt out altogether.

When you try to unsubscribe, a company will ask if you want to simply decrease the frequency of their emails rather than unsubscribe from them altogether. Even if a consumer decides to accept further solicitations, but at a decreased frequency, the company already has one strike against it.

How can marketers foster online relationships and boost their marketing skills without their solicitations upsetting consumers?

Emails Discourage Consumers if They Are Too Frequent

The law of diminishing marginal returns states that as we increase consumption of any given product in equal increments, their marginal utility declines. Repetition is the key.

However, we also need to consider that marketing materials have their own usefulness before consumers reach the threshold where those marketing pieces no longer do their jobs. It is also essential to avoid overdoing marketing messages to the point that consumers unsubscribe or simply delete promotional emails without reading them. That happens because consumers are hounded by too many email solicitations.

E-Marketing Enables Companies to Remain Competitive

It is no secret that to compete in the market today, an e-marketing strategy is a must. In their 2014 book “E-Commerce Essentials,” New York e-commerce expert Kenneth C. Laudon and writer Carol Guercio Traver write: “In 1994, e-commerce as we now know it did not exist. In 2012, less than 20 years later, around 150 million American consumers spend about $362 billion and business [spends] more than $4.1 trillion purchasing goods and services online or via a mobile device.”

With such an increase in online activity, it’s important for marketers to capitalize on this opportunity because an estimated one in four Americans makes at least one online purchase a week. That translates to 70% of Facebook users interacting with a company’s social media site daily and the average smartphone user picking up a phone about 1,500 times a week.

Having a strong online presence is not just to boost e-commerce sales. Social media can help marketers interact, engage and connect with their target market. Corporate blogs can give consumers a way to follow and connect with a company.

The online possibilities and opportunities are endless for marketers. It seems almost “wrong” to ever encourage marketers to limit their initiatives to gain marketing utility.

Furthermore, even if consumers are deleting our marketing emails, they are still seeing our name pop up in their inbox. Isn’t that worthwhile?

Social Media Marketing Considered Less Pushy than Email Marketing

Social media has a lot of interesting features that allow us to often reach consumers in a more casual and less pushy manner than email. “In fact, marketing in the social media is fundamentally different from conventional marketing,” Arizona business expert Martin Zwilling wrote in an August 2013 Forbes article. “The depth in which connections can be made with the ‘audience’ or ‘customers’ is far greater than it possibly can be with any other medium.”

Social media typically does not create direct commerce pieces, but it does generate money by working on customer retention and building brand equity. It’s important to stay active on a social media site to keep customers coming back.

On social media, it is hard to overstay your welcome. This area of your online strategy should be open for daily marketing efforts to give consumers a reason to frequent your site.

Is There Any Danger in Too Much Social Media Activity?

“Posting the same types of content again and again can convey the impression that your brand is boring, uncreative or just not in tune with your audience. Instead of posting link after link or quote after quote, change things up by posting a wide variety of content,” advises Jayson DeMers, founder and CEO of AudienceBloom, a content marketing firm in Seattle, Washington.

Lessons Email Marketers Can Learn from Social Media Marketing

It’s important that online marketing strategies help companies reach consumers without damaging the brand or the customer relationships. However, email can overextend itself. Choosing the best frequency for sending emails is challenging, since we are looking to maximize response without over-mailing materials.

Email correspondence should have a notable point. Think about your email correspondence. Is there a purpose to every email you send? If you are not sure of your email’s point, then your customers won’t be sure, either.

There is no question that businesses are abusing their email marketing relationships because the cost of email marketing is low. Instead of finding the optimal frequency of about one email a week, many businesses send out emails every day.

That practice causes consumers to unsubscribe from the emails and unfollow those businesses on social media. Too many emails can permanently damage the brand image in consumers’ eyes. According to one study, 73% of respondents said that frequency was the main reason for opting out of future emails.

Understanding optimal frequency is important for the appropriate use of email marketing and to engage with consumers. Marketers should remember that just because it’s cost-efficient to email does not mean they should not be monitoring their strategy in the following ways:

  • How many “unsubscribes” is the company receiving?
  • How many people are opening the emails?
  • How many people are clicking on company links?

Monitoring this type of information is a great way to gauge how well your marketing pieces are being received.

Best Marketing Email Rate: Once per Week

Ideally, marketers should aim for an optimal rate of one email a week with information on promotions, coupons or discounts. Furthermore, employing an “opt-in” approach as well as making emails compatible with smartphones is good practice.

About the Author

Dr. Samantha Bietsch is an associate professor with the School of Business. She holds a B.B.A. in marketing and advertising from Northwood University, an M.B.A. in finance and accounting from American InterContinental University and a D.B.A. in business administration from Argosy University.



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