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How Much is Too Much?

There’s probably still not a week that goes by when we’re not asked that old question, “How often should we be sending email to our list?” And while we’d all like to have the one, single answer that applies universally to each vertical, the answer, like so many others, is, “It depends.” It almost certainly depends upon what you’re sending let alone what you’re sending to whom. Deep discount retailers like Gilt and Rue La La send multiple offers on a daily basis without any problem. They even send a Sunday evening alert announcing what will be offered on Monday. Direct Buy sends its members special offers on a daily basis without driving up unsubscribes and actually uses these daily offers as an added incentive to join.

Contrast that frequency with banks and credit union that are typically at the other end of the spectrum. I was told recently by one bank that the board of directors had actually weighed in on the topic and felt that once a quarter sounded about right. As wrong as I personally felt that perception was, without supporting data and well-structured research, that opinion was no more sound than mine. So, what’s the answer?

The answer is dependent on all sorts of variables…all of which are testable. So, start slowly with one message a month if you’re overly concerned about upsetting your recipients. (Few are going to be upset with one email a month.) Then, select a random sample group and increase the message frequency to that group to twice a month and see what happens. If your unsubscribe rate increases appreciably, you may want to learn more about what types of recipients are actually unsubscribing. This is especially important if those unsubscribers are within the top 20% of your customers who control 80% of your business. Clearly, we do not want to drive off that group by over-messaging them.

On the other hand, if there is no significant increase in opt-outs, then double the twice-a-month test frequency to once a week and again, see what happens. If your offers are less than engaging, are the same as last week’s message, and/or not compelling from the recipient’s standpoint, there is a far greater likelihood that you’ll experience a substantial increase in unsubscribes thus deciding to revert back to the lower frequency. But, the answer is not just about frequency. It’s also about your content and the appeal of the offers you make to your recipients.

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Harland Clarke Corp. is a leading provider of best-in-class integrated payment solutions and marketing services, serving multiple industries including financial services, retail, healthcare, insurance, and telecommunications.

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