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The “Too many emails?” post in 37signals‘ excellent ‘Signal vs. Noise‘ blog got us thinking about email frequency. Why don’t we see more newsletters that give us the option of specifying how regularly we receive email, instead of simply providing an unsubscribe link? After all, our main reason for unsubscribing from an email often doesn’t come down to the relevance of content, but simply receiving too much relevant content.

The good news for senders is that it’s not too difficult to setup a preference center so your subscribers can state their desired email frequency and change their subscription details. For example, a subscriber may only want to receive email on a weekly basis. If they’re a Gmail user, they may also choose to append their email address to have email from you tagged in specific ways by the email client (eg. widgetfan+widgetlist@abcdesign.com). Here’s a snappy article on using a preference center to retain subscribers.

So, if you’re currently sending a weekly newsletter, consider aggregating your best content into a fortnightly, or monthly newsletter, as well. This might sound a little tedious, but in terms of list retention, it sure beats losing your subscribers when all they want is less-frequent messages from you. Mark Brownlow from Email Marketing Reports has an excellent blog post on email frequency – it’s a must-read if you’re seeking to optimize the return on your email campaigns.

In a 2009 report, 73% of survey respondents cited “sending too frequently” as the main reason for opting out of an email mailing list. Even if your subscribers want hear from you only once a month, it’s better than never, so perhaps it’s time to give them more control over the email that they receive.

What are your thoughts on email frequency? Do you find that your monthly newsletter is more successful than regular updates, or vice versa? Let us know in the comments below.

  • Nate Klaiber

    I couldn’t agree more with this. I have always liked mailing lists that let you set the preference, so I could receive a batch of them once a week (digest), versus getting flooded with emails everyday.

    So in this scenario, if you send out 3 newsletters a month – would the end user receive the ‘batch’ of those newsletters, or just the most recent one?

    Regardless, I love having this option

  • Ros Hodgekiss

    Hi Nate, at present this is a fairly manual process that will require you to segment your lists and build each newsletter version (weekly/fortnightly/monthly etc…) yourself. So your subscribers should receive only one newsletter version, based on their preferred frequency (ie. if they sign up for a monthly newsletter, they shouldn’t be getting weekly newsletters, too).

    This may be a bit of extra work, but in terms of subscriber retention, it should make a difference!

  • Bart

    I think it depends on the type of newsletter. We are sending out jobs (one job per mail) on an irregular basis but try to limit it to two mails per week. We could combine all those jobs and send one mail per month (containing approx eight jobs) but we think you want to be notified immediately about that hot job and not wait a month to get a combined mail. Would like to hear your thought on this.

  • Ros Hodgekiss

    Hi Bart, totally agree – it all depends on the time sensitivity of the message. For example, we can afford to aggregate our news into a monthly newsletter (thankfully email and design tips don’t depreciate in value that quickly), however this isn’t the case for jobs, weather updates or weekend sales. As always, context should guide the use of any tactic.

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