When I began working in marketing and sales one of the primary promotional tactics we used was direct mail. Yes, I know I’m dating myself a bit but at least I didn’t say I started by carving marketing messages in hieroglyphics on a stone wall somewhere.
During that time I attended a conference on direct-mail marketing provided by a well-known provider of seminars throughout the country. At the start of the program, a few of the attendees joked with the facilitator that the marketing department of the training company should take his class. We commented that once we were on their mailing list it seemed we would receive four or five marketing pieces a week. On occasion I had even received two of the same direct mail pieces on their seminars on the same day. Many of us agreed that most of their mail would be met with a level of disgust along with a Frisbee-like toss right into the circular file. To that our instructor smirked and replied:
“Yeah, you never want your marketing to be associated with crap.”
Obviously that response stuck with me for several years. The memory returned to my stream of consciousness recently, first during a discussion on text marketing and then later while attending a seminar on e-mail promotion. The questions on frequency were expressed in a similar fashion in regards to today’s online marketing tools.
Again the conversation centered upon not letting your marketing messages become associated with crap. What exactly is the optimum frequency? How often should brand messages be sent in order to cut through the noise without becoming an annoyance to your target audience?
Many experts say it takes approximately seven exposures to result in a sale. I’m one of those experts that agreed with this assessment based upon studies of attention span and how we process information. In fact, I say that today it takes much more than seven exposures. In my book, The Formula for Business Success = B+C+S, I call it my “Baker’s Dozen Theory of Comprehension.”
However, that still doesn’t truly answer the question of frequency. Should we then send seven text messages, e-mails, or a combination thereof within a span of one hour? This certainly wouldn’t work for every product or service.
To some degree determining the optimum frequency comes down to instinct and common sense. Do you feel you are truly staying in touch and educating your audience about a valuable service or are you just being a nag? We can learn from a personal experience of mine regarding flowers. I have purchased flowers for my wife from a few different sources but two in particular were 1–800 Flowers and a local shop known as The Enchanted Florist. I made it on both of their e-mail lists.
Shortly after my purchase I began receiving promotional emails from 1–800 Flowers. The e-mails began at a frequency of what seemed like at least four per week. Shortly thereafter I began receiving 1–800 Flowers e-mails twice a day or more and almost always around the same time of day. It was becoming comical. I’d have my smartphone sitting on the coffee table while watching TV and around 10:01 pm my wife and I would hear a buzz. We’d look at each other and laugh while saying “1–800 Flowers, right?” Once the email frequency ceased to be amusing, and creeped into the inevitable stage of irritating, I unsubscribed to their list.
The timing of emails received from The Enchanted Florist seem to come about once every two weeks on average. I find that I appreciate those occasional e-mails. So does my wife since they nicely remind me, “Oh yeah, I should send her some flowers today.” It allows her to make all the other women in her office jealous and makes me look like the husband of the year…well at least maybe the husband of the day. Regardless, the emails I receive from the local shop feel welcomed to me and rarely seem like an annoyance.
It’s possible your product or service may benefit from a greater frequency of marketing than simply every other week. Regardless, the key is for the receiver to feel like I did in the latter situation. Here are a few questions to ask yourself to help determine if the frequency of your messages is nearing the optimum level:
- Am I truly providing new and valuable information or education related to my product or service?
- Are the number of unsubscribes increasing with each message sent?
- Am I getting good responses to my messages, i.e. legitimate questions concerning your product or service?
- And the obvious, are my e-mail marketing efforts resulting in sales?
The optimum frequency of marketing messages is not an exact science. There will be some trial and error. However, as with most strategies, if you continue to tweak and hone your approach you will find what works best for your business. So let’s try to heed the advice of my instructor from way back when and don’t let your marketing be associated with crap. Unless you’re selling toilet paper, it’s a bad brand association.