We had a great meeting this week with a prospective client where we were focused primarily on SEO. As an Inbound Marketing agency, we obviously took a step back from the SEO discussion to evaluate more of the overall goal of the site and what desired actions are when a visitor arrives. As we talked through the scenarios and got into email marketing directly to some of their leads, a great question was asked that I think is worth exploring in a bit more detail. The question was around frequency and follow up and was basically:
Won't this visitor feel like we're spamming them?
The general answer here is... it depends.
First, Is Your List Segmented?
I wrote a post a couple weeks back on the importance of segmenting your email marketing list so I won't go deep on it here. As a quick refresher, it's one thing to have a list of 100,000 email addresses with their names. It something completely different to know the interests and further segmenting details of those 100K people. That last word there, people, is how we need to look at our list. Those people have varying needs in most cases. Some are interested in support for a product they already bought. Some are trying to make a buying decision. Some are just beginning to research their problem and don't even know what all of the options are to solve it.
The bottom line is, you need to segment your list to reach the groups on a more personal level if you want to effective results.
Use Your Buyer's Journey To Determine Email Marketing Frequency
We have written about the buyer's journey in the past as well. Basically, at a very high level you have 3 stages of a buyer's journey:
- The awareness stage - buyer knows they have a problem that needs solved but may not have a clue how to solve it
- The consideration stage - buyer has identified some potential solutions and is comparing their options
- The decision stage - buyer has selected you
How we communicate in our marketing should be determined in part by where a lead is in their buyer's journey. We will send newly closed customers very different marketing messages than those looking to identify what their actual problem is. Likewise, we will send a different type of email to leads that are in the consideration stage. Additionally, the frequency of emails will be different.
An Example - A Tourism Agency
An example may be helpful so let's use a tourism agency. Their goal is to get the visitors to their website to choose their geographic region to take a vacation with their family. It's not enough to focus solely on getting those types of visitors to the agency's website. You also need to focus on how you will stay in front of them and keep them from losing interest while they research the other geographic regions they are considering. Most of these visitors are already in the consideration stage. They know what problem they're solving. They're looking for a solution to where they should vacation next summer.
As they are researching their options, the agency that supports the consideration stage the best will win. So how do you do that with Email Marketing?
First and foremost, your site needs to have great content. If you've read any of our posts, you should know that. The freely available content on your site needs to direct your visitors to "next step" content that will convert the visitor into a lead, by having them provide an email address and their name. Once you have that information, you need to stay in front of them.
This is where frequency is important. Additionally, the quality of your content is important. If your content is generic with little relation to what the visitor showed interest in, it won't work. The email content you send needs to truly add value for the lead based on their position in the consideration stage. In this case you want to send them emails in shorter intervals around making their decision to choose the agency's geographic region easier.
You may decide that after the lead converts, you should follow up the next day. Then, another follow up 2 days later and again in 2 more days. The great thing is, with a platform like MailChimp, you can automate the email marketing follow up.
There's No Cookie Cutter Solution
There's no cookie cutter approach to email automation frequency. We recommend starting by using your "gut" feeling. Adjust from there. Testing the results and your approach is the best way to perfect your frequency. From a competitive standpoint, you may also try to become a lead on your competitors' websites and see how frequently they follow up. You may find that they are doing a poor job. You may also find that they are doing a better job than you. Either way, you'll learn more about how to adjust your approach.