Your small business email newsletter may be the most important weapon in your digital marketing arsenal. Once you have a prospective customer’s email address, preferably because they gave you permission to email them, you have an invitation to the most effective digital method of driving business.
But to hold on to that fertile ground, you have to respect the inbox. That respect starts with how frequently you put something in it.
So how often should you send a small business email newsletter? The answer, as is the case in much of marketing, is, “It depends.”
Planning Questions for a Small Business Email Newsletter
Small business email newsletter frequency depends on the answers to a few questions. You need to know:
- What’s the intention of your newsletter? To inform or entertain? Or is it to sell things?
- How often do you have something new to say or sell?
- How frequently do your average customers transact with you?
- How long is your sales cycle to get a prospect to purchase something?
- Is your newsletter separate or different from any marketing automation emails sent to nurture customers along?
Most successful small business email newsletters aren’t meant to directly sell things. They’re about providing information or education about the products or services offered, or helping prospective customers with some pain point. Sure, the occasional ask to buy may happen, but the newsletter is something you want people to read, not an ad circular.
Some small business email newsletters are also very different from the email marketing that happens through automation and sales funnel nurturing. Using marketing automation software and lead-generation techniques, companies send customized emails in a planned pattern over time to move a prospect from interest to purchase, along a buyer’s journey.
But let’s keep it simple for your small business email newsletter. Let’s say you want to continually engage your prospects and customers to keep your business top-of-mind for their next purchase. But you do want to offer incentives to speed up the cycle. If you are a retail store that sells dozens of products, you can be informative about the lifestyle of the people you sell to, while offering a coupon or incentive to come into the store on a weekly or even daily basis. The success will depend on how useful the content or irresistible the offers are. If you’re a business-to-business (B2B) company selling one, big, expensive thing, daily is overkill. Weekly may be as well. Bi-weekly may work better, but monthly is probably not enough.
You may be thinking, “Well? How do I know?”
Start sending your email newsletter bi-weekly. Do it for 6-8 weeks and make sure you track your stats — open rates, shares, clicks, replies and conversions. But also track unsubscribes. Now go to every week for 6-8 weeks. Compare the stats. If your unsubscribe rate doesn’t increase, test it at twice a week. When you start to see people opt out, you know what your limits are for frequency.
Did I just recommend a 2-4 month test to figure this out? Yes I did. Why? Because that’s the only reliable way to reach a meaningful conclusion. And, as hard a pill as it is to swallow, getting good at marketing takes time and work. There are no easy buttons here.
I did find one example of a blogger who did his own test. Check it out over at Joshua Earl’s place.
My idea assumes you don’t have time or the know-how yet to segment audiences and send different frequencies to each group simultaneously. That speeds up your test. But the true way to know what frequency works is to gradually move the test up in increments until you begin to see drop-off.
It’s Your Small Business Email Newsletter’s Turn
So, test your small business email newsletter. Tell us what you’re doing now in terms of frequency. Then come back to the page in a month and tell us what you tried and how it turned out. The comments are always yours!