It's a tempting idea during tough economic times: Turn up the volume of e-mails you send to customers and prospects in hopes of boosting revenue. But when it comes to sending out marketing e-mails, sometimes less is more, said Aaron Smith, principal and co-founder of Smith-Harmon, a Seattle-based e-mail marketing, strategy and creative services provider.
“E-mail is such a low-cost channel to send that people have the impression they can keep pulling that lever,” he said. “There's a saturation level in the inbox that is unprecedented right now, and you are far more likely to oversaturate your customer base, upset them and turn them off.”
If senior management implores you to start cranking out more e-mails, there are some strong arguments you can make about why that could be a bad idea, Smith said. He offers the following counterpoints:
Lower lifetime value.
Subscribers are more likely to tune you out or drop off your list if you send them too many e-mails, Smith said. The average value of an e-mail address is $118, he said, and if subscribers are bombarded with messages and ignore them, the return on investment diminishes. “You'll have a higher list churn, and you'll have to work harder to bring new people onto your list,” he said.
Higher spam complaints.
The more mail you send, the more likely you are to attract the attention of ISPs and people who report you as spam, Smith said. “People are marking you as spam even if they've already signed up as a subscriber,” he said. “It's a trend that's really picking up steam now.” If you're just sending more e-mails without crafting worthwhile messages, you will experience higher spam complaints, he said.
B-to-b marketers rely on e-mail for lead generation and can't afford to anger subscribers with too many messages. “It's possible that you can upset someone so much with your e-mails that they'll punish you in other channels,” said Smith, who added he's talked to people who say they got so much e-mail from a company they stopped doing business with it. “Brand damage is the antithesis of what you want as a marketer,” he said. “It's another hurdle you have to overcome to close a deal.”
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Originally published June 18, 2009