What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?

satdish“Sir, is there a hard and fast rule for how often one should send out content?” I asked The Effective Detective.

“Watson, you of all people should know by now that there is only one hard and fast rule: there are no hard and fast rules; certainly when it comes to marketing,” answered The Detective.

“My apologies sir, so any frequency will do?” I asked in return, certain that the absurdity of  my question would be answered with a devastatingly sarcastic response.

The Detective raised an eyebrow and gave me a look intended to wilt flowers. I braced myself, but then he smiled, and responded in a surprisingly mild manner.

“Clever, Watson. Let us actually examine the question you have raised. The question of how often you should send out content is a real concern for many marketers. Sadly, I have noticed an unfortunate tendency on the part of some to fall into an age-old trap: trying to please everyone,” The Detective paused briefly, long enough for me to interject with another question.

“I am confused sir, what does the frequency of contact with one’s list have to do with pleasing everyone?”

“Ah, Watson, now that is a more appropriate question for someone of your intellect and experience,” he replied. I sat back, realizing the sarcastic response had just been delayed. At this point I figured that retreat was the better part of valor and shut my mouth and listened to his response.

“The frequency of contact is a balancing act: too infrequent, people forget you, and either unsubscribe or simply ignore your emails. Too frequent, people are annoyed with you, and unsubscribe, and even worse, may report you as spam.

“We are all afraid of being labeled spammers so we err on the side of less frequent. Nothing wrong with that decision, per se, but then some of us make that fatal mistake: we try to please everyone, so we opt for the lowest possible reasonable frequency – often once a month, and end up pleasing no one,” The Detective paused here, waiting for my response, but I stubbornly remained silent.

“This is directly related to our belief that bigger is always better, so we take anyone on our list instead of aiming at our true market, which would welcome our emails,” The Detective paused again, and raised his eyebrow. I realized he would not stop until I asked a question so I relented and obliged.

“So there is no hard and fast number, but is there a range?” I asked.

“Bravo Watson, you have hit the nail on the head! If you are truly developing a high quality list, touching them much less than once a week is not advisable, once every other week if you are truly paranoid. Remember, not everyone opens every email! If you send out only once a month and someone misses one or two, they may perceive that they haven’t heard from you in months! You may want to include an offer once a month or so, and depending on the offer, you could include it in your regular email, or send a separate, in which case you would send two in one week.

“Here is the truly interesting point Watson. The real trick is not so much frequency, it is the content. If you cannot keep your content interesting and fresh, then any frequency won’t be right,” The Detective concluded. “Let’s move on then, shall we?”

“As you wish sir.”

To Double Opt or Not, That is the Question

checkout“I find this discussion about single opt-in versus double opt-in a challenge, sir,” I began my weekly discussion with The Effective Detective.

“A challenge, Watson? Pray, in what way?” The Detective responded with genuine curiosity.

“I see the point in using double opt-in as a way to ensure that people are truly interested in joining your list, but with the vagaries of email these days, isn’t it possible that you will lose some people’s interest? Haven’ t they already shown their interest by filling out the form or asking you to be put on their list?” I explained.

“Ah, that is a problem, Watson. The rise of spam has meant people are all the more cautious. Which is exactly why double opt-in is so valuable, especially when you are giving away valuable content. Let us not kid ourselves, we give away content to educate and entice. We want people to understand that we have something to offer them. Something that can help them, whether it is in their business or life,” The Detective paused, allowing me to, once again, jump in.

“Then why not utilize single opt-in, in fact, why not just take their general interest as a sign that we can begin to communicate with them?” I interjected.

The Detective gave me one of his sidelong glances, indicating he was about to school me in something. I sat back and waited to be schooled.

“Watson, this is what makes our weekly discussions so much fun. You invariably take a ‘devil’s advocate’ side. It is refreshing,” The Detective smiled.

“I try, sir,” getting one last word in edgewise.

“However, with possibly a few exceptions, double opt-in is the superior device. Tell me Watson, do you really want a list full of people who really aren’t paying attention after they have that initial give-away? Or would you rather have a list where at least the majority of members are reading at least some portion of your emails?” The Detective started. I sensed this was a rhetorical question and held my tongue to allow him to continue.

“The answer should be that you aim for quality. Single opt-in is more convenient for the user. However, single opt-ins are more likely to  opt-out of your list. They are more likely to forget that they gave you permission. They are less likely to open anything further from you. The reality is that if some of these huge lists that were built with minimal permission were required to re-opt-in the drop-out rate would be substantial.

“You should want to feed your pocket-book, not your ego. It really is as simple as that,” The Detective settled back into his chair.

“You said there were a few exceptions, sir,” I gingerly brought up.

“That discussion is for another time, Watson.”

“Of course, sir.”

The Mystery of the Missed Marketing Message

The Effective Detective was never a big one for newspapers (especially the ones that are mostly or all advertisements), being more of an email guy, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when he got a tad upset when I brought to his attention an ad he had missed concerning a favorite restaurant of his.

“What’s that Watson? One of my favorite restaurants not only has an entertainer I would enjoy, but a special? When shall we go?”

“I’m afraid all of that is in the past tense sir. Last week to be precise.”

“Confound it, Watson! I don’t read those bloody papers! I have enough to do already let alone leafing through a collection of coupons and offers I generally have no interest in, just to see if there might be one that catches my fancy.” It would seem I had started a minor storm.

“Well sir, I don’t think they could go about calling every one of their customers to let them know what is happening on a regular basis. Far more cost efficient to do the ad.” I offered, watching the sarcasm, knowing that might trigger a bigger storm.

“Bah!” The Detective spat out, “I have been to that restaurant countless times, you would think they would have some kind of loyalty program set up.”

“Perhaps sir, but not everyone has the time, or in particular the resources to organize and run such a thing, and where could they get your contact information?” I replied, playing devil’s advocate.

“Again… Bah!” The Detective retorted, “Just have a simple sign up sheet, then type in the name and email addresses into an email program and send out offers and notices through that! For heaven’s sake they could queue up any number of dates at once and then let it run on auto-pilot. If they send useful offers or information on a regular basis, I would actually be looking forward to their emails, instead of having to sift through these bloody papers. And, I wouldn’t have missed the one last week! ” The Detective finished with a sigh.

“I see your point,” I answered, “could this also be utilized by other non-food establishments?”

“Of course Watson! Any retail outlet could easily do the same thing!” The Detective shot back.

“What could they use to do such a thing?” I asked.

“There are any number of inexpensive services out there,” The Detective replied, starting to calm down again. “But that discussion is for another time.”

“Of course,” I nodded, “Of course.”