November 12, 2018

The email frequency / length trade-off

I remember copywriter Drayton Bird commenting that in his vast experience, a well written 2000 word email should always outperform a well written 400 word email.

Which is fine, in principle. But in reality there is a trade-off.

I send five of these emails a week. Some of them are batch produced ahead of schedule, but most get written the day before. If an email isn’t scheduled in my email platform by 9PM the night before, it won’t get sent. (My 9-month son Hugo sees to that!)

So I have a trade-off in production. I could send you one 2000 word email per week. Or I can divide that work across five 400 word emails. You can test this, but your best customers usually want to hear from you at a higher frequency. Everybody else doesn’t matter so much. The bottom 20% of your list will complain vociferously whatever frequency you set, and never buy anything.

Recency matters more than anything else. Every contact on your list is going colder, all the time. The longer you don’t mail, the less likely an interested buyer is to read when you do send. Only cater to interested buyers: all other opinions on frequency are irrelevant.

You have to play around with the length / frequency trade-off, and find out what works for you and your audience. But I find that most people set publishing schedules based on assumptions rather than reality.

Another risk of writing a longer email is it’s easy to cover more than one core idea. Each email you send should only cover one thing. The idea behind this email is the ‘length and frequency trade-off’. Which is technically two things but one idea.

The logical development of this idea would be to talk about tracking measures you can put in place, or ways to split-test email sequences of different length and frequency. Both both of these would be new ideas, best saved for their own email.

I could then pull together all of these things in a longer format, such as my print newsletter or a book. It’s possible to write a book in five months by publishing in this way.

As it is, we’ll talk about tracking tomorrow, and split-testing on Wednesday :-).


P.S. Before editing this post was 386 words, including the postscript…

Rob Drummond

Rob Drummond runs the Maze Marketing Podcast and Maze Mastery. Rob specialises in content production, ad creation, storytelling and CRM systems. He has two published books, Magnetic Expertise and Simple Story Selling, affordable on Amazon.