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Evidence, Please: Expert Responds

By Ken Magill
Derek Harding, managing director of Javelin Labs, last week responded to my call for evidence that increasing email volume—and increasing email volume alone—hurts permission-based email marketing programs.
For the last two weeks, I have been asserting that industry conventional wisdom that permission-based email marketers should strive to send fewer email campaigns is BS. Multiple experts have told me that when their clients send more email, they invariably make more money.
I have been calling for evidence to the contrary.
Harding provided some.
In an email to me, he wrote:
During the run up to Black Friday, a company we work with upped their mailing volume considerably. By considerably I mean I received 2 messages a day up to Black Friday and five on Black Friday. To my knowledge frequency is all they changed. I don't have visibility of all the impacts but I'm attaching their senderscore graph.
[SenderScore is a service that email intelligence firm Return Path offers to help marketers determine their email reputation.]
As you can see as they upped their volume down went their rating. Generally speaking, if you're below 90 you may well experience bulking and blocking [getting email sent to the spam folder or blocked altogether]. Their score hit 71 yesterday while before upping their volume they were holding close to 100.
Is this definitive proof that high volume harms programs? No of course not. However it is evidence that you have to be careful and that just sending more email is not an entirely safe tactic.
When I responded that it wasn’t necessarily the solid evidence I was looking for, Harding rightly pointed out that in order to get the kind of evidence I want, a marketer would have to stand up and say “look what a failure we are.”
Fair enough.
Harding finished our exchange with points worth considering:
I think that many companies can send more than they do, no question. I don't see that as a blanket statement though for the following reason. 
There is an upper limit on frequency, we all recognize that. If we take sending more as a blanket statement we have to also presume that virtually all companies are sending less than they should/could. To put it another way, everyone has got their frequency wrong. I think that's a poor assumption to make and frankly insulting to every email marketer.
I think marketers should test their campaign frequency based on their own KPIs [key performance indicators]. Those KPIs may not (only) be per-campaign attributable revenue. Long term revenue, customer retention, brand perception, content and resources can all affect your ideal frequency. So "send more" sounds great and creates buzz. But like many such statements I find it simplistic and hence limited in applicability.

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Terms: Feel free to be as big a jerk as you want, but don't attack anyone other than me personally. And don't criticize people or companies other than me anonymously. Got something crappy to say? Say it under your real name. Anonymous potshots and personal attacks aimed at me, however, are fine.

Posted by: Derek Harding
Date: 2014-12-11 13:19:42
Subject: You're right

Hi Chris, you're correct but that wasn't the correlation I was making. I was not arguing that volume decreases deliverability. I was asked if increasing volume affects deliverability. What I showed was what can happen to a permission marketing brand when they increase volume without being careful. My apologies if that was not clear. My view is that increasing volume does not automatically harm deliverability however it can do. As I said many marketers can stand to increase volume however they should do so with some caution as there can be side-effects. Derek
Posted by: Chris Adams
Date: 2014-12-09 16:52:54
Subject: Mistaken Correlation

I too am not sure this is evidence that increased frequency hurts permission-based marketing programs. The drop in sender score here is not necessarily due to the volume of mail being sent, but the rapid shift in the volume being sent. Had the sender better prepared and on-ramped the increase in send volume, I highly doubt they would have seen such a drastic drop in their score. So, while I completely agree that a blanket "send more" rule probably doesn't apply across the board, I don't think a poorly executed strategy to increasing the frequency should be the litmus test of if it works or not. In short, if a sender is going to more than double their mail volume, they would be wise to do it in a more controlled manner, if Sender Score is important to them.