We often hear the question, “How often should I send email marketing announcements?”*
(In fact, we got exactly that question during a recent webinar!)
While the question seems straightforward, a single, perfect answer which can be universally applied doesn’t exist. Ask a dozen companies, get a dozen different replies. There’s no consensus in spite of impressive data gathering. Ultimately, it will be a little different for everyone, but we’ve thought about this question ourselves, and we have an answer we hope will help!
How Often Should You Send?
We can look at the answer to this question with another question, “How often do you want to receive information?”
You probably want to get it whenever there’s something important that you should know, right? And you’d rather not get it unless there’s something in it that’s valuable to you.
Email marketing is a persuasive communication too. You should send whenever you need your audience to know something valuable to you both you and the recipient. We can tell you what’s typical and what we’d recommend for most adult education programs. You know your content and audience best and should adapt as you see fit.
In general, marketing studies say that customers are happy to hear from you at least once a month, and most would be glad to hear from every week. So once a month is probably not quite enough, and 24 times a month is probably too much. The good news is that it leaves a lot of room for experimentation —as the saying goes, “Our best today and better tomorrow!”
There is a wide gap between those folks and the ones who are interested in daily contact, and it’s good to learn your audience’s preferences. Most email marketers send a minimum of 2-4 emails per month. (Also, every study seems to have its own “best” day or time, so there’s no magical answer. So send when it makes the most sense to you.)
A Sample Schedule
The best time to send a marketing email is when you want the recipient to act. Let’s look at a community education program focused on adult learners as an example. We’ll consider awareness and class registration as the end goals, with student enrollment to be the ultimate goal of the email marketing campaign.
Between 2-8 emails per month should be enough to get your message out to your entire list without being too much. You can start with only a few emails, increase the frequency when you have something that your recipient can act upon, then drop back to a lower level.
Most community education programs have a seasonal catalog with a defined start and end date to that season’s slate of offerings. Scheduling around a catalog would be a good way to start an email marketing campaign designed to increase student registrations. That means you’ll send when you want people to start registering, when you need to fill a class, and when someone needs a reminder. If you need to send more frequently over a brief period, go for it.
Over several months, you’d raise awareness and excitement, encourage people to “save the date” for registration, and finally directly ask recipients to register for classes.
We have some neat data that can help you plan your schedule.
Our CourseStorm user data shows us that nearly 60% of registrations are made just 30 days before the class runs and 20% happen the week before class starts with an increasing rush right up to the day classes are offered!
This email schedule is a good place to start if you’re an email marketing novice or you’re interested in trying out a new schedule. (Consider these guidelines rather than rules.)
30 DAYS BEFORE registration opens send a reminder that the registration date is coming. Include a couple of catalog highlights. If you can, send a calendar link so the recipient can add registration opening to their calendar.
7-14 DAYS BEFORE registration opens send a “Registration Opens Soon” email with a link so the recipient can view your catalog online (or pdf) and view class offerings in your course registration system. Remind that classes are coming and remind them of your easy registration process.
ON REGISTRATION DAY send a link to the online catalog and include a call-to-action inviting people to register using your online registration system.
2-7 DAYS AFTER registration opens send a link to the online catalog and include a call-to-action inviting people to register. Highlight classes which are filling quickly to create a sense of urgency! Encourage registration for classes that are super popular, classes with a later session start, and low enrollment classes that need just one or two more registrations to run.
WEEKLY DURING REGISTRATION send an email once a week or once every other week as long as classes are still available for registration. Send additional emails if there is a class with low enrollment, or if you have a survey, or other reason to email.
OPTIONAL OPPORTUNITIES can be sent if you want to go above and beyond. Consider them stretch goals!
You can send an end-of-season thank you and highlight reel; a preview of the next season’s offerings; announcement of the next registration day; a quarterly regular email newsletter focused on your program as well as upcoming classes. If you don’t have a newsletter, you could also send reminder emails a couple of months before registration, reminding people to keep space in their schedules for your offerings!
Tuning and Tweaking
If your program runs continually, it will have a shorter cycle. Of course, if you have a newsletter, you should send it on a consistent, regular schedule that may be integrated with or independent of your marketing email schedule. Quarterly seems to be a popular option for many programs.
Once you’ve established a pattern to use as a baseline, you can change your schedule and see how your audience responds. If it’s positive, that’s great! If it’s negative, you know how to dial it back to your baseline.
Overall, think about when you need your audience to act and what you want them to do. And then use common sense and your own experience to guide you as to when to ask and how often.
There are many ways to assess how well your schedule is working, but for a baseline, the above should cover most programs. Encouraging students to register through a long series of emails will keep them informed and grow your enrollment at the same time.
* So, our product team has thought about this question for quite a long time too. They thought about it so much that they added a whole automated email marketing feature to CourseStorm based on data they reviewed from hundreds of programs. So if you’re a CourseStorm customer, you don’t need to think much about it at all, unless you’re really into email, or want to get fancy with it!