The Golden Rule: {Email} Cadence

While we are now fully dependent on data and metrics to drive marketing strategy, I believe we can, and should, keep fundamental concepts like “The Golden Rule” in mind as a general guide and starting point for all aspects of a marketing campaign, message, or general strategy.

Of the myriad of variations of The Golden Rule, the message is the same: “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” So, how would or should we apply this to email message frequency, or, more specifically, message cadence?


I am often asked how many emails are too many? How many are too few? My response, and the resulting conversation often goes something like this:

Other: How many emails can we send in a week before our customers unsubscribe?
Me: When was the last time you unsubscribed from a company’s emails?
Other: Oh, just yesterday, XXXX was sending me three emails a week and I just couldn’t take it!
Me: I’d start there. Cut your six emails per week to three, check the response in your engagement rates, and test two or four after a few weeks, see if the higher or lower send counts effect engagement. Keep working it until you’ve dialed it in.
Other: It’s that simple?
Me: Absolutely not. If your two, three, or thirteen emails each week don’t offer fresh, new, interesting, and engaging content, don’t send them. Don’t tell your customers that you’re having a big sale four times in four days. That seems anxious and unsuccessful, needy. Don’t tell people you launched a new product a dozen times – it’s only new once. Keep in mind what would cause you to look away, unsubscribe, or, worse, “hit spam”, and don’t do it.
Other: But we make money every time we send an email.
Me: Are you also losing subscribers?
Other: Yes.
Me: Then you’re also losing money. Your customers will not be ready for a shift, so expect some drop in conversion. But, in time, they will become comfortable with the new cadence, they will begin to look forward to your next sale email instead of expecting it at the same time on the same day of each week. They will engage more, which will lead to them buying more. But best of all, you won’t lose them.

Are Your Emails Too Long?

My mouse died yesterday. I’m struggling, big time. I just, I just don’t know if I can take it.

I’m using a backup now. The backup is a wired Logitech piece. It’s sufficient, but it’s definitely not my Microsoft Surface Mouse. No, not the Arc. Ain’t nobody got time for a mouse that bends. This, though, is the Microsoft Surface Mouse, a thing of utilitarian non-Mac personal computing peripheral art:

(Source: Microsoft)


No, I have been using the standard Microsoft Surface wireless/Bluetooth mouse for almost a year. Almost. Not quite. Not even a year. That’s how long my mouse lasted. It’s dead now, though. Dead, and I can’t revive it. I tried CPR, I tried surgery. But alas, it’s dead. I may bury it this weekend. Or, maybe someone at Microsoft will see this and recognize the value in replacing my now defunct, but much appreciated mouse.

But how did it die? How did something so simple die? Did I drop it? Did it run out of batteries? Did aliens assume possession of its body and shut down its organs as part of their species analysis? No, none of the above. Instead, the scroll wheel is no more. The mouse no longer scrolls. It’s in otherwise great shape, and I just replaced the batteries a couple weeks ago.

So, how and why did the scroll wheel give up the ghost? Again, maybe Microsoft will see the value in a post-mortem autopsy? But my immediate thought is that I look through too many emails that are far too long – sometimes several hundred a day.

How many elements are you including in your emails? How long is your content? Are you truncating content, sending people to your website to read more? Or are you dropping a novel into your email expecting people to read it? If so, are you also expecting them to scroll through the complete email to find your call(s)-to-action? Do you have additional/supplemental elements to your emails that are extending their length and adding complexity? How many people are clicking on your last call-to-action? Do you know the ratio of openers that are glancing, skimming, or reading?

Obviously, I’m distraught about my mouse. It was a good mouse. I worked well, was sleek, and matched my keyboard. Now I am using a regular old general issue Logitech piece. It works well, too, but every turn of that scroll wheel reminds me that far too many marketers and organizations – including my own, in many cases – send emails that are far too long, diffusing the focus of content, fragmenting reader concentration from the primary purpose of each piece, and allowing our innately short (and continually shrinking) attention spans to distract us and reduce the depth of our engagement with the email content.


Alright, enough from me, I think I need to go test subscriber engagement rate effects from various template lengths.


Do you feel emails (and other forms of marketing content and collateral) are too long? Has your Microsoft Surface mouse succumbed to the same ailment? Should Microsoft read this and send me a replacement for the simple fact that I mentioned Microsoft nine times in this post?


Did you just go back and count the number of times Microsoft was mentioned (now ten)?

{Email} Marketing Sidebar: Frequency vs Cadence – Part Two

As an (analog rooted) email marketer, I prefer to focus much of scheduling strategy around effective frequency and cadence of messaging. I believe that the frequency we use to message our subscribers, and the cadence of messaging, have a significant impact on our  as marketers. But I’ve found that the concepts of frequency and cadence can be confusing for many.

So, what is the difference between frequency and cadence, at least in respect to email marketing?

Although frequency and cadence are closely related, these terms describe different aspects in email marketing. Whereas frequency is the number of emails sent in a given period of time, cadence encompasses the timing and pattern of emails sent. For example, cadence includes how many emails are sent and the amount of time between each of the emails, as well the email content and the audience receiving the emails. (Fulcrum Tech)


In simpler terms, frequency is the number of emails sent over a period of time, while cadence includes the frequency in terms of cycle time including time between messages, plus the nature of creative and copy of the messages themselves.

Why is this important? If your customers say they’d like to receive (or are willing to tolerate) two emails each week, they aren’t necessarily asking for two sales or promotional emails. The common practice would be to “blast” customers with two promotional emails each week, which will quickly lead to unengagment, unsubscription, or, worse, “the Spam button”.



“But wait, they said they wanted two emails a week – we gave them what they wanted!?!” As marketers, we are naturally drawn to the sell. But, in order to engage our subscribers and customers, and keep them engaged, we have to mix it up. How? I tend to recommend that close one third of all messages are of a non-marketing nature, where “non-marketing” means “non-selling” – a message with the sole effort of engaging and maintaining engagement, with no mention of a sale, special offer, or other selling-esque component.

And if you only send one email a week/month…. Basically, I feel, and have seen from all sides, including that of the customer, that if you do nothing but communicate to your customers to sell to them, they will begin to want no more to do with your company than the extent of their purchase experience. Want to drive higher, and longer-term customer lifetime value? Engage, don’t sell.

{Email} Marketing Sidebar: Frequency vs Cadence – Part One

I often find myself discussing frequency and cadence, and, unfortunately, I often feel like it’s a tough concept for some to fully understand – especially when discussed in relation to email marketing, which, to some, is a form of black magic.

So, I thought it’d be a good idea to drop a two-part bit on frequency and cadence. Part One, here, we’ll discuss definitions, and define how they work together.



noun, plural fre·quen·cies.

  • Also fre·quence. the state or fact of being frequent; frequent occurrence: We are alarmed by the frequency of fires in the neighborhood.
  • rate of occurrence: The doctor has increased the frequency of his visits.
  • Physics.
    • the number of periods or regularly occurring events of any given kind in unit of time, usually in one second.
    • the number of cycles or completed alternations per unit time of a wave or oscillation. Symbol: F; Abbreviation: freq.




noun Also cadency.

  • rhythmic flow of a sequence of sounds or words: the cadence of language.
  • (in free verse) a rhythmic pattern that is nonmetrically structured.
  • the beat, rate, or measure of any rhythmic movement: The chorus line danced in rapid cadence.



Frequency, Cadence, and Cycling



So, how do they work together? I first understood the concept of cadence when I was in high school, and was training for my hopeful/delusional career dreams as a professional mountain bike rider/racer. Cadence was critical in training as I wanted to maintain a cadence of 60 cycles per minute – turning the cranks (close to exactly) 60 times each minute. Was this an optimal cadence? Not necessarily, but the focus was on creating and creating a rhythm and maintaining it, and pacing at a cycle per second was pretty easy. In this case, my cycle frequency was 60 cycles per minute (the time period). My cadence was continuous, with no functional pauses.

But the key to this example, and why it was a key part of training, was the cycle frequency was independent of terrain, speed, or other factors. What that means is that I was to pedal the exact same speed, continuously, when climbing a hill off-seat, as when bombing down the other side, tucked and white knuckled.

This constant-cadence exercise is one that has a number of (other?) practical uses, including marketing schedule strategy, where the marketing messages would maintain a constant cadence, regardless of changing business need, season, surplus, shortage, etc.


How about you – is cadence as simple as getting back on a bike after a long time off?

The Golden Rule

My (coming soon) series on “The Golden Rule” may seem redundant, repetitive, and, for many, unnecessary based on each topic’s relative “common knowledge”. But, as with common courtesy, common knowledge is often not so common. This first entry to my “The Golden Rule” series overs Email Frequency, hopefully answering for many the often-asked question: “How many emails can/should we send to each subscriber each week/month/etc.?”

To be honest, I hadn’t heard “The Golden Rule” identified as “The Golden Rule” until a few months ago, when my wife first mentioned it to our five-year-old son. I can’t remember the context, but I think it was for chasing his sister around the house, teasing or taunting her, something along those lines – stuff like that happens enough it’s highly likely.

Either way, I’ve found The Golden Rule can really be applied to range of situations, including marketer’s treatment of customers. Marketing has always involved turning contacts into customers in one form or another. And, unfortunately, many marketers lose their focus on the true bottom line, “The Golden Rule”.

My intention is to help you understand how The Golden Rule applies to marketing, particularly Email Marketing, based on a number of real-life questions and situations where I’ve applied it. The goal: to help you, and others, understand the importance of walking a mile in your (potential) customers’ shoes, treating your (potential) customers as you’d like to be treated, and marketing to your (potential) customers as you’d like to be marketed to.


So, you will see my following posts regarding The Golden Rule, and how I believe it should be used to direct our efforts as marketers, and people in general, to do right by both our companies as well as our customers. Hopefully, you’ll see a common concept form: base your marketing strategy on factors that drive you to follow a company, to buy their products, and to continue your patronage, and you will succeed. Lose sight of that simple concept, and you will struggle.