Inbox overload - exploding the myth

Are we overloading our customers’ in boxes? How many is too many?

Dela Quist sheds light on the question of inbox overload and offers encouragement to email marketers who make an effort to ensure the emails they send are timely and relevant.

I was recently invited to speak at an Advanced Email workshop hosted by Silverpop and took the opportunity to conduct a quick straw poll on how many emails the 130+ assembled group of email marketers received every day.

“Over 100?” I asked. Practically every hand shot up. “How many of you have more than one email account?” Again, almost every hand.

So it’s easy to understand why there's a sense of unease about email overload out there.

Now it’s important to realise at this point that we email marketers are not normal people - you’re not going to get a feel for your average online customer speaking to us.

For a start, we typically subscribe to our competitors lists so we can monitor their email marketing messages.

Being email and technology savvy, we are probably also getting pokes from Facebook and other social and business networking sites plus we’ll be getting a decent helping of spam, and of course irritating messages from colleagues who insist on hitting the reply to all button.

I then asked how many email lists of any kind they subscribe to as consumers rather than as part of their jobs as email marketers, about 75% of the room admitted to subscribing to between ten and fifteen lists which miraculously agrees with current research.

When quizzed on how many messages a month they received on average from any of these lists, the general consensus was that the average number of email marketing messages they received from each list was two a month.

The only exceptions to this were one or two people who included daily messages, typically from job sites or daily news bulletins in their count.

So across the fifteen lists that makes a total of around 30 commercial or marketing messages per month, which equates to an average of one a day - which is hardly overload!

The point I wanted to make is that we email marketers should not sign up to the idea that we are major contributors to the great wave of unwanted emails – that knee jerk response when you explain what you do at a party of “oh, so you’re a spammer” is unfounded.

The reality is that of the 100 or so messages we get in a day, only one is likely to be from a professional email marketer.

In fact if someone has signed up to receive our messages, we can be confident and flattered that the brand we represent is one of a select band of around 15 out of the thousands out there that our subscribers actually want to receive commercial messages from.

This doesn’t mean we should bombard them with messages; we should aim to send timely emails based on what is known about their profile and buying patterns containing relevant content and offers.

This could be anything from weekly to quarterly in frequency, depending on the product or service on offer.

But whatever we do as email marketers, we should feel proud about what we do and respect our customers by devoting time and energy towards improving the value and relevance of the messages we send out.

Dela Quist is the CEO of Alchemy Worx.

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