“Nice” Email Marketers Finish Last: The Arguments Against Limiting Your Email Volume

How often has a high-performing salesperson been criticized for making too many prospecting calls? Most likely: almost never.

More importantly, how often has that same high-performing salesperson criticized themselves for too much prospecting and vowed to change their ways? That one is easy: NEVER.

And yet at EMI, we constantly talk to marketers who insist that they must self-regulate email deployment volume to avoid turning customers off, even if the emails are performing well. The marketers usually make one of the following arguments to justify this self-imposed limitation:

  • “I hate getting too many emails.” This is about marketers projecting their own sensitivity and distaste for receiving too many emails onto customers.
  • “We need to manage our long-term customer relationships.” This is about marketers wanting to be viewed as strategic players, not tactical executors.

Unfortunately, neither of these arguments holds up to scrutiny, leaving marketers to impair the role of emails – like the sales unicorn imagined at the beginning of this article – by curtailing their activity despite strong results. So here are five counter arguments against the case for establishing email volume limits:

  • It’s not based on data. It’s true that some email marketers make a volume limiting decision based on data analysis, though in our experience that is a rare breed – especially in B2B. The chart below shows a sample of the data we’ve collected in our work with clients. As you can see from the chart, it’s almost always the case that when you send more emails, you get more people to click. Setting aside the two arguments above, it should make intuitive sense that more emails delivered means more chances to see your emails and decide to click…and this chart supports that intuition.
  • Your customers don’t actually pay as much attention to your emails as you do. You strategize, design, write, code and test every email that you send and are therefore intimately acquainted with and invested in each one. Your customers? Not so much. Most probably couldn’t accurately state how many emails you send because they get so many emails from so many companies that no one company stands out.
  • People are busy and your emails aren’t really that important to them. You need to believe that every email you send is fantastic – well-written, solution-oriented, delivering valuable insights – and hopefully most are. But just because an email is worthy of attention doesn’t mean it will always get it, even from individuals who might have an interest. Your email is competing with the 1,000 other emails in their inbox, some from managers or customers about urgent business issues that will always take priority. In other words, an Open Rate of less than 100% is not a condemnation of your email quality or your email volume.
  • Most of the time, it’s a question of quality, not quantity. Know when it’s annoying to get a lot of emails? It’s when the emails are a waste of the reader’s time: light on anything helpful or useful or interesting. If you’re sending out good content in well-constructed emails, there’s not much for your audience to complain about.
  • You don’t get rewarded for not sending emails. Just like salespeople would never close a deal by NOT reaching out to a prospect, marketers will never drive awareness, interest or decisions by NOT sending emails. Nor will prospects remember that you haven’t sent them as many emails (see points 2 and 3 above) as your competitors. Mostly what they’ll do is not think about you or the solutions you offer.

The arguments supporting a self-imposed volume limit are seductive and, at their core, have good intentions – treat customers the way you’d want to be treated, respect their time and attention, only communicate when you have something important to say. What volume limits don’t recognize is that no company communicates with customers in a vacuum: every minute of every day marketers are competing for the attention of customers and prospects along with hundreds or thousands of other companies and internal demands. While it may seem like limiting email volume is a noble decision that reflects a customer-first attitude, the harsh reality is that when it comes to email marketing, nice marketers finish last.

The Microdecision Mindset

When marketers consider how customers make buying decisions, their focus is usually on purchases, subscriptions or signed contracts. This makes perfect sense inasmuch as those are the decisions that generate revenue. But think for a minute about all the decisions that leads customers to their final decision, e.g., conducting a web search, visiting a web site, downloading – and reading – a case study, clicking a button to subscribe to emails. Without all of those the decisions, the customers’ final decisions may not have occurred.

So my point is: We can’t downgrade the significance of the final decision, but we should upgrade the significance of all the “microdecisions” that are made that came before that decision. By not giving each decision its due strategic weight, we risk missing key opportunities for optimizing conversions. Even referring to this string of decisions as a “customer journey” creates an impression of an adventurous Bilbo Baggins wondering off from the Shire, rather than appropriately understanding it to be more like the years-long endeavor of actor Martin Freeman and the meticulous planning of director Peter Jackson, each step is affected by what happened before.

According to a recent study by Noom (take this with a grain of salt), humans make 122 informed decisions every day. Focusing on only one seems like a lot of missed opportunities for marketers to influence prospective customer behavior.

Any time marketers approach their work, then, they should be examining the situation and driving for clarity about exactly what they want the audience to do in response to the key stimulus. Is it: Read the email, click on the one CTA or multiple CTAs? Watch at least part of the video in the social feed, the whole video or click through from the social post to a website? Each of these is a slightly different action that requires different thinking from the marketer about how to compel the desired action. Without this clarity, it becomes strikingly easy to lose sight of what’s most important and end up falling victim to the “can’t we just add this too?” trap.

Having a microdecision mindset is not only a more effective way to produce the desired action, it’s also a boon to marketers who constantly have to fight back the tide of “just add this.” It becomes a powerful lens through which to evaluate tactical changes: Will the changes facilitate or undermine the ability of the audience to make the ONE decision you want them to make? For example:

  • If you want them to register for your webcast, don’t also try to get them to click to read your article.
  • On the other hand, if you want them to click on something in your email vs. nothing, then go ahead and add the article link.
  • If you want your audience to both engage with the post and then watch a video on a social platform, don’t feature a strong CTA to click on.
  • But if you care less about the decision to watch and engage with the video than about driving a click through to your website, make the post more of a teaser to what they get when they click to the video.

By using the microdecision mindset to focus on users and your goals, marketers can achieve greater efficiency in their marketing efforts. The framework helps to instill creative decision-making discipline and offer better results.

Are Commercial & Industrial (C&I) Loans Actually Declining?

In its Quarterly Banking Profile, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) reported that commercial & industrial (C&I) loans fell 2.5% y/y to $2,395 billion at the end of 1Q22. However, further analysis provides a more nuanced perspective:

  • The rate of decline has been decelerating in recent quarters:
  • The C&I portfolio at the end of 1Q22 was 9% higher than at the end of 4Q19, the last quarter before the pandemic:
  • As the pandemic took hold in March 2020, businesses tapped into their credit lines, leading to a rise in C&I loans of almost half a trillion dollars by the end of June 2020. Over the next five quarters, this process was reversed, with a cumulative decline of more than $450 billion. However, growth returned over the past two quarters, with a net increase of more than $150 billion.
  • Finally C&I loan growth was boosted in 2020 and the first half of 2021 by Payment Protection Program (PPP) loans.

Key takeaway: Don’t judge a book by its cover; delve deeper to get a more complete understanding of industry trends.