email overload

Email Frequency – How Many Emails is Too Many?

email overloadEmail overload is no joke

I understand email overload and if I were better organised I would probably unsubscribe from more lists than I actually do.

Or maybe it’s that feeling of not wanting to risk missing out! But as I’m not opening a lot of those emails that’s not really a convincing reason for not unsubscribing.

Which is all by way of saying I’m endeavouring just now to look from a sender’s perspective at the question of how many emails is too many.

This is one of the most important questions to be addressed by anyone who is using email marketing.

Because there is no doubt that “too many emails” – as a now former subscriber of mine gave today as her reason for unsubscribing – is the main reason many people unsubscribe.

A survey earlier this year showed frequency – too many emails – as being, at 35.4%, the number one reason for unsubscribing. Second at 30.7% was relevance. And interestingly, that was a reversal of the first and second reasons given for that survey a year before.

When too much frequency becomes more important than perceived lack of relevance of content, that has to be a canary in the coalmine for email communications, surely?  

I’ve been pushing my luck lately

I did not set out to stress-test the receptivity and patience of my subscribers, but through the convergence of circumstances in recent weeks some people have been getting more emails from me than they would have been used to.

Actually, make that a lot more

And it is not over yet, so I am bracing for some more unsubscribes.

Recent circumstances conspiring to prompt a more than usual flurry of communications from me have included:

  • My participation as a LinkedIn specialist in an online conference, and the related commitment I made to let people know via my email list
  • A time-limited, genuine special offer for a book launch, an offer I felt obliged to let people know about
  • A commitment to participants in my 30 Day Linking Blitz project to have a catchup, Q&A teleseminar, with a repeat this week for people unable to make the first one because of time zones
  • The only-one-a-week limitation on group owner messages to LinkedIn groups
  • A pre-launch announcement of a new program I am launching formally next Monday
  • Also, last week I sent an email to most of the people on my list, the main purpose of which email was to prepare them to receive several emails over the coming couple of weeks

A perfect storm, you might say.

My fingers were crossed

I was hoping that most people who bothered to open that “here come the emails” message would be willing to cope with a bit of a barrage, given the implicit promise to slow the rate down fairly soon.

Too optimistic? Maybe.

People who unsubscribe do me a bit favor

I really have no problem with people unsubscribing. They are actually doing me a favor and I would always much prefer that someone unsubscribes, rather than filtering or re-directing my messages into an email dead pool, such as an auxiliary email account they never or rarely open.

And in fact every unsubscribe is actually an incentive to me to:

  • increase my efforts to improve the usefulness of the content in those messages I send out
  • take steps to attract new subscribers who will value what I offer

Moving right along

Once this current flurry of messages is over, I will focus on sending my Des Walsh Update once a month, with an occasional extra broadcast message to promote something that I want to share, and with other emails being for specific groups who have subscribed to specific lists for various projects.

I can’t see that formula upsetting too many people, but I will be monitoring things as I go along.

Care to share your views or experiences on the topic?

Do you have views, as a marketing email sender or recipient, as to what is an appropriate, manageable frequency for emails? Or a story of what has worked, or not worked?

Des Walsh

Business coach and digital entrepreneur. With coach training from and its Graduate School of Coaching, and a founding member of the International Association of Coaching, Des has been coaching business owners and entrepreneurs for the past 20 years. Over the same period he has also been actively engaged in promoting the business opportunities of the digital economy. He is a certified Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) coach, and a certified specialist in social media strategy and affiliate marketing.

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  1. Hi Des,

    A very nice and debatable topic about how many emails are too many for someone. Well, I am not an email sender, but yes, I am an active email recipient. I believe the topic is more about personal preferences and what is the objective of the email receivers.

    I remember, a couple of years back, I was on too many mailing lists because, I had time as well as wanted to keep everything in my mail box and read it at my own time. The things changed quite abruptly in the last one year and now, those emails seem to be a burden.

    See, the state of my mind was different an year back, which is quite different today and this change is catalysed by so many factors revolving around my life.

    The preferences and the topics of the emails that I receive today is very much different from what I received an year back. I believe, the relevance is the most important aspect and if the emails landing to my mail box are relevant to me then they are liked by me, irrespective of their frequencies.

    Thanks for opening up such an important topic and sharing your deep insights about the same.

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