Selling via Email

David Sonn
David Sonn President

Email MarketingWhen clients want to undertake an email campaign to “sell” something, the inevitable question always is, “How many times should we send?”

Before I answer the question, let me first define “selling via email.” This is not your typical email newsletters, announcements or general product and service reminders. Rather, I define it as enticing email recipients to complete a transaction for an offer that they have not seen before within a specified time frame. Examples would be a limited time product sale, registration for an event (free or paid), or promotion of a contest.

Now back to how often. The simple answer is three but with this comes two caveats.

  • There needs to be at least a week, preferably more, between each send.
  • Each email requires modification.


If you send more than three emails or send three in a period shorter than three weeks, I can almost guarantee that you will annoy your recipients, dramatically increase your unsubscribe rate and exhaust your list for future use. More is not better, it’s detrimental. Even on the third send you will see a decline in open rates and conversions.

I label the following steps in my “3 Send Method” as:
1. Introduce. 2. Refine. 3. Scare.

This is the first email of the campaign where you announce to these unknowing recipients that you have something special and they should take action. Keep in mind that the success of your campaign will be based on two things: 1) the quality of your email list, and 2) the perceived “value” that you are offering.

Even though you will be tempted to give all the details right in the email, don’t! Effective email is concise, engaging and compels someone to click through to a destination web page. This is where you can include the details. On this page, the transaction should be easily completed, a lead can be captured or an alternate means of contact is made easy. This is a very important component of an email campaign that often gets overlooked. Make it clear for the user and easy for them to do what you want. Now you’re ready to send Email #1.

Before sending a second email, carefully study the email activity reporting, the destination page traffic reporting and the conversion data.

Side note: DO NOT undertake an email campaign that doesn’t include detailed email reporting. There are plenty of compliant, email distribution services that can provide this. Without it, you’re flying blind and wasting your money. These also will give you some sense of the SPAM grade of your email and help you improve the delivery rate. Blasting out an email campaign via Outlook is a really bad idea.

In your email reporting, you want to review number of delivered emails, open and read rates, click-throughs, and unsubscribes. This may give you an idea of the quality of your list, the delivery rate and the actions of the recipients. Next, compare what links are being clicked on in the email, in regards to offer type and position within the email.

Your conversion rate will depend on the quality of your list, your offer type, its value and the transaction method. Therefore, there isn’t a universal success rate that can be applied to all campaigns. However, here are some minimum benchmarks you can use to see how your emails are performing or  not performing:

Delivery Rate (>85%), Read Rate (>20%), Click Through Rate (>7%).

Now that you have this data, refine your subject line text, modify the positioning of links and update the text. If your design is hinged on one main photo, consider switching it up to give it a fresh look. If you have multiple offerings in your email you will want to reallocate prominence of a certain product or seminar that is lagging the others in order to boost conversions. Or, increase prominence of what is converting well for maximum conversions. These decisions will be driven by your business objectives.

There may be minor modifications to the destination page too, such as updated text or any adjustment to the offer or price. Hopefully, you did a good job initially with usability, so the page shouldn’t require layout revisions. Now you’re ready to send email #2.

This is the final send of your campaign and the message here is simply this: Act now or lose out on this once in a lifetime offer! Your email subject line and text should be written to create a sense of urgency. Get those procrastinators to take action by playing up the deadline, limited supplies and how critical this offering or product is to their life or business. Once complete, send the final email.

Side Note: If you have a campaign that will not allow at least three weeks, skip the second email and combine the “refine” research into the final email with the “Scare” messaging.

This “3 Send Method” should help you maximize conversions without annoying customers. Ultimately, your success will be measured by the “return” you place on each conversion.