I’ve heard a lot of discussion about cadence lately. Everyone seems to want a magic frequency number which will cause stars and planets to align and customers to read emails in the kind of loving detail that you normally see only determined children attempt as they sound out dinosaur names.

If you have subscribers clamoring for more email from you, consider yourself lucky. For the rest of us, here are some starting points for finding your own answers to the 5 most commonly asked questions about cadence:

  1. How often should I send email to my subscribers?  Great question! The answer is: as often as you have information that is both new and relevant to your subscribers. For the B2B space, this may only be once every quarter. For the retail space, this will be far more often. Let your content be your guide to cadence.
  2. How often can I send? This question always seems to have a hidden agenda. Either someone has a number in mind (“once per week, right?”) or they want to justify blasting a lackluster sale event three times in a single day. Neither agenda is right. Instead, consider these factors:
    • What are subscriber expectations? If you are reporting on Yankees in-season, subscribers probably expect to hear from you after every game. Off season? Not so much. Match your frequency to expectations.
    • What else are subscribers getting? Make sure you aren’t overwhelming subscribers with messages across the email channel, or even beyond. If you don’t know who is sending what, recommend forming a governance committee within your company.
    • How much do you have to say? As in point 1 above, if you have nothing to say, silence is golden. Your subscribers will be that much more attentive when they finally hear from you.
    • Do you have enough resources? Emails drive call center volume, coupon redemptions, sales calls, and a host of other systems. Check with each of these areas to make sure you have resources to support sending another message.
  3. Should I let my customers pick how often they get my email? I’m often puzzled by this question. It’s tempting to offer frequency options up front, when customers subscribe to your emails. This makes sense when there is a clear reason to make a choice. For example, if you offer a newsletter that has post-game analysis and day-after play-by-play, offering to adjust this cadence based on content makes sense. But asking customers at signup whether they want 4 emails instead of 40 in a month – when you have limited descriptions of what those might look like – isn’t going to get you an informed answer until the customer has received one of those emails and experienced it. How do they know what they need from you until they see what you have to offer? And why would you want an uninformed answer?

    That said, marketers should consider implementing opt-down choices on their unsubscribe pages. Opt-down, unlike up-front cadence choices, is delivered when it is of utmost relevance to the subscriber. Opt-down should be part of every email marketer’s arsenal of tools on this basis alone.

  4. Should I manage cadence across all of my brands? I usually answer this question with my own: “Do your customers see a relationship between your brands?” If the answer is “yes”, as it might be for Nationwide Auto and Nationwide Home for instance, then it’s worth considering cadence across brands. If the answer is “no”, then it probably doesn’t matter if your email campaign for Slim-Fast drops the same day as the campaign for Vaseline.
  5. Should I manage cadence between transactional and marketing emails? This question is really asking “how”.  I suggest starting with a hierarchy of most profitable to least profitable email types, with transactional given status above all others. Once you have this list, you can create rules to govern how often a subscriber is sent something new, and what emails get bumped when others get the green light. It can get very complicated, but it’s worth doing.

Managing cadence is tricky, but the toughest part is usually getting everyone to agree that it needs to be managed at all. What have you done to tackle this issue? Share your stories via comments.

Originally published on MediaPost.com’s Email Insider blog. View comments there.