Automated email sequences are one of the most effective marketing tools known to man.
Plus, automated email sequences are very easy to set up. All you need is a solid email marketing automation platform. And let’s not forget that, once set, they’re pretty much hands-off (except for testing, that is!). All you need is to create the right rules and write the emails.
And… speaking of the latter….
If you want to maximize your results, you want to send just the right number of emails. Not too many, not too few.
But, how many emails should your automated email sequence have?
If you’ve been asking yourself this question, don’t worry. It’s what most people try to figure out when they create their first automated sequence.
And… as it is with most things in marketing, there’s no straight answer to that question!
Thankfully, certain things can help you determine the right length of your automated email sequence.
But before we get to them, let’s have a quick look at popular email automated sequences.
What is an automated email sequence?
An email sequence is a series of emails sent to your list subscribers based on a specific set of criteria.
For example, a welcome email sequence is sent to people who’ve just subscribed to your list or signed up for a trial. The goal is to welcome them to your list, introduce your product (or that of your client), and set expectations:
Most email sequences are sent in one of two circumstances:
- Trigger-based email sequences. Sent when the user performs a specific action, for example, they abandon the cart.
- Time-based email sequences. Sent at a specific time, for example, a week after purchase.
The beautiful thing about automated email sequences is that you can use them at every stage of the sales funnel. Popular email sequences include:
- Welcome email sequence
- Sales email sequence
- Onboarding email sequence
- Lead nurturing email sequence
- Abandoned cart recovery email sequence
- Repeat customer email sequence
- Event email sequence
- Re-engagement email sequence
- Renewal email sequence
Now that we know the different types of email sequences, let’s come back to the question we’ve asked earlier. How long should an automated sequence be?
“I think it depends on the project and relationship on how long an email cadence needs to be. I’ve had people convert on Email No. 2 and others took until Email No. 35. Yes, I have actually run cadences with that many emails.
For example, for a follow-up to a webinar I like to keep it under 10 steps, but if it’s an ongoing content nurture campaign, it might just continue – dare I say forever? As long as they are reading it they get the content.
You want to consider what kind of value your email can add to the recipient. If you are just going to ask me “if I got your email” over and over and over, please don’t have that be a 44-step process. But if you are sending genuinely useful stuff – even if it doesn’t lead to an immediate sale, it’s okay to go longer.”
As you can see, there’s no simple answer. The number of emails can range from just a few to an ongoing nurturing campaign that could go on forever!.
The reason for that?
As Faizan Fahim, an email marketing manager at Breeze.io, the reason is simple. Every email sequence is different!
“Automating to 5 emails in a sequence is working great for us. We are getting above 60% open rate on average and up to 10% reply rate. However, it differs from sales to onboarding, to marketing emails (…)
At the end of the sequence, we try to push them to another list, so another sequence can begin. The newsletter goes every week, and that is another way to keep in touch.”
First, each has different goals. Plus, the people subscribed to each sequence are at a different stage of their buyer’s journey.
With this in mind, let’s look at the top of our sequences’ list – and try to determine the length of a welcome email sequence.
The right length of an automated welcome email sequence
When it comes to welcoming email subscribers, there are three things you can do:
- Not send any welcome email at all. But, as you’re about to see, it’s NOT the best idea.
- Send them one welcome email. In the email, thank them for subscribing and tell them about the things to come.
- Send an entire welcome email sequence.
Now, why did I say that not sending any welcome emails is a bad idea?
First, 3 out of 4 subscribers expect to get that initial welcome email (or a sequence of welcome emails.)
That’s a HUGE opportunity right there.
People want those emails so badly they boast an 86% open rate and a close-to 25% click rate.
Trust me, it’s hard to find a non-welcome email that could beat those stats.
And, in case you wanted to stop at just one email in your welcome sequence…
The data shows that a sequence of welcome emails yields 51% more revenue than a single one, on average. Still, depending on the survey, just between 42% and 58% of brands send any welcome emails at all!
And yet, all you need is a couple of emails to welcome your subscribers and help them get the ball rolling!
So, are we talking about a couple of emails really or more?
Another email marketing expert, Meera Kothand, suggests sending around 5 – 7 emails. Out of those, the first 3 emails should be sent back-to-back.
The reason for sending three emails not too long after people subscribe? It’s simple. The first few days are when your subscribers are the most engaged.
However, short email sequences may not be enough in all scenarios. What if you’re a robust SaaS platform that offers a 30-day trial?
In this case, your welcome email sequence is also your product onboarding one. So, it should be at least as long as the trial itself.
Of course, if your trial is 30-days long, don’t just keep “welcoming” people in every email that you send. You don’t need to send as many as 30 emails either.
The goal is to answer your audience’s key questions and show them what your product can do for them. This, in turn, will help you increase the chance that they’ll become paid clients.
Yes, you read it right.
Don’t hesitate to pitch your product in the welcome sequence.
Copywriter Samuel Woods recommends that you make your subscribers a deal within the first seven days.
Then, by day 30, you want to have answered all questions that your subscribers may have about the product. Plus, you want to ensure they understand that if they want to keep using it – they’ve got to upgrade.
Speaking of making sales – let’s try to determine the length of an automated sales email sequence.
How long should a sales sequence be?
I’d love to be able to tell you “put 5 emails in your sales sequence and you’ll skyrocket your revenue.
But, as we’ve already seen with a welcome email sequence — or, in fact, any other sequence — there’s no right answer.
For example, here are two sample email sales sequences.
One was sent during a Black Friday event, the other during a product launch. But, both are related to a time-limited event.
Yet, both sequences had a completely different length and cadence.
For example, the first sequence was sent over a month:
The other one took just 8 days to reach the inbox. Yet, it was made up of twice as many emails!
Of course, the above are examples of a sales sequence that was sent during a specific event.
The reason why the second sequence had so many emails?
Its goal was to help the reader overcome any obstacles that could prevent the reader from taking action.
So, the key to determining the length of your sales sequence is to find the things that stop your audience from buying.
Then, make sure that you send enough emails to help them overcome those obstacles.
Tip: If you’re selling a high-ticket product, you might want to work with your sales team here. For example, help them understand the email marketing team what obstacles they face when talking to their prospects.
But what about a sales sequence that isn’t time-bound?
An effective sales sequence that you send to your list is rarely just made up of sales emails.
More often than not, it’ll be a mix of sales and non-sales emails.
- It’ll include trigger-based emails.
- It’ll pitch your products.
- And It’ll nurture the audience.
Coming back to one of our experts, here’s what Faizan Fahim has to say about selling with emails:
“Critical part is we have something new to say in each email, and if we have nothing new, we share something useful to the user.
The point of emails (even sales emails) is not to sell or promote yourself, but to keep the user in the loop – so they feel like they are part of the organisation.”
This means that, unless you’re looking at a time-limited sales sequence, your sales sequence can go on as long as your users want to read your emails.
However, this assumes that you don’t just focus on pushing your product.
Of course, there are sequences that you can’t just keep sending forever. Re-engagement or renewal sequences are better kept short.
That’s where we get to the core thing you need to do to determine the length of each of your email sequences.
Which comes down to analyzing your particular situation.
Thankfully, there are a few questions that we can answer to help you find the sweet spot.
How to find the perfect length of an email sequence?
Before you create each automated sequence, you want to ask yourself two key questions:
What’s the goal of the sequence and the value for the user?
There’s a huge difference between an onboarding sequence and a cart-abandonment one.
You don’t want to remind someone 10 times about a product in their cart.
They may take action the first or second time they see the email.
The thing is, the value of each reminder diminishes with each email sent.
Too many of them and you’ll just annoy them.
But, there’s often nothing wrong with sending 10 onboarding emails or more. Especially if your trial is 30-days long and there’s a lot you want to show to your trial users.
Do you have any data that I could use to base your decision on?
No matter the goal, the number of emails that you come up with is still just based on your gut feeling.
The thing is, gut feeling is not a good foundation to build your marketing automation strategy on. That’s when past data can prove helpful.
If you’ve already sent similar marketing campaigns, you may have some data at hand.
That data might help you take an educated guess as to how long your automated sequence should be.
It’s a great starting point. But it’s still a guess.
So, the last step — the one that’s key to finding the ideal length of an email sequence – is to collect new data.
Then, use that data to help you answer the following:
- What are the open rates of the emails? Do they drop down significantly after a few emails?
- How long does it take your prospects to convert, on average?
- Do most people reach the end of the sequence but never convert?
- Is your automated sequence reaching its goals?
- Are you getting any feedback from your subscribers?
To find the answers to these questions, you need to experiment.
Change the frequency of your emails. See if you’re not sending too many or too few emails.
Test different lead magnets. If it’s an eBook, consider turning it into a course you can email over a few days.
Try pitching your audience a little bit earlier in your sequence – and see how that impacts your sales. And keep testing different subject lines, email copy, or even add social proof to some of the emails.
And, most importantly, always listen to the data and keep watching your email marketing performance metrics. Track open rates, click-through rates, conversions, and sales.
If the numbers tell you it’s time for a change — it probably is.
Start building and sending automated email sequences today
As you can see, there’s no simple answer to “how long should my automated email sequence be”.
That’s because every company, product, and service is different. And so is their audience.
Thankfully, with the right tools, you can experiment and collect the data you need to find the sweet spot.
At Encharge, we give you everything you need to create, send, and optimize converting email sequences. Book a free call and let’s discuss how Encharge can help you automate your email marketing – and help you reach your business goals.