Sales & Marketing | 4 min read

Q&A: How much communication is too much?

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We’ve written a lot about how to send the right message at the right time.

So when we got an excellent question recently about how many messages you should be sending, I jumped at the chance to share what we’ve learned about message volume and communication over the past few years.

If your customers feel they’re receiving too many messages, it’s not just about message volume. There’s more at play.

First, it’s important to clearly distinguish between actual communication volume and perceived communication volume i.e. the number of messages a customer feels they are receiving. Actual volume is just 1 of 5 parts that make up the perceived volume. If you get the other 4 perfect, lots of communication isn’t going to be a big problem. Conversely, get even 1 of the other 4 wrong, and volume is first to get the blame.

Here’s how each one contributes to perceived volume.

Relevance

As soon as you start targeting the wrong customers, they’re going to feel like it’s too much. Get it right and you’ll see few complaints about “too much messaging” and higher engagement rates all round. Staying relevant can be pretty straightforward: Don’t invite your customers in Europe to your Vancouver meetup. Don’t encourage customers already on your pro plan to upgrade to your pro plan.

Behavior

Let’s say a customer shows intent in progressing with your product, for example when they create their 5th playlist in your music sharing app. They’re a great candidate to hear about your advanced playlist features. But for customers who haven’t even created a playlist yet, your message will just add to the noise.

Timing

Closely related to behavior is timing. Sending a customer a message about a feature they last used 10 days ago is useless. They’re unlikely to remember using it, unlikely to read your message, and will probably feel you’re messaging them too much. But messages sent immediately after a customer action come with context, which is critical for ensuring messages feel relevant.

Frequency

Three onboarding messages probably isn’t too much. Three onboarding messages all at once is. We regularly set our filters to a minimum of three days (often much longer) between sending any given user a message to keep frequency low.

Actual volume

None of this is to say you can’t send too many messages. It’s near impossible to give an exact number as a guide here, because it’s entirely dependant on the individual business, user base and campaign in question. However the key is to strictly limit the scope of your campaign to achieving one specific goal, for example, onboarding new users inside your music sharing app. To be considered onboarded, you want them to listen to a song, create a playlist, and then share it. Limit your communication to talking about these three actions – with each of the 3 messages targeted and timed as accurately as possible.

There’s no silver bullet for customer communication

As you scale and there’s more teams doing and making more cool stuff, you’re going to be tempted to tell your customers about it all. My advice would be:

  • Don’t talk about everything. Always err on the side of caution – if ever in doubt, do less, pick the most impactful reasons to talk to your customers, and be as targeted as you can.
  • Have one person keep a close eye on your entire communication plan. Holistic governance is key to avoid overlapping and over messaging. That person should monitor individual message and campaign performance very closely. If more users are upgrading, staying active, or whatever the goal was for your campaign, you’re doing something right. But move quickly to adjust or kill anything that isn’t performing.
  • Lastly, talk to your customers about it. It’s the only way to truly understand perceived message volume. Periodically check in with a sample group of users to find out their perceived message volume. Listen to any complaints and react if you need to. Keep testing and iterating until you hit the sweet spot.

If you’d like to know more about these tactics, just leave a comment below. And if you’d like to read more on this, we’ve written extensively on this topic in our book on customer engagement and in this post on sending your first messages.

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