Are there any estimates about the frequency at which you can approach a client? Does it make a
difference what media - e-mail, letter etc. - you use? Or is it only the topic that matters?
In my opinion, understanding customers needs at a "programmatic" level is the best way to determine the optimal frequency of contact. When I say, "programmatic", I mean that your company has determined at least several categories of customer needs, whereby each customer fits into one -- and only one -- of these categories. Done right, these categories give clues to how and/or why customers are using your products/services, and if they are the type of customer that desires frequent contact or minimal contact.
For example, if you have determined that a set of customers has the characteristics of being "information-junkies", both the amount and frequency of information will be different than for other sets of customers who are "overworked professionals" and who want streamlined, less frequent information and contact.
In addition, the business you are in has something to do with frequency. If you are in the golf business and have something relevant to say to golfers, your frequency of contact can be much higher than if you are in the insurance business (do you know of any avid insurance customers?!).
Even if you don't manage customer needs sets programmatically, you can make it a practice to ask customers some preference questions early in the relationship that will tell you if they are the type of individual who will react favorably to lots of contact. The key concept is relevance. The more your communication is tailored to customer needs, the more it will be accepted -- and maybe even eagerly anticipated -- by your customers.
This was first published in June 2003