How Many Emails In A Marketing Sequence?

By Jamie McSloy / December 19, 2017
emails marketing sequence featured image

How Many Emails In A Marketing Sequence?

A couple of weeks back someone made the excellent choice of asking me a variation on the following question:

“How many emails should I have in a marketing campaign? I’m working with an ecommerce store with only a few yet quite expensive products.”

That’s a good question, despite the initial answer being a disappointing variation on the “How long is a bit of string?” question.

Now, if I were most make money online bloggers, I’d tell you that a bit of string is however long you want it to be, and “it depends.” I’d probably give you a load of motivational fluff though, so you’d feel good.

Because I’m not your average blogger, I figure I’ll answer the question instead.

So, how many emails do you need in a sequence?

Let’s Get “It Depends” Out Of The Way

It depends. There isn’t a set number of emails that you send that’ll make everyone buy your stuff.

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It depends on the complexity of the product. The price will affect the campaign. The customer will affect the campaign. Different brands will need different length campaigns.

The biggest factors are two in number:

  1. What’s the familiarity of the customer with the product
  2. What’s the strength of the offer

Now we’ve got the “It depends” caveat out of the way, let me explain the above.

I’ve seen people say, “The more expensive the product, the more work you need to put in.”

Not necessarily.

Price is a factor, sure, but it’s not the defining factor by a long shot.

Incoming Example

Take a Rolls-Royce Phantom, for example.

That’s an expensive product. It’s about as expensive as a product can get.

Now, if I told you, “If you give me the right list, I could sell a Phantom in a single email,” then you would probably think I’m full of it.

Nobody is going to click on a link and buy a Phantom over the internet with just a single email, right?

Well… what if I had access to the Uber-rich Rolls-Royce diehard customer list who put their names down on every waiting list for every new Phantom model?

What if I then told them that by pre-ordering, they’d be helping Rolls-Royce fund a super-duper new free-energy combustion engine that’ll save the planet and in order to say thanks, we were only creating 500 of this model ever? And there were only twenty being made for the first run.

To top it all off, what if I said that not only did they get the car they’d pre-ordered, but because they were part of the investment team… we’d also give them a cash return on their investment every year the new model was in production?

Why That Would Work

In that hypothetical example, we’re still selling a two hundred thousand dollar car.

But we’re talking to an elite, carefully selected list of people who already buy those cars without any encouragement. It’s a familiar audience that wants to buy anyway.

We’re then pushing their buttons further. We’re making an offer that’s too good to resist (obviously because I’ve made it up.) They get money, an exclusive list and contribution to new technology. Throw in some supermodels and you couldn’t make that deal better.

You could do all of that in a 500 word email – and the price doesn’t really matter. What matters are:

  • The amount your list want your stuff
  • The power of the offer

Back To The Real World

The length of the campaign matters in the sense that you have to take your reader from whatever point they’re at to the point where they’re ready to put their credit card details in.

If you have a super offer and a bunch of people begging you to sell them something, then that campaign is not very long.

Generally, you’ll have several levels of an industry:

  • It’s a new industry and exciting for everyone but largely unknown
  • It’s an established industry where people know what it is but need to be convinced about wanting it
  • The industry is saturated and you really have to work to be noticed

Now, there are a ton of variations on the above, but we don’t have all day.

If your industry is new (think cryptocurrency) then you go full out with the dreams and the knowledge building. You need enough emails to say, “Hey… this is what you’re getting, this is how it works, and this is how your dreams come true.”

If you’re in an industry that’s been around a while and everyone knows about it and thinks it’s a scam, (think internet marketing or crypto in a couple of years) then you’ll spend a lot less time on the above and more time convincing people that you’re legit and not trying to scam them.

In The Most General Terms

Your email campaign needs to take where your readers are in the chain from uninterested & unknowledgeable through to ravenous buyer and work from there.


  • Never purchased cold lead
  • Purchased once but otherwise cold
  • warm lead – responds to you, likes you on Facebook and does other free stuff you ask of them
  • Repeat buyer
  • Etc.

You then address what they need.

So if you have a buyer who wants your tech product but doesn’t know why they need it, your campaign needs to go over the how-to. This might take one email or it might take ten. It depends on the complexity of the product. But then you assume they know about your product and they want it. You test them with a call to action.

If it works, great, they go in the buyer’s list.

If it doesn’t, then what else do they need?

This sounds theoretical but really it isn’t. You send an email saying, “Hey… here’s our product. It works like this and Tom used it to retire comfortably. If you want to make a billion dollars, click here to learn more.”

You then see who reads, who clicks and who buys. If people don’t open the email – they’re weak leads or your headline was rubbish. If they read but don’t click, then you’re probably selling too early. Instead, modify it so you tell them to go to a how-to article. Then they learn about your product.

Then in the next email, you say, “Hey… you read the how-to. Here’s [some other objective.]”


Essentially, each email has a goal based on what the consumer needs and the way to tell if it’s successful is based on the simplest direct marketing principles:

They open – they’re interested.

They read to the end and click – they wanted what you were promising them.

If they complete the action on the clicked link, then you’ve done what you needed to do.

This goes all the way to the sale. If they drop out at any stage, that’s what you work on.

A campaign is a dynamic thing. You can always add stages to it or take stages away. The key thing is that you understand where you’re starting from with your list.

If they’re all on your list from a free FB iPhone giveaway, then you have a ton of work to do. If they’re highly curated multi-time buyers, then your campaigns are as short as possible.

Now, you want to segment your list to effectively get as many people into that latter camp as possible – but that’s a topic for another day.