For Potent Email Campaigns, Timing Is Everything
In my last column, I spoke a bit about achieving the best results for your email program through testing. Now, let’s take a deeper dive into one of those tests. This month, I want to help answer the age-old question: When’s the perfect time to send an email?
Remember, timing is everything. An email has its greatest potency in the first few hours after it is sent, and content becomes stale after about 24 hours. Though for any client results may vary, here are some helpful hints to get you started.
One client of mine in the hotel industry sent 13 different messages in the month of June at various times. The best-performing messages by opens had rates of 24.6 percent or greater and were sent on a Tuesday at noon, a Friday at 11 a.m., and a Monday at 3 p.m. Their worst-performing emails, with an open rate of 15.8% or less, were sent on a Tuesday at 11 a.m., a Thursday at 4 p.m., and a Wednesday at 1 p.m.
Unfortunately, there’s not much we can learn from these results because this small sample set doesn’t give us much to act on. But this might be exactly as much information as you have when determining when to send your email.
So what steps should you take to develop a test to find the sweet spot for your emails?
Identify Your Audience
First, you need to identify your audience. Generally, B2B marketers are going to have the most luck hitting their constituents during the day, while B2C marketers might have the most luck during the evenings. This is simply because consumers are more likely to check their email in the evenings, while workers are at their computers during the day.
With the rise of the smartphone, however, this is no longer as cut-and-dried as it once was. So throw out the old conventions when starting your testing plan and identifying the audience.
For testing, define your audience one segment at a time. I would recommend starting with your highest-performing segment or channel, so you’re sure to get the best response.
Split Your Segment In Half
Now that you’ve got a segment defined, split it in half. Most email marketing platforms will allow you to do this automatically through your software. If you’ve typically sent your email Monday at 9 a.m., send half at that time, then pick another time to send the remainder.
I’d recommend trying to send it either later in the afternoon on the same day or at the exact same time a day or two later. I’d recommend doing this at least three times before declaring a winner — and once you do, don’t stop testing!
Now that you’ve got a best time worked out between those two, figure out if a third time is better.
What To Avoid
Be sure to avoid a few pitfalls marketers can fall into when doing these time tests. One of these is trying to be on top of the inbox first thing in the morning.
Why avoid it? Because unless you’re geographically targeting your list, sending something at 9 a.m. Eastern Time means it hits Pacific inboxes at 6 a.m. Being based in San Francisco, I sometimes have as many as 50 promotional emails in my inbox when I’m able to check it around 8 a.m. To be honest, I rarely have the time or patience to check those emails, so they usually get ignored.
The same thing goes for sending something after about 8 p.m. Eastern time. If you don’t want your email to be ignored, do not send it after people have put down their phones and computers for the day.
When deciding what time to send your email, think about your own personal behavior. When are you most likely to click on an email? When are you most likely to pull out your wallet and pay for something? When are you most likely to read an email offering a new service to your business?
If you aren’t sending your email at that time already, try it. Chances are, your behavior is not unlike most of your subscribers.
Once again, timing is everything, and you want to make sure you hit it right.