Timing is Everything - When Should I Send My Marketing Emails?

March 19, 2012

I've been asked repeatedly when helping an agency start an email marketing campaign, 'Is timing really THAT important? Can't I just send these whenever?' If creating a successful email campaign was as easy as writing a sales pitch, using a few graphics to catch someone's eye, formulating the perfect subject line, and sending your message there would be no use for this blog. Unfortunately, like most things, it's never that easy. The day and time you choose to send your email is as important as your subject line, spelling your client's name correctly or making sure your agency name is mentioned in your email.

So, yes, timing really is that important. And, no, you can't send your emails whenever you want if you expect to get a positive result.

Dilemma of the Day -- I will let you know that a percentage of your readers will open your email no matter what day you send it on or what time. It is, however, not true for the majority of your readership and you should keep in mind the habits of most internet users during the day when calculating the right timing for your message.

Most people will hit social networking sites in the morning as opposed to checking their inbox because Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn require less of a time commitment than checking their email. If your readers do check their inbox in the morning, they are usually working, and are checking their inbox for the first time that day. While on the job and in an attempt to de-clutter their inbox, you readers may delete your message labeling it unimportant at the time.

Just as some people read their email as soon as they get them, there are a vast majority of your readers who will not see or open your email for several days once it's been sent. At one time there was a commonly accepted statistic that a newsletter or marketing email had an open tail of three days. In recent years, this metric has changed though and most email marketers will allow up to five days after sending a mailing for stragglers to receive and open their mailings. You should keep this in mind while testing your open rates as well as the day and time you send it on. This is also important if you're sending a mailing that relates to a specific event or offer. At a minimum, try to send your email three days before your target event date. If you have the lead time, increase that to five days just to be sure all of your contacts are able to see your mailing prior to an event or offer expiration.

Below are some guidelines that I've created based on my experience in email marketing. These are just a few fast and easy generalized tips to help you choose the best day to send mailings. By sharing these tips with you, it does not mean you should stop testing your mailings to find out if these rules hold true for your agency.

  • Internet activity in general reduces on weekends. This means Friday, Saturday and Sunday may not be as successful as other days to send your mailings. On Friday, people tend to check out before the end of the work day and will put your email off until next week, which really means, it's been forgotten as soon as it's come through their inbox. On Saturday and Sunday, it could be that folks spend more time with their family, have things to do around the yard, or they are burnt out from working on a computer all week. Almost every online metric category goes south on the weekend, and that includes email open rates.
  • Now that the weekend is over and we're all back to work, you may think everyone if refreshed and ready to check out your email. This couldn't be further from the truth. Never send a marketing email on Monday. The fact is your readers spend most of their inbox time at work. When you come into work on Monday, if you're like me, you start deleting anything that appears to be junk or non-essential so your inbox isn't as overwhelming. Unless, through your testing, you've noticed that your readers exhibit a different pattern, avoid sends on Monday.
  • When you take out Monday, and the weekend, it boils down to sending emails on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday to yield the best results.

Morning, Noon, or Night? -- Early morning email sends have the lowest open rates. This makes sense when we look back at the patterns of most internet users who begin clearing out emails they deem unnecessary or unimportant as soon as they open their inbox.

While metrics are different for different groups, as a general rule, the best open rates tend to come with emails sent around lunch time (noon or 1:00pm). People tend to relax a bit over lunch and are on the downhill of the day when they return from their break. In turn, emails sent in the afternoon do not have the same overwhelming feeling they may have in the morning.

If you're going to send your mailings in the evening, when your readers have settled in from work, be sure they are optimized for mobile devices. Studies show that most people check email and social networking on their phone or tablet during commercials as opposed to firing up their laptop while watching TV.

The only way to know for sure which day and time works for your audience is to run various tests and then select the best day and time based on your readerships response. Following the midweek - midday rule of thumb will yield a good result, but through your testing you may find a time and day that yields a greater response.

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