As Scott Stratten pointed out on his Unmarketing blog, it seems like a study is released each week that tells you the best time to send email. For instance:
- This study tells marketers to send email between 12am and 3am. (Personally, I have never tried this, but it seems like a bad time to me.)
- This one seems more reasonable to me -- send email between 8am - 10am or 3pm - 4pm.
- Then there's this study that suggests 6am - 7am is the best time to send your marketing email.
Confused yet? Probably so.
As a marketer, you're trying to stay on top of trends, and knowing when to send email marketing promotions is a question marketers have been chasing answers to for years. We've even written about it several times on this blog.
The moral of this story is that your company and your email list are unique. Your prospects and customers might be in an office environment and in meetings during normal business hours and unable to read non-critical email. Perhaps your prospects are night owls and go through their emails at night after the kids are in bed.
Silverpop's Worst Times to Send Email Slideshare presentation shows how it's easy for marketers to overanalyze the best time to send an email.
Why worry about email send times?
Marketers want the best possible open rate for their email so that it gets the attention it deserves. You want to send your email when open rates are likely to be the highest and that coincide with the time when your prospects are most receptive to your message.
Because every company is unique, the only way to know for sure when your best email send times are is the test different times. The results might surprise you.
How to test email send times
The first thing you need to consider is what you know about your customer. When would they read their email? When would they have the most time to spend reading that email attentively? When they read the message, do they have time to act? The best way to do this is to look back at your client personas to determine if this person is in meetings all day, if they are early risers or night owls.
The first step to testing send times is to randomly divide your email list into a few different lists with equal numbers of people in them. Next, pick some send times that you think are going to be best for your target audience. Finally, queue up the exact same message to each list. It’s important to note that messages need to be exactly the same. The only variable should be the time the email is sent.
You want to repeat this test several times until you start to see a pattern emerge. You may find open rates are good at more than one time, or you may find that open rates don't really change significantly. You might not even need to worry about send times at all!
If you decide to test, be sure to make detailed notes about your test and keep the notes for reference. Our free marketing activity planner can help you document this test.
Other factors for good email performance
- Email subject lines
It's worth spending a little extra time writing your email subject line because this is the first thing that people are going to read when they see your email. You need to put yourself in your customer's place and write something that is likely to catch their attention. You may want to test a question as your subject line. Choose your words carefully. To help you choose the right words, there's a book called Words That Sell that contains some powerful action words that are meant to elicit a response.
- Email content and list segmentation
This may be obvious, but make sure the content of your email is relevant to the people you are sending it to. Knowing where your prospect is in their sales cycle is important to getting them to read your email. Use your client personas to ask yourself if the content in the email helps your prospects learn something new about how your product or service addresses problems they have.Rather than sending to everyone on your list, you also need to consider how to segment your list so that the email goes to similar prospects. This will help you to write a very targeted email that is likely to be well-received by the recipient, regardless of when it's sent.
- List quality
Keep a clean list -- one that doesn’t contain bad email addresses or people that have a history of not opening your emails. Not only will it reduce your spam complaints, but it may save you some money (smaller list can mean lower send fees if you pay by the email). Our article on pruning your list using MailChimp is a good place to start to learn more about the concept of sending to your most responsive prospects.
- There may not be an ideal time to send your marketing email, but if you’re unsure, test it.
- Test email send times by sending the exact same message to parts of your list at different times.
- Use client personas to intelligently guess the right times to send email to prospects.
- Email send time isn’t the only thing to consider. Subject line, segmentation and list quality are also important.
Have you done any email testing? If so, we invite you to share your results in the comments below.
Photo credit: alexbrn