It’s really quite amazing how important email marketing has become over the years. More recently we have seen a greater majority of our advertisers participating in some form of routine email marketing program. Before when we would ask, many would tell us they were busy enough from their main marketing campaigns and that email wasn’t necessary. Then the recession set in.
Perhaps a blessing in a terrible disguise, the recession (and increased awareness) forced a lot of advertisers to think more carefully about their entire marketing endeavors and what would increase return with little investment. At the top of the list was email. Email marketing seems to take up more time than it does money. So after spending your valuable time putting together the email piece, how do we make sure we are effective in delivering it?
Aside from asking what to send, the 2 common questions we get are:
1. How often should we send emails?
2. When is the best time to send emails?
They are great questions and although you are likely to see what works better over time, it’s usually good to take some perspective if you haven’t tried other frequencies or times lately. Here are some points you might consider:
Who is your customer?
As a B2B company, our target market is you; the advertiser, the business owner, the marketing director, the office manager, the person at work; not the stay-at-home parent who’s couched up with furry slippers looking at TMZ.com at 1 in the afternoon. It’s pretty clear that we want to reach our customers at work during normal working hours.
Whoever your customer is, it is a good idea to profile them and ask yourself, “When could they be on the computer checking your email?” If you are not sure, look at the list of email addresses and see if the majority are work ones like @bigcompany.com, @A1plumbing.com, @5starfinancial.com or if the majority look like personal gmail.com, yahoo.com, msn.com, aol.com, etc. If you can distinguish a majority then you should be in good shape. If it’s about half and half, then you’ll just have to test more time slots.
How often does the customer need to hear from you?
This opinion will vary widely depending if you are asking the average advertiser or if talking to the customer. A good way to gage this is to consider what you are actually sending out? Are you sending daily specials, long winded informational or educational copy, quick personal blurbs, newsletters, or is it something else? We typically send all of the above and we do it for our advertisers all the time.
- Daily specials will be sent out as often as a new special arises; every few days to once a month.
- Informational/educational emails do better once a week to few weeks.
- Personal style letters and emails that address the masses and contain a quick note or “Hey just wanted to let you know…” and signed by you are special and shouldn’t be abused. Send one as often as it can be meaningful; and no more than once per week.
- Newsletters are once or twice a month.
- Anything else; try to use your best discretion.
There is less of a science around how often to send email vs. what time to send. And people will argue any frequency of their business is different. For all intents, they are right. The biggest danger is that you don’t send anything at all. If you send too much stuff, your people will speak. Unsubscribes will become more frequent and email requests to be removed from lists will be clear as day. You will always get some, but try and stay away from receiving more than usual. That means you could be overdoing it. Stick to the guidelines above and you shouldn’t have any problems.
When are my customers most likely to open an email?
If your customers are home on their personal PCs (sorry Mac users) opening emails, then your Windows (pun intended) of opportunity is going to be greater than if they were at work. Times that you will want to avoid are sending on Fridays and after they go to bed. Fridays are often mind-sucks for people. Some advertisers have success any day of the week but many of our advertiser report lower open rates on Friday. Nights are no good because people wake up with all the other marketing emails in their inbox. You’ll just get shoved under the carpet many times.
Don’t however hesitate to send to personal email addresses during work hours. People check their personal email at work all the time. I do. Just don’t expect it to take as high of a priority during these hours as work related emails. Personal email address send outs during work hours often are opened gradually thought the rest of the day into the night.
Emailing to businesses and companies are a bit more clear cut. The answer is to send out between Tuesday and Thursday, and (depending what time zone you’re in) between the hours of 11am and 3pm. The earlier the better, especially if you’re sending to the East Coast from the West Coast. Don’t send out at 3pm from the West Coast. They’ll hit New York at 6pm. Send outs from Eastern Time Zones at 11am hit the West at 8am.
The reason these mid-day hours work better is because business people are inundated with work emails, phone messages, catch-ups, first thing in the morning. Their coffee also hasn’t kicked in yet. Sending out mid-morning is perfect as they typically are getting caught up by this time. Send out too late in the day and they’re thinking about all the things they have to get done before they can leave.
Now for the boring part…TEST.
Any email marketing expert initially is going to tell you to test your send outs and see when you get better open rates or click through rates. Most email services now have decent analytics and can provide you with this information. Always test your email send outs to see what works best. Who knows, you might end up with better results at unexpected times.
Another thing to consider about email programs is that many don’t send out right away. They don’t want to overload the system so your send out order goes into a queue for later. If possible, try and schedule your send outs early so they go out at your specified time.
These recommendations are based on experience, statistics, averages, and scientific studies. Most importantly, no one customer is the same. Do what’s likely to work first. And always expect the unexpected.