There’s no shortage of advice out there when it comes to timing your mailshots. But not all of it is good advice. In fact, there’s almost a consensus about the perfect time to send out your emails for absolute, optimum, sure-fire success, and it tends to be “just before lunchtime on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday”.
You’ve probably already noticed the flaw in this reasoning. If everyone obeyed this advice, then everyone’s inboxes would become flooded with emails around these times.
And yet, while you might notice a little bump in the number of newsletters arriving around those golden moments, for most people it’s probably nowhere near a spike. Companies are clearly timing their newsletters to actively avoid the busy times – and this makes perfect sense.
So if there’s a perfect time to send, and that very fact means you should avoid it like the road to Cornwall the Friday before a bank holiday, when is the best time to send your newsletter?
Answer: it depends
Suppose your business happens to be a restaurant. Every Monday, when it’s traditionally quiet, you do a special – a free bottle of wine, for example. Would Tuesday morning be the best time to send out your reminder? Only if you liked it being quiet on Monday.
Or say you figure your emails link to substantive articles that are read by commuters – is lunchtime the best time to send it? Probably not.
A newsletter for parents of school-age children being sent at 8 a.m. Monday to Friday is never going to be read. But perhaps sending it at 9:30 when they’re back at home or at the desk with a cup of coffee? You might find a richer vein.
Every group of readers will have an average sweet spot somewhere in the week, thanks to the subtle rhythms of its members’ lifestyles. There’s a common sense approach to emailing that should be your starting point when working out a sending strategy.
The Importance of Testing and tweaking
What’s endlessly fascinating to email marketers is how common sense is often blown out of the water by actual research and experience. Once you’ve arrived at a time that logically seems right for your audience, start to experiment with it.
If you have a large enough list, this is best done by split testing.
Send out exactly the same email to portions of your list at half-hour intervals, or on different days of the week. (You need all factors other than time to be identical, so keep the same email template and content – you can split test them another time.)
Run it for a few weeks and check your analytics – not just impressions, but views, links clicked and conversions – and you’ll start to see patterns emerging. A certain time and day should show a noticeable peak.
That will become your new “common sense” control for your next round of split tests.
Don’t forget to throw in a few wild cards, either. Pick a small sample and choose a time that’s utterly counterintuitive – midnight, for example, or Saturday afternoon. You might be surprised by the results, and they could reveal something you didn’t know about your readers’ habits.
Eventually, you’ll arrive at an optimum time and day which outperforms any alternatives in your split tests, and you should be able to narrow it down to quite a specific slot.
Never stop testing, of course, although it’s best for your business to use a small test sample once you’ve come up with a productive timeslot. Only take your test further if you reveal something big.
The important thing is that it’s your optimum time, not anyone else’s. And that could be the exact reason why it’s successful. You might have found a moment when you have both an attentive audience and inattentive competitors – and that’s clearly the best time to send out your email newsletter.