Timing Email Marketing for Maximum Success

By: Bryan St. Amant


Recently, I also found myself rediscovering an important fact about email marketing: timing matters.

Earlier, I've written about the importance of testing your email campaigns to find the combination of list, offer and copywriting/design that maximizes your success.  And while I'll stand by these three factors as the most important variables in a typical email campaign, a recent experience reminded me that managing the element of time in email marketing can boost results in many ways.

In my experience, there are at least three ways you can make the element of time work to your advantage:

1) Choose which day of the week and what time of day your email is sent

2) Manage the timing of multiple emails to create a message sequence

3) Add a time constraint or deadline to your email offers

The importance of choosing the best day of the week to send email is a fact I happily rediscovered during a recent project for a winery client.  During our launch of a preference-based email service for their customers, we began by testing the effectiveness of subject lines and copy length.  By coincidence, our test plan also set up a perfect head-to-head comparison that would highlight the difference between mailing on a Thursday and a Monday night.

We thought we had winner from Thursday when our top combination of subject line and copy length generated over 20% response. But then the same email sent to a random segment of the same list the following Monday night topped 30% response ...a 25%+ increase driven solely by the day we sent our offer! 

Will Monday night or Tuesday morning be the best time for your list..you'll have to test for yourself.  Maybe you'll find a day that works even better for you.  But if you're looking for a relatively easy way to give your programs a 25% boost or more, this simple tactic is certainly worth exploring.

Another element of time you should consider managing in your email campaigns is the relative timing of multiple emails to create an effective messaging sequence

The importance of sequencing your emails begins the moment a prospect signs-up for your list.

Consider these scenarios: 1) a motivated customer signs up for your list & six weeks later receives your first email offer; or 2) the same motivated customer signs up for your list and immediately receives a "thank you" email, followed two weeks later by a special offer on the products/services they requested.

Which customer do you think will feel better served?  Which customer will buy more?  Will the first customer remember signing up for your list when they receive your offer?  And if they don't remember requesting your information, how do you think they'll respond?

When a customer offers their email address, they are giving us an opportunity to become one of the relatively few sources of email they actually open and read.  To earn our prospects' trust, we need to fulfill the promise(s) made when they subscribed, and we need to do it quickly. 

In this way, proactively managing the timing of early email communications can mean the difference between an active list of engaged prospects and a collection of largely inactive names.

Another email sequence that we've tested many times is the tried and true announcement/reminder combination.  Time after time, we've seen these two mailings work together to produce 40% to 100% more response than a single standalone mailing.

Whether you're hosting an event, having a sale, or featuring a new product, if you can find a customer-friendly way to send both an announcement and reminder email, you're stacking the odds of success in your favor.

To make this approach work, consider adding a time constraint or deadline to at least some of the campaigns you manage.  Events have built-in deadlines you can leverage, but consumers are also accustomed to seeing deadlines for contests/drawings, discounts, and special offers.    

To leverage a program deadline, make sure you schedule your first email so prospects won't receive announcements and reminders back-to-back.  But don't schedule the two emails so far apart that the announcement is completely forgotten by the time the reminder arrives.  The ideal interval is a judgment call you'll have to make about your own customers, but for us three or four weeks between announcement and reminder has worked well. 

The other timing decision you'll need to make with this approach is when to send your "last chance" email relative to the final deadline.  Again, you'll need to make a judgment call.  This time you'll want an interval short enough to create a sense of urgency, but not so tight that your email presents an unreasonable demand.  The data we've seen suggests sending the reminder three to five days before the final deadline is just about right. 

But of course you can learn this for yourself -- and measure your own performance gains -- when you begin actively managing the element of time in your own email marketing campaigns.  Remember, whether you manage it or not, timing will have an impact your success, so why not put time on your side? 

Along with your list, offer and creative elements, timing is one of the most powerful variables you can control to make your email marketing perform its very best.