Email Garbage Dump - Best Timing

The best time to send an email, by profession, hour, and day.

I send a lot of email campaigns for a lot of different industries. Everything from our own campaigns to finance to healthcare to commercial products. I sometimes feel like I’m just setting a piece of paper on top of the garbage dump that is most people’s email.

But I’ve noticed some trends, I’ve done a lot of research, and I can back up some theories with hard numbers on ensuring the email at least gets read.

Having 200 email addresses is way better than 20,000 Facebook or Twitter followers.

First, if it’s not already obvious, having even a fraction of email addresses compared to Facebook or Twitter followers is way more valuable.

McKinsey agrees, saying email is 40x that of Facebook and Twitter combined.

Just this week Engadget reported working adults (read: people with money) are too busy with email to care much about social media.

The Wall Street Journal reported via IMB that Social Media accounted for just .34% of all purchases during Black Friday in 2012.

I don’t even recommend people bother spending much time on Facebook or Twitter anymore, except in specific circumstances. The audience demographics, size, and what you talk about has to really fit with that. People don’t want to “engage with brands” on Facebook.

But if you’re a local bike shop, there’s probably some value there. If you’re an individual who works from home on a side project, that works, too because you can take advantage of Facebook’s profiles and not be relegated to Pages. There’s also some value for many people on Pinterest or LinkedIn, depending on your industry.

It’s too much wasted time with little return anymore to devote energy into every social network. Pick one or two that make sense and stick with it. If none make sense, then don’t sweat it too much. But you should always be building an email list.

Sending emails works, but only when people are actively looking at their email in their timezone

Email is great because people almost always opt-in. As a general rule, my experience has taught me these are the best times to target an email:

  • 7:30-10:00 a.m. Monday-Friday for almost everyone
  • 2-3 p.m. Monday-Friday for almost everyone

Your mileage may vary slightly, but if your email is going to people who work a typical 9-5 work day and sit near a computer or iPhone all day, the timing is best 7:30-10 am and 2-3 pm.

Why not 11 or 1? Why not during lunch? Why not 4 pm? Those times fall into what I consider a dead zone for either open rates, click rates, or both.

Between 10 and noon most people are suffering email fatigue, or have cleared out their inbox and are choosing to focus on some other project.

Between 11:30 am-2 pm people are taking lunch. But lunch to most people, even when they think they’re having a “working lunch”, is more likely to be an actual break. People are reading the news, checking out their favorite magazine sites, and emails are either ignored or quickly filtered away. This time may yield a high open rate, but click rates are likely low.

Between 3 and 5 pm people are more inclined to think about family and home needs. People are asking “what’s for dinner”, “who’s picking up the kids”, and “what do we need from the store”. This may be a boon for you, however, if your email answers any of those problems.

From 5 to 7 people are stuck in traffic, dealing with kids, or having dinner. This is the second worst time of day for most emails except 10 pm – 6 am, where most emails almost always go to die. Just think how you deal with your email in the morning.

7-10 is an interesting time, however, depending on your email’s content. If you’re trying to get people to do work or think about work, it’ll probably have a high open rate, but a low click rate. “Oh, I’ll deal with that tomorrow…”

But if your email is about consumer services or products, like new shoes, a TV show, catching up on news, and other promotions. Then this is a good time. 7-10 pm is when most people are thinking about themselves for a bit and are most likely to do a little shopping.

Is it okay to send emails on weekends?

Weekends are an interesting time frame. Every time we’ve experimented with weekend email campaigns the results of been less than stellar for professional service-oriented campaigns.

Abuse rates and bounce rates are higher on weekends. People have less patience for junk in their inbox and they’re willing to spend a couple seconds searching for “Unsubscribe”.

But open rates are generally high, as the volume of person-to-person email decreases. Consequently, if your product is consumer-facing, click rates are equally high on weekends. Send only on weekends if you know your email list really likes to hear what you have to say or is something worth doing that weekend, like a Saturday sale at a store or reduced price to dinner or a show.

Does sending multiple emails in a short span help?

People have a limit for frequent-flier emails. I get these all the time from ProFlowers and they seem to have hit a weird soft spot in my tolerance. It’s usually easier to delete than unsubscribe, and I routinely do just delete them.

I also have clients who prefer to send repeated campaigns over-and-over to jar more interest in an event.

This does not seem to work, but we have found that sending more than 4 emails in a month, particularly if they’re very similar emails, generates the most unsubscribes and abuse reports.

Logically you should send emails at a rate you would to your co-workers. Only when necessary, sparingly, and conservatively with good information and little “nagging”.

Sending more than 4 emails per month, or more than 3 emails within 10 days, has proven the most toxic to the email list.

If you’re promoting an event, send a couple emails 4-6 weeks in advance to help people get it on their calendars. Some will register or reserve seats early. Then nothing much will happen until about a week before the event. Send an email 2-3 days in advance and more people will register. Sending a day in advance has proven to be of little use as people’s schedules are likely filled.

Allow yourself 1-4 emails a month, or about 1 a week. Send it in the morning from 7:30-10 am or 2-3 pm. Unless your email is consumer-promotion focused, then consider 7-10 pm on weekdays. Weekends are best reserved for things people do to rest and relax, like shop, dine, and be entertained.

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