Let People Choose The Time

Here’s a small thought for the day:

Take advantage of the fact that you can choose the time at which your email messages are delivered. Better still, see what happens if you let your opt-in email list members choose the time at which they’d like to receive your emails.

Many of the devices we use online to encourage a direct response have a parallel offline. Personalization, database marketing, predictive profiling, up-selling, cross-selling, limited time offers, free gifts, coupons, rewards and a whole lot more. But in our hurry to recreate what works offline, it’s easy to ignore what can work only online.

And one thing that is unique to direct marketing online is that we can control the time that our email is delivered very precisely. Offline, we’re at the mercy of whatever national postal service we depend on. In some countries, you can be pretty sure at least which day your message will arrive. In others, your guess could be days off either way.

How would I time emails?

I’m going to take a wild guess here. But if you’re aiming at working adults and trying to sell them something to do with their home — decorating, entertainment, sports, gardens, etc. — I think your email might do better if delivered later in the week as people’s minds turn to their personal lives.

If, on the other hand, you’re selling computers or business books to the same group, my wild guess is that you’d do better earlier in the week. By the same token (again a wild guess) I’d say you’d do better with home-related sales later in the workday. And if you want to sell those computers, I’d try first thing in the morning.

A brief aside here. This is all speculation on my part — which is making me a little nervous — because the ClickZ mailbag has contained a few messages lately requesting that I be a little more specific and add more examples to illustrate the points I’m making.

I’d love to use some examples in this case, but I can’t find any. So I would love to hear if anyone out there has been testing the timing of email deliveries. This is a classic example of something that has to be tested time and time again.

One thing I’ll put money on right now is that the timing of email deliveries will make a difference. Once you’ve done some testing and seen response rates increase a little, consider step two.

Step two would be to go nuts and actually ask your visitors what time they would like to receive your emails. Again, I have no examples of this, so I can only relate to myself and those that I talk with.

There are certainly some emails and newsletters I’d like to get at the end of the week, so I can deal with them over the weekend. Others I’d like to get first thing Monday morning.

During the course of my workday, there are many emails that stand just about zero chance of getting my attention. But if they arrived later in the day, I’d likely give them a little more time.

My point is, if I were able to determine the times at which I received emails from various online companies, it would be better for me and better for them. And, of course, if you were courteous enough to ask me to tell you when I’d like to receive your email, you’d have achieved something else as well. You’d have moved our relationship up one more notch. Another permission would have been granted. Best of all, the permission would be very specific and give me a real sense of control.

As a result, response rates to these precisely timed emails would almost certainly increase. I’ve heard nothing so far about timing emails. I’ve certainly never been asked to choose times for the emails I do receive.

If you know different, please share.

Related reading