Why Context Matters More Than Timing

Last week I did a breakfast for the DMA’s Email Experience Council, which featured content from a previous column of mine.

In the interactive Q&A session that followed, I was asked what is often, for me, a common question. Is there a best day or time of day to send a message? Monday or Tuesday? 3 p.m. or 4 p.m.? Sunday at midnight when the full moon slips out of view? Good question, I said, but now let us look at why such a notion of timing is important, and why a specific time of day is irrelevant. Time-shifting entertainment programming has an impact on our email consumption patterns.

Take the content push of Amazon, Netflix, Hulu , et al. and new programming, and of course the DVR as examples of how it pushes our time and days around into a fully different order. What I am suggesting is that TV programming is not the same anymore. Do you, perhaps like my parents did way back when, have an army of TV trays to set up in front of the TV to never miss the “meal” or the “show”? No. We’re better than that now. We can time shift every piece of content that we see and often hear. If we miss it, it will be online or trapped on a hard drive in our home. Hard drives have replaced TV trays and thankfully the meals that go with them.

Case in point, as I logged into Amazon tonight to purchase a disc for a friend, I was greeted yet again with the onslaught that there was even more content than I can consume that awaited me on Amazon Prime (see image below). How much content, I wonder, can I consume even when time shifted? Perhaps bring back the TV tray and that foiled shaped meal. No, wait! I will eat food when I decide and be hungry from programming of excellent content at another time, and for you email, well, you just have to wait.


But no, we are in America. We live in a time and a place where the letter K has become a word – or at least a meaning. At my firm and in my next book, we explore that letter and our “Short Burst Society,” a phrase that we use at my firm to sum up all the tweets, status updates, and texts that consume our days. As in hashtag #NOTVTrays.

So then, with so few hours in the day, when can we possibly understand what you – the marketer – are trying to get across in an HTML/multi-part/mine/should we do text?/what about rich media in my inbox?/should we do this…should we do that?

So, how about this – be relevant…be short. Get to the point and when you do, know your audience. See my column on segmentation, the importance of testing, or some of those many other things that I have written. Those things are the base of the tactics. But what is your organizational strategy? Do you really love your subscribers when you push send? Do you love your clients? If so, and I hope you do, then what are they worth to you? What are they worth to your organization? Do you know the value of your email subscribers? Whatever it cost to acquire them, they are worth at least that much. But such a measure is too easy. A figure value is harder; it might involve attribution or some other rubric, but that value is your currency that will win battles inside and outside of your organization. Show your email marketing worth by knowing your subscribers’ value. Then and only then can you determine how to best target them and win their love…that is, if you don’t have their love already.

So back to that time shift and the short moment when even perhaps this column captures your time. As marketers, we must think and find contextually time and geographic and behavior – call it, well…what should we call it? How about hyper-local – solutions that make your messages and offers resonate in a time and location that is based on your subscribers’ behavior. Perhaps?

We will dig into this and more next time, but for now…keep on clicking!

All the best,

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