In selling situations, timing is everything. It is always a challenge to get your message in front of potential customers when they are ready to buy. Too early and prospective customers ignore you, too late and you miss the sale.

The issue of timing is critical in all areas of marketing, but especially so when it comes to distributing your email marketing campaigns. Making even minor adjustments in the email timing, such as the day of the week or the time of day you send can significantly alter the results from a single newsletter.

Is there one perfect time to send an email? Not exactly, but there are some great studies which can help you narrow down the possibilities. Nathan Ellering, writing for Co-Schedule, collected the results of 14 different studies. He did a great job of boiling down the conflicting opinions to come up with a few very simple suggestions to use as starting points.

  1. In general, Tuesday is the best day to send your email, followed by Thursday and then Wednesday.
  2. The best time to send an email is 10 a.m. followed by 8 p.m. – Midnight, 2 p.m., and 6 a.m.
  3. Test the best days and times to find out when your audience is most active.

Test, Test, Test Your Email Timing!

Point number three is the most important. While the rules are a good starting point, your market and your community may behave very differently. So to figure out your best time, run a few tests before you make any permanent changes in your email program.

Divide your list into several smaller lists. Be sure to assign the lists randomly. Each list should contain at least a few hundred names so you have large enough sample sizes for reliable data. Then send exactly the same email at  different times. For business-to-business newsletters try 6 a.m., 10 a.m., 2 p.m., and 4 p.m as starting points. For consumer products, you might want to consider 7 a.m., 10:00 a.m., 3 p.m., and 8 p.m. Repeat the process several times, rotating the lists so each group gets the emails at each of the different times.

Review your results focusing on the most important measures. If your objective is to build awareness then just getting people to open your email is a win. For you the open rate is the most important metric. For companies using email to inform people and raise brand awareness with no follow-up action required, that’s fine. But if you want your readers to do more than just look at the newsletter (click, download, or buy something) then pay attention to your click through rate.

When we ran the test for our list, we noticed many people would open the email at  7 a.m., but they were less likely to take the time to really dive in, click through, and read the full article. For our customers, emails that arrived at 10 a.m. or 2 p.m. got significantly more interaction then the early morning emails.

Repeat the test to measure preference for the correct day of the week. While the studies indicate Tuesday, Thursday, and Wednesday typically see higher open rates than the other days, don’t assume that your customers are just like everyone else’s. When we tested our email program, we were surprised to see how well Monday performed, so we made the switch. After almost 15 years of Wednesdays at 7 a.m., we now distribute Business Notes from Roundpeg at 10:00 a.m. on Monday mornings.

Small email timing changes can have a big impact.

While it may seem insignificant, even a 1 – 2% variation in your open or click through rate can be important as your list grows. If, for example, your list has 1,000 people, a 2% shift means 20 more people see your message. Marketing is a numbers game. The more times you can get people to pay attention to you, the more likely they will eventually buy.

Drive a higher open rate with better subject lines.

Even if you send your email at exactly the right time, you are still competing for attention in the inbox. Better, more interesting subject lines will improve your open rate. Learn more about writing great subject lines: