Everyday at 10:00 am sharp my inbox is attacked by a billion newsletters. What is driving every marketer out there to email me at exactly the same time?

It’s mind-boggling because we marketers should know better.

So how bad are we? To find out, I hooked up my account to Gmail meter and pulled out a basic report on my inbox for a period I was out on vacation. 

Daniel Glickman - CMO Confessions

 The onslaught starts at 9:00 and ends by noon.  So how come some of these guys are not setting their marketing automation systems to email me at a later hour, say 12:30, or 3:00 pm?  And why do they all set the timer to EXACTLY 10:00 and 11:00 AM? Even 10:17 would be better.   BTW, the chart shows that I am most active on email between 6:00AM and 6:00 PM.  So, any of those hours are as good as any (worst hours are from 10:00 PM to 2:00 AM and from 4:00 AM to 6:00 AM). 

According to Gmail Meter Wednesday is the favorite day of the week to email me.  I also do most of my sending on Wednesday.  Wednesday morning is not a good time to contact me if you want any share of my attention, it’s all taken.

Daniel Glickman - CMO Confessions

Marketers are obviously getting it wrong.  Their time of choice to email me is on Wednesday at 10:00 AM, just at the worst time – I’m busy and flooded with other emails.  What happens is that I go through the emails and go – delete, delete, delete, delete (oops, not that one… never mind).  I don’t even bother to unsubscribe.  I guess, someone out there saw that I opened their email and yelled “Hurrah”. Poor fellah. 

This is the great Marketing Convergence. – Anyone who has a marketing automation system pretty much ends up doing the same types of campaigns, the result: Poor Daniel receives EVERYONE’s emails at the same time (and they all say pretty much the same thing too).

I wondered if spammers were responsible for this. So I exported all my spam folder email raw messages into a text file, extracted the date and time and plotted the time of day against the date.

CMO Confessions

When it comes to marketing automation, spammers are smarter.  They too tend to email me in the late morning but they also go for all kinds of strange hours.  A lot of the emails arrive at seemingly random times.  If they hadn’t tried to sell me fake drugs they just might have stood a chance.

CMO Confessions
SPAM folder emails received by day of the week

Where spammers don’t get any smarter is the day of the week.  They too try to send most of their messages on Wednesday. 

So, why the convergence?

There are a few reasons:

  1. A plethora of articles on syndicated blogs like hubspot will tell you that 10:00 am EST is “proven” to be the best time to email. CMO Confessions
  2. Marketing Sherpa and and other reputable journals will report when most marketers actually send out their emails blasts.  And, hey, if some smart marketer over at Coke is doing it, I should too, right? Maybe.
  3. Most email marketers will calibrate the send time based on the open ratio, not the click-through ratio.  This is a big mistake and is a result of pure vanity: the assumption that the largest factor influencing the click-through is the quality of the content. In fact, the email reader’s attention span is a factor too.  Ive always suspected that many emails are read and clicked-on in the bathroom – That’s where we have a captive audience with nothing better to do than read things like this blog-post.
  4. 10:00 am EST captures both west coast and Europe.   Most email automation systems out there do not allow users to schedule emails based on the receivers local time.  That’s kind of sad.
  5. Running actual A/B tests on the time of day is not going to yield significant KPI improvements (Unless you have mega-lists). That’s because only about 2% of your audience will actually click on the email, if you manage to improve click-through by 10% that could be as small a number as 200 clicks for a list of 100K. if you have a 2% conversion rate that gives you a maximum of 4 extra sales on a promotion and much less with an ongoing drip-campaign. I wish we could measure time-on-content in emails, that would be awesome and help us make some meaningful choices.
  6. Does it really matter? Sometimes we read emails as they arrive (Total #FOMO) but many of us just let the emails pile up and handle them in batches.  I try to do that.  So, does it really matter when an email actually arrives? In  my case, not really: I have my morning bunch and my afternoon bunch, and then some in-between.  Ultimately, all this obsessing about when to email just might come to nothing.

Whatever the reason for the marketing convergence, I wonder if adding AI into these systems (as will soon happen) will create an even greater convergence, or will it solve it? Either way, it could pay off to be a bit of a contrarian. 

  • G8 Technological

    There’s a couple of factors that tend to influence the time that companies choose for broad communication and the biggest one is timezone fit.

    10AM isn’t just good for PST and EST, It also hits in the early afternoon in the UK (and so EMEA)… Poor APAC is almost never a factor and are probably sick of getting emails at midnight all the time.

    This is generally an approach to the lack of time localization, and the additional work required to send emails to different people at different times.

    Unfortunately, there’s no simple solution to this since even the top end marketing automation platforms are yet to provide us with user-timezone based sending.

    To be fair – based on looking at results, As long as your email gets in “within the zone” the improvements in results often don’t justify the additional effort requires – So when an email marketer is treating it as a numbers game, they’d be right in saying there is no payoff… When you talk about the personal marketer and how the individual feels, then everyone who feels the way you do is a loss for the email marketer

  • Great article Daniel. I agree that most marketers get it wrong. For us at http://www.mightymediagroup.com.au – we insist on AB testing every aspect of email marketing, including time of day. You nailed it!

  • Thank you Daniel for this eye-opening article.

  • Deborah A. Rowell

    Your topic is interesting and makes very good points. Our company looked at open rates and decided that our readers, who are mostly builders and contractors, prefer earlier morning and then Friday afternoon through Saturday morning (overnight) for opening their emails. However, we have not looked at the timing of the click-throughs. We’ll have to look at that.

    I’m a little concerned about the number of typos found in your message (click-through is correct according to Wikipedia).

    I enjoy your overall writing style, and obvious knowledge of the subject matter. So, the question is, how much do typos matter? Are people more accepting of them now because of how easy it is to make such a mistake when texting? And I imagine that we’ve all seen AutoCorrect (Facebook messenger is notorious) make changes that are not what we intended to write.

    Thank you.

    • Ouch! It hurts, but I appreciate the help. I do write these posts on weekends and spend more time on the topic than on the proofing. So, I do approve the help and “Crowd sourced proof reading”. Thanks you for the help. Please do keep it up! 😉