What marketers can learn from the content of my inbox
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.