It's not a stupid question: does what time you send an email determine how many people will read it?

It’s not a stupid question: does what time you send an email determine how many people will read it?

Yesterday I mentioned that I was intentionally sending out my email later in the day.

And I promised that today I would share with you my reasoning behind why I’m doing it…

Not only that, I’m also going to share with you a marketing lesson that can give you continuous incremental improvements in your business (online or offline)…

Probably not huge 10X gains… Nothing that sexy…

But a few percent here and a few percent there can really move the needle over time, and when compounded.

So first…

Why the heck have I stopped sending these emails in the morning?

Go back a couple weeks, and I had an email all set up to send bright and early at my normal time, and I did everything up to hitting the “Schedule” button.

And so even though I’d put the email into Aweber, tested it, and even put in what time I wanted it to be sent, it was never sent.

I got busy in my day, and it wasn’t until early afternoon that I realized the email had never been sent.

I hit send, and something interesting happened…

About 20% more people read the email than normally do so.

Interesting, I thought. I wonder if this was a fluke… An out-sized response because the timing was an exception… Or something worth digging into further.

As you can imagine, reading this email now in the afternoon, I decided it was worth digging into further.

Time for a little scientific advertising…

Any decent scientist knows you start an experiment with a hypothesis.

The goal of your experiment is to test the hypothesis, and either prove it right or wrong.

And so in this case, my hypothesis is that emails sent in the afternoons get more readership.

I have assumptions about why this might be…

Perhaps if everybody else is filling your inbox in the morning, there’s more competition then. Plus if you’re just sitting down for the day with your to-do list, you might be more prone to ignore the email until you have time later (and never come back to it). Whereas if afternoon rolls around and you’re not as busy, you might be more prone to the distraction of my email hitting your inbox, and click it right away.

Again, these are all assumptions as to why.

Ultimately in any marketing test (and in most science) the assumptions on why aren’t nearly as important as the facts about what really happens.

The what that I’m most interested in is whether emails sent in the afternoon get more opens.

Best science versus good enough science…

If I wanted a total and definitive answer to this question, I would run split tests based on send times. And I may yet. I would set up Aweber to send the exact same message to a 50/50 split of the email list, at different times throughout the day. I could compare the open rates based on send times, and do this over a couple weeks of emails, and get a pretty solid answer to this.

I’m not doing that yet.

(Are you noticing how in walking you through my thinking, I’m showing you how to conduct these tests yourself? If not, that’s what you should really be paying attention to here…)

What I’m doing right now is not the best science, but it’s good enough science for me for a quick test…

I’ve been sending my emails almost exclusively between 9 and 10 AM Central Time. That’s early- to mid-morning for most of my readers. I have a great baseline of email open rates in that time frame.

What I’m doing next — starting this most recent Monday, officially — is sending my emails in the early afternoon.

What I’m looking to figure out is whether that original hypothesis is true or false — do emails sent in the afternoon get more readership?

If my results from this test say they do, for my list (because EVERY test, even if testing an industry-wide best practice, should be thought of as being to understand YOUR list better), then I will officially switch my delivery to afternoons.

And if my test yields lower open rates as a result of afternoon email delivery, I’ll switch back to mornings.

File this under stupid things that shouldn’t matter but do…

One of the bigger lessons here is the value of testing — and specifically, some thoughts on how to run simple tests to improve the response to your marketing.

But the even bigger lesson is that the stuff we don’t think should matter often does.

I like my content. I think most of it is pretty dang good. And I think you should read it every day, and apply it in your business.

Frankly, I’d be happy if the success of my site and my emails were based on content alone.

But it’s not.

There are a lot of small things that can make a big difference. Simply having your email show up in your subscriber’s inbox at a time of day when they’re more likely to read, for example. Because if you don’t get that open in the first place, you’re not going to get anything that comes after that. The content is irrelevant if your subscriber doesn’t read your first word.

And so in addition to all the big things that matter, you have to dig in and start to understand the nitty-gritty of your business.

Last week at Titans, Jay Sung from Guthy-Renker called their digging in “Star Wars Math…”

They’ve got it a lot harder than I do. But the stakes are much higher for their multi-billion-dollar company than for this little side project of mine. Even changing the name of one bonus, they reported, could be worth millions of dollars to them.

But Jay, who spoke with Greg Renker, was talking about the level of data analysis they’re doing now.

For example, asking the question of how TV infomercials affect the cost-per-acquisition of customers through branded Google AdWords term… Let me bring that down out of jargon and gobbledygook… Think the infomercial viewer who sees the show but doesn’t order by calling in… Instead the hit up Google and search for “Proactiv.” They click on the ad for Proactiv, and order there.

What is to be credited with the success of that AdWords ad? Is it the ad? Or is the infomercial that sent them to Google in the first place?

That’s the kind of stuff Guthy-Renker is figuring out right now.

And as a marketer, that’s the kind of stuff you need to figure out when you get big.

But no matter what you’re doing, being curious, asking these questions, forming these hypotheses, and running these tests will lead to increased response, sales, and profits.

Even when it seems like a stupid thing that shouldn’t matter, you may still find out it does. And that’s a breakthrough idea in itself.

Yours for bigger breakthroughs,

Roy Furr

Editor, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets