Perfectly Timed

Now that I’ve convinced you to send more powerful customer emails to your library cardholders, it’s time to talk about the right time to hit the send button.

I have one simple rule for library emails–shoot for your cardholders’ downtime. A great headline and great content is only half the battle for your cardholders’ attention. You’re also competing with their personal schedule, other messages sitting in their inbox, and social media. Your message is more likely to catch their attention if it lands in their inbox at the right time of day.

Why is timing so important in our on-demand world?  Urgency has a role in this phenomenon. If you’ve done your best job at crafting a compelling headline and a relevant message, then you’ve also created a sense of urgency for your cardholder. Your cardholder should say to him or herself, “I need to read this and act on it-right now!” Getting that message in front of your audience at the right moment increases the number of opens and click-through’s because it takes advantage of that sense of urgency.

We’ve done a lot of experimenting with time of day emailing over the course of the last year at my library. I’ve found there are three key times of day to send messages–really early in the morning (by 5 a.m.), lunchtime (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.), and before bed (between 8 and 10 p.m.). I’ve also landed on two successful days of the week–Sunday and Tuesday. But what works for me might not work for you, so it’s crucial that you do your own experimentation. Here are a few tips to guide you!

Think about your target audience’s daily schedule.  Sending a message in the early morning, like 3 or 4 a.m., means the email will be sitting in your cardholders mailbox when they first wake up in the morning. It’ll be among the first things they check. Sending an email at lunch means it’ll be sitting there when they check their messages over their tuna sandwich.  Sending before bedtime means it’ll be there when they scroll through their emails right before they fall asleep.

Experimenting is crucial–don’t fence yourself in. Try sending email messages on the same day of the week, but different times of day. So for instance, you’ll start on the first week by sending your email on Monday at 4 a.m., then the next week send another message on Monday at noon.  The following week, try Monday at 4 p.m. and finally, Monday at 8 p.m. See which message gets the most opens and click-throughs. Work through each day of the week to see which days get you the most traction. And remember that habits change. In six months, you may need to re-experiment if you see numbers slipping and adjust to your cardholders’ schedule.

Be patient. Give your audience time to open the email. I usually don’t begin worrying about opens and click-throughs until 24 hours after the message has gone out. Cardholders might find your message relevant, but don’t have time to open it right away. They won’t delete it, and that’s a victory too! You’ll notice opens and click-throughs will continue to build a week and even a month after a message is sent.

Track and adjust. Once you have that data and can clearly show a correlation between the send times and click thru rates, use it to your advantage!

Are you actively sending emails to your cardholders? What has worked for you–and what hasn’t? Please share in the comments section!

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Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

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