I spend a good portion of my day as a library marketer trying to figure out how my cardholders live their lives. What do they do? When to they do it? What parts of their life are difficult? What parts are enjoyable? When do they have free time?

We do know a lot about the people who use the library, thanks to our own library surveys and great organizations like Pew Research Center. But you can also figure out what your cardholders are doing by email marketing experimentation. And your findings can increase the effectiveness of your marketing.

On the Library Marketing Live Instagram show, Dari from Cook Memorial Public Library District wanted to know how to figure out the best time to schedule marketing email to different audiences. The answer, in general terms, is between 6 p.m. and midnight. But I want to dive a little deeper into how I came to this conclusion and why this might NOT be the case for the people using your library!

If you’re just starting out with email marketing, check with the experts. There are a lot of companies (mostly email marketing software companies) which publish research on the best time of day and the best day of the week to send marketing emails, plus a bunch of other data points. So, start by gathering the latest research from these companies. Some of my favorites are Hubspot, AWeber, and Convertful.

Think about the daily life of your cardholder. If you are sending an email to a group of people who use a particular branch, or who are in a particular age group, try to imagine what they do all day. This generalization method will help you identify points in the day in which your target audience might have time to check their email.

Here’s an example: When I’m sending emails to parents of school-age children, I avoid 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., when parents are usually racing to get their kids ready to go to school. I also avoid 2:30 p.m. to dinner time, because many parents are picking up their kids, running them to extra-curriculars, and tackling homework.  I send marketing emails very early in the morning, like 5 a.m., so they are sitting in their inbox when they wake up but before their kids are up. I also send them after 8 p.m. when most school-age kids are in bed.

When I send emails to teenagers, I never, ever, ever send them in the morning. I exclusively email teenagers at night, and the later the better. That’s because most teens don’t have time to relax until 9:30 p.m. or later, after homework and after-school activities. They will likely check their email right before they fall to sleep at night, and they’re more likely to act on email in the late evenings.

Experiment. Send emails for a 3-6 months period of time. If you’re just starting out, try all hours of the day and night. Keep meticulous records of the results including open, click through, and conversion rates on all your emails.

After your allotted experimentation time, comb through the data and figure out which times of day resulted in the most click-throughs and conversions. Those are your optimum times to send emails! Focus most of your email scheduling on your proven best time of day.

And never stop experimenting. Start another experimentation period of 3-6 months, and then re-analyze data. If you notice a decline in click-through and conversion rates, go back to the drawing board.

My latest six-month analysis shows the best time to send email is between 6 p.m. and midnight, for all age categories and for all card types. This was not always the case. Two years ago, I could send my emails any time of the day EXCEPT between 7 a.m. and noon. But, at the end of 2018, that changed and the only emails that did well were the ones I sent at night.

Why did the effective time change? Because people’s lives change. Your cardholder base changes. The way that email gets delivered by various email providers changes. All of these factors mean that you’ll need to be in a constant state of experimentation. Don’t get married to any one time of day. Have an open mind and be ready to change your email scheduling strategy when the data tells you it’s time to change.

The most important thing is to have good content. If your emails contain stuff that your email audience wants to know about, they will engage with them, no matter what time of day it is. Try and keep your emails short. Focus on a few lines of really compelling text and one or two clear calls to action.

Bonus controversial opinion: I am not a fan of email newsletters. They usually contain too much information and too many calls to action. Their subject matter is usually too broad for their audience. I know a lot of us have to send them because senior leaders love them. But they aren’t an efficient use of email marketing. It would be better to take each section of your newsletter and send it separately to a targeted audience.

Don’t forget to join us for the LIVE LIBRARY MARKETING TALK ON INSTAGRAM every Tuesday at noon ET. We’ll talk about library marketing topics for about 20 minutes each week. My handle is Webmastergirl. You can email questions and topic suggestions ahead of time. Just fill out this form.

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