'Tis the Season: E-Mail Timing Is Crucial

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Seasonality was a key concern in the list business. It was right up there with RFM value. I, along with many of my peers, never had to think about when to mail for our clients. The Kleid Co. made sure we all had its seasonality study to help us.


There were the best months for women's apparel, other times for business magazines and still other periods for consumer electronics. Of course, mailing on a regular set of dates and seasons seemed to work for other direct marketers.


In our new world of around-the-clock, or 24/7 direct marketing, seasonality seems trivial. Time of the week and hour of day are regularly targeted for maximum effectiveness. I'm talking e-mail marketing and the speed of the results.


A quick look at what seem to be the growing tips for this type of timing are as follows:


• Don't send a business e-mail late on a Friday or one that arrives on a Monday morning. A person's mailbox is full from a weekend of receiving such messages and, therefore, they will be deleted instead of read.


• The same logic applies to delivering e-mail right before a long holiday weekend.


• Consumer e-mail is best read on weekends, especially Sundays. It's when a person has the most time to read it.


• The best time to reach businesspeople with e-mail is lunchtime. You'll have to time your deliveries for this one.


• Friday is getaway day so go light on e-mail, and send nothing in the afternoon.


• This is a big one: We cannot do merge/purge yet. This is not because of technology, but rather a growing-pains thing with the newbie e-mail companies. The question is, how do you avoid sending duplicate messages to the same name? And this is a timing issue. Answer: Space out the drops between each list by a day or two. This will avoid everyone looking silly or sending spam.


These few tips were really timing issues and not seasonality. So let's get back to the times of the year and when to send e-mail.


This is one of the few elements of direct marketing that hasn't changed. People still want to receive the right seasonal offer at the same time. The problem is in the planning and delivery of the messages. Less turnaround time, more demand and fewer services (legitimate ones) to send the messages. There are fewer lists of the true, ethical opt-in type and less expertise in how the offer and copy must be structured. Therefore, the planning and use of lists affect the timing/seasonality.


Offers should be sent early in the correct season. Waiting too long to use a specific list could make a legitimate offer appear as spam. It is not list fatigue but consumer fatigue that will plague the tardy user of an e-mail list even in the correct season.


As the market matures and more lists become available, this condition will pass. However, for the near future, being early will only help your cause.
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