Email marketing is a tried and tested method for reaching out to your audience in a compelling way. Almost any business can benefit from building a strong, engaged email marketing list, and by sending them regular updates about anything from offers and new releases to company news.
Some statistics suggest that for every $1 a business spends on email marketing, they can expect to see a return of $42. But it isn’t just the return on investment that makes email so worthwhile. Unlike other forms of digital marketing – such as paid ads and social media – email marketing enables you to maintain a high level of control over your audience.
For example, you may invest a considerable amount of time and money into building a huge social media following – only for the social platform to close down the following year, or for them to change the rules on how you can communicate with your audience. This isn’t an issue when you invest in email marketing.
However, doing email marketing alone isn’t enough. Hordes of marketing emails wind up deleted without being read, or don’t even make it into their intended recipient’s inbox at all. Businesses that benefit from the tool know that they need to create the perfect mix of great content, compelling copy, and perfect timing in order to succeed.
In this guide, we’re going to run you through everything you need to know about sending high-performing marketing emails, with a special focus on when to send them.
What makes email marketing great for your business?
If you don’t know what to measure, it will be impossible to truly understand the performance of all the effort you put into your marketing emails. So, deciding what matters – and then tracking this – can be a worthwhile task. What you track is commonly known as a Key Performance Indicator (KPI).
A few common email KPIs that businesses track include:
Email Open Rate
Your email open rate is the percentage of people you sent your email to who actually opened it. For example, if you sent an email to a list of 5,000 people, and only 1,250 people opened it, then your email open rate would be 25% (which, as an aside, would be absolutely phenomenal!).
It’s simple math – the more people who open your emails, the more of a chance you have to turn them into paying customers. If your email open rate is low, this could be for several reasons, such as:
- Your emails are going into their spam folder
- Your subject line isn’t interesting or intriguing enough
- Your recipients don’t know or trust your business
- The previous emails you have sent haven’t been considered valuable
The majority of emails are sent with the goal of getting the recipient to click through to something else. For example, you may send your list an email announcing the launch of a new product, with a link to the page where they can buy it. Alternatively, you may send an email aimed at educating customers about your offering, with a link out to further information.
Your click-through rate (CTR) is the percentage of people you sent the email to who actually click on the link(s) that you provided. A poor CTR could be an indicator that people are not opening your emails, or that your email content is not compelling them enough to click the links provided.
Your click-to-open ratio is a combination of your email open rate and CTR. Working out this ratio helps you dig deeper into your click-through rate.
Let’s use a quick, simple example to explain:
You start by sending an email to a list of 2,000 people. After a week, you discover that your CTR is just 2% – understandably, you want to know why this is so low.
You work out that of the 2,000 people to whom you sent the email, only 80 people actually opened it, which gives you an open rate of 4%. This means that actually, a huge 50% of people who opened your email clicked the link you provided – which is pretty good going!
So, simply by working out your click-to-open ratio, you’ve quickly identified that the issue lies mostly in getting people to open the email, rather than clicking the link. This makes it much easier to work out what improvements can be made to boost performance.
When you send an email, the likelihood is that you’re going to see a few people unsubscribing from your list. This, of course, can be a little disheartening. High rates of unsubscribes can be an indicator that you’re not sending emails that meet the expectations of your audience.
Many email marketing platforms will allow you to ask those who unsubscribe from your list why they’re doing so. This information can be super helpful when it comes to driving changes to your email strategy, that will increase engagement and satisfaction going forward.
It’s also important to remember that unsubscribes aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes people’s needs change, meaning they’re no longer interested in what you have to offer. Instead of trying to sell to an uninterested audience, focus on serving those who are interested – or who may buy from you in the future.
Sales are the holy grail of email KPIs. Although it isn’t always easy to track direct sales of email marketing, this is becoming increasingly easier to do for businesses that sell online, thanks to the use of smart tools such as Google Analytics.
Even if you can’t directly track sales as a result of your emails, it can be worthwhile to work out the actions an individual typically takes before purchasing – such as booking a call with a member of your sales team. When you combine this with your average sales team conversion rate, you’ll be able to assign a financial value to each email you send.
There’s a lot of advice out there about the best time to send marketing emails. Although there isn’t really a one-size-fits-all approach to this, using some statistics-based best practices can be a great place to start before you have the opportunity to test your own emails (more on that in the next section).
A study by GetResponse of over 2.85 million emails sent in the first quarter of 2020 showed some interesting results:
- The best time to send emails for open rate (US & Canada) = 4am
- The best time to send emails for CTR (US & Canada) = 6am
- The best day to send emails for open rates (US & Canada) = Friday
- The best day to send emails for CTR (US & Canada) = Tuesday
The results from the GetResponse study are interesting but generic. Even within the same study, they found that the best days and times varied between geographic locations. With that in mind, your own email marketing results will also depend on other factors such as:
- Your industry (if you run a bar or restaurant, sending emails over the weekend may work better than during the week)
- The demographics of your audience (if you’re looking to reach retired men, you’ll see your best results at different times than if you were targeting university-aged women)
- The type of emails you send, and their content (fun, entertaining emails may perform better at the end of the day to information-heavy emails)
- The season (emails promoting deals on children’s toys are likely to perform better closer to Christmas than during the rest of the year)
- Any other major events that are currently happening (a global event, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, may give people more time to read emails than before)
For all of these reasons, it’s beneficial to test the success of your own emails to get a true idea of when it is best to send them. To do this, you’ll need to pick the KPIs which you believe matter most to your success. Then, you’ll need to systematically send out emails at different times, to assess which ones perform best.
To observe the most reliable results, you’ll want to A/B test the same email at different times, to ensure that other factors – such as subject lines and content – are not the real reason for better or poorer performance.
Sometimes, it isn’t just your timing that leads to poor email performance. Here are a few other things to check and consider when trying to boost your email marketing endeavours:
Are your emails going straight into spam folders?
This can be for a number of reasons: such as using ‘spam phrases’ in your emails, or including suspicious links. If your emails are ending up in your audience’s spam folders, they don’t stand a chance of performing well.
Subject Line + Opening Sentence
Using a compelling subject line is crucial to email marketing success. Most people will make a decision on whether to open an email based on a subject line alone, so it’s essentially your one chance to grab their attention and get them to read on.
Subject lines that are too salesy – or, at the other end of the spectrum, too boring in nature – are often deleted quickly.
Equally, the first line of your email will usually appear as a preview on your audience’s email platform, so it’s crucial to really grab their attention in the first few words of your copy.
One big reason that emails don’t get opened is that the recipient doesn’t know or trust the name of the person sending it. You may decide to test sending your emails from both your brand and personal accounts to figure out which one performs best.
Sending Lots of Emails
If you send lots of emails, your audience can quickly become bored and frustrated with the level of communication. It can also mean that it becomes difficult to always add value with each email, leading to people becoming uninterested in what you have to say.
Although it’s important to maintain consistent contact with your online audience, you should try and limit the quantity of your communications, whilst increasing the quality of each. You may even decide to ask how often an audience member would like to be contacted, to ensure that you meet their unique needs.
Email marketing is a powerful tool, and can generate significant ROI – but only when used correctly. In this article, we’ve walked you through everything you need to know – from which KPIs are worth tracking, to the best times to send an email – as well as offering some advice on what else may be impacting your email marketing results.
As businesses and markets change, what works today may not work tomorrow. It’s important to constantly monitor your email marketing performance, in order to ensure its ongoing success – so keep iterating, optimizing, and improving!