The Three Golden Rules of Email Marketing: Timing, Timing, Timing

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Humans are more connected to their devices than ever and with recent changes in consumer behavior, the way subscribers interact with their email is changing.
Just a few years ago, email was something most users would check only a few times a day. Initially handled more like snail mail, users didn’t consider it a channel for immediate and timely communication.
But as personal devices such as cellphones and tablets became mainstream, email has evolved into a go-to channel for marketers to communicate with subscribers and audiences quickly and efficiently.
Now marketers are using email to alert subscribers of flash sales and time-sensitive offers in real-time, and triggered email campaigns have proven successful both in engaging and converting consumers. Triggered emails are successful because they are often much more relevant than business-as-usual emails. And marketers must make sure not to miss that window -- poorly timed or badly targeted emails can turn consumers off and even lead them to unsubscribe.

Timely messaging, not timeless messaging

In today’s highly competitive landscape, marketers are tasked with making emails feel relevant and highly personalized. But timing can make or break a campaign, and the biggest difference between email marketers today versus years ago is their approach to content. Today’s marketers are focusing on making messages timely instead of timeless.

For example, Australian clothing and apparel brand, Glue Store deployed a triggered email campaign in July 2017 coinciding with a Bachelorette episode. The subject line was, “Will You Accept This Rose?” Glue Store used this timely, topical reference as a way to advertise all of their rose, red and blush-colored merchandise.

And it worked, the open rate for this triggered email campaign was 18% higher than Glue Store’s average open rate (that’s 19.3% vs. 23.5%).

In contrast to other digital marketing touchpoints such as social media or retargeting ads, email allows marketers to customize offers, content and cadence to their subscriber’s preference. With advances in email deployment technology and platforms, marketers can now create targeted audience groups and dynamic content-driven email campaigns.

And with advances in database technology and data strategy, marketers have made it possible to send highly personalized emails catered to individual consumers based on their interests, hobbies and location -- making one-to-one engagement possible.  

These timely and topical email campaigns are more effective because they are relevant and actionable. Papa John’s, for example, does an excellent job triggering messages to their sports fans, offering real-time offers based on sporting events in their area, with subject lines like “BUCS WON! 50% OFF at Papa John’s TODAY!”

Of course, time is of the essence with time-sensitive offers such as these, and it is critical that these messages are delivered as quickly as possible to convert customers. Imagine getting a message offering a discount on pizza only to realize the message is a day late and the offer has expired.

Timing, volume and reputation are everything

The rules for email marketing are different than those for other digital marketing channels, meaning marketers face unique challenges in deploying timely campaigns.

For example, marketers must set a precedent with their internet service provider (ISP) if they want to send high volumes quickly. In order to advance relationships with all major ISPs and improve deliverability, marketers must send a consistent volume of email from a dedicated Internet Protocol address and send domains at a stable cadence and speed.

It is common for ISPs to flag unusually high or inconsistent volumes of emails, delaying delivery for marketers. It is crucial when delivering timely campaigns that marketers “warm up” IP addresses by gradually increasing the volume of emails sent.

In the case that marketers can’t or don’t warm up their IP addresses, some will choose to “throttle” their emails by delivering a set number of messages per hour. Although this tactic is effective in getting your brand name recognized, throttling slows down the delivery, which could stymie the relevance and timeliness of the email’s messaging.

Developing a strong reputation with all major ISPs significantly increases the odds of your emails landing in a subscriber’s inbox. ISPs will allow for more incoming emails from IP addresses and sending domains that they trust and restrict those from IP addresses with subscriber complaint data, low user engagement and spam trap hits.

If marketers want their messages to reach subscribers’ inboxes at the right time, their existing relationship with their ISP and their email volume precedent are everything.   

In the era of the connected consumer, email has evolved from a broad marketing outlet to a personalized communication channel. Topical and targeted subject lines are now the name of the game as marketers look to personalize offers and content to convert consumers. With good deliverability and proper planning, email will continue to progress into a real-time communication tool used by consumers for generations to come.

Author Bio

Kathleen Schaefer

Kathleen Schaefer is an Analyst on the Intelligence Products team at Yes Lifecycle Marketing. On a day to day basis she works directly with digital marketers to help them understand the performance of their email marketing efforts ranging from sender reputation and deliverability to analyzing competitor data and providing strategic recommendations. Previously, Kathleen taught web design courses at Fanshawe College and managed the corporate college website as their Web Content Manager. With diplomas in graphic design and digital marketing, she has experience with numerous touch points within the digital marketing industry.