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ARTICLE Business TipsMay 14, 2014

Email series, part 3: How to distribute marketing emails

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Email is one of the most effective ways to reach your customers, but when should you be sending emails, how often should you be running campaigns, and how can you improve your open and click-through rates?

Despite email being the most popular marketing tool for big and small businesses alike, research estimates direct marketers in Australia will waste $144 million this year on emails that never reach their primary target, due to poor deliverability.

We look at some simple steps you can take to get more out of your email campaigns.

Distribution methods

There are numerous email distribution companies, and most have automated tools to make your email campaigns more effective.

One of the most well known distributors is MailChimp. It has more than five million customers worldwide – from start-ups right through to major corporations – who use it to send more than nine billion emails a month.

Two enterprise solutions are ExactTarget, which many Fortune 500 companies use, and CheetahMail, which sends 10 billion emails a month.

How often should you send a newsletter?

Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer – it depends on your industry and your lists.

The only way you will find out exactly what content your customers want, and when they want it, is to run ongoing tests.

While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, international email marketing company Benchmark recommends sending no more than three emails a week and no fewer than one a month.

Benchmark advises that the optimum number of emails is either one a week or one a fortnight.

What is the best day to send emails?

Again, there are no hard and fast rules. There are, however, some trends that could improve your open and click rates.  

More emails are sent during the week than on weekends, and the most emails are sent on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Emails sent on Mondays have the highest ROI, and emails sent on Friday have a higher click-through rate, according to a study by global information company Experian.

Saturdays and Sundays have the lowest volume rates but the highest open and click-through rates. Recipients also respond more to promotional emails sent on the weekend, with the unique open rate on Saturday and Sunday being 17.8 per cent for both days – the highest percentages of the week.

You should test different times and days to see what kind of response you get – then use this to guide your future email campaigns.

What is the best time to send emails?

Data from MailChimp shows more people open emails during the day than at night.

While that might seem obvious, you might be surprised by how many emails do get opened at night and the high engagement levels they achieve.

Across industries, unique open rates averaged 21.7 per cent from 8pm to 11:59pm and 17.6 per cent from midnight to 4am, according to another Experian study.

Night owls were also more likely to click through, with those two late timeslots achieving open rates of 4.2 per cent and 3.2 per cent respectively.

The late-night group also had the highest click-through rates for all times of day, and revenue per email was the highest in the 8pm to 11:59pm slot.

What is A / B testing?

The only way to find out what works best for your email marketing is to test different approaches by A / B splitting an entire list or testing different segments of your list.

A / B splitting involves splitting your email recipient list into two groups and changing one variable, for instance a subject line or introductory paragraph. You can then analyse which version performed best in terms of open rate or conversions. This can provide insight into what resonates best with your particular audience, which you can use to inform future campaigns.

Leading email companies recommend you run an A / B test on every email to see what achieves maximum engagement.

That might seem a big task, so if you can’t manage testing every single email, aim to at least run regular and ongoing testing.

Try testing different subject lines, content, promotional offers, calls to actions, using the word “free” in a subject line, and the day and time.

Before you start your A / B testing, clearly define what you are trying to accomplish – more subscribers, a higher conversion rate or a greater return on investment? This should guide the type of tests you run.

You can also use data that you have collected from your customers to segment and tailor your emails. For instance, you could segment along gender, job title, interests, purchase history or browsing history.

A / B testing options

•       What day of the week gets you better open rates?

•       What day / time works best for your promotional campaigns?

•       What day / time works best for your informative “newsletter” campaigns?

•       What subject line style works best? Hard sell? Soft sell?

•       Should your subject line always include your company name? Or should it be a long, descriptive subject line, detailing what's inside the message?

•       Is it better to use your company's name in the “from” line or a human's name?

•       Does time of day affect overall click rate?

Source: MailChimp

Double opt ins

To reduce the risk of having your IP address put on blacklists, use a double opt in:

•       Trigger an opt-in confirmation immediately after a subscriber signs up.

•       Ask them to confirm that they’d like to be on your list.

•       When they agree, you are less likely to have deliverability issues.

Source: ExactTarget

Related articles

Marketing Email series, part 1: How to set up an e-newsletter

Marketing Email series, part 4: How to track and analyse email campaigns

Marketing Email series, part 2: How to set manage structure and content