Email Scheduling: How Soon is Too Soon?

Winter CalendarSomewhere in the back of my mind I was waiting for it –the first Christmas song of the year. This time I was at a local coffee shop (OK, it was the local Starbucks).

John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s “Happy Christmas (War Is Over)” made it through about 10 seconds of play. Then, the stereo went silent for about another 10 and we were back to quiet, singer-songwriter cafe music.

From a back room I heard someone scream “It’s too early for Christmas!”. It might seem odd at first, but this got me to thinking about email marketing and how we schedule our messages.

Winter CalendarSomewhere in the back of my mind I was waiting for it –the first Christmas song of the year. This time I was at a local coffee shop (OK, it was the local Starbucks).

John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s “Happy Christmas (War Is Over)” made it through about 10 seconds of play. Then, the stereo went silent for about another 10 and we were back to quiet, singer-songwriter cafe music.


From a back room I heard someone scream “It’s too early for Christmas!”. It might seem odd at first, but this got me to thinking about email marketing and how we schedule our messages.

Holiday Business Has Awakened

I got a laugh from this event then quickly forgot about it until today, when I was reading a periodical report from RetailEmail.Blogspot covering their index of retailers and how many were sending holiday messages.

I couldn’t help but picture scores of people with silent thoughts screaming, “It’s too early!”, upon opening their inboxes.

But now that I’m sitting down to write this, I can’t help but think about how big a boom the holidays can provide for some businesses. And who can argue with an early start?

How Should We Schedule Our Emails?

Holidays aside, scheduling is something we think of every time we write messages, especially the type that focuses on some type of time-sensitive information.

Our Education Team thinks about it every time we announce a live video seminar in on our blog and in its corresponding email updates. Too late and our readers can’t clear their schedule for the event. Too early and there’s no sense of urgency.

Clearly, there’s a balance to be found between procrastination and being overzealous when it comes to getting information out to our readers. Where do we find it? Is it ever “too early for Christmas”? When?

What Do You Think?

Of course, every business has a different customer base, and what works for one won’t work for all. But perhaps we can find some guidelines around the “water cooler”.

What are your thoughts on effective message scheduling? Please share your ideas, examples, or any comments below.

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While we’re on the subject of holidays, be sure to take advantage of our Free Holiday Marketing Calendar for reminders on both common (e.g. President’s Day) and uncommon (e.g. Yellow Pigs Day) holidays you can use for your campaign.

23 Comments

  1. Alan Watson

    11/8/2007 2:07 pm

    Marc, my thoughts are that it’s a 10 day diary lookahead for most folks. That way your not trying to fit new things into the current week, which is more than likely booked up and less flexible for moving around.

  2. Griff

    11/8/2007 2:08 pm

    From my experience, you should be doing campaigns all the time. The content and/or call to action may vary somewhat, but if you are continuously doing email campaigns there is no need to worry about too early or late. Brand awareness is still the most critical factor and requires constant touching. When there is a particular event or promotion, merely change the call to action. Keep all the flashy stuff on your web site instead of within the email so that filtering will be diminished and your creation requirements minimized. Just link them from your email to the details on your site.

  3. richard

    11/8/2007 2:15 pm

    this is a question we are looking at now as we start an affiliate campaign and it seems to me that it is all to do with the product you have and your target audience / market.

    I subscribed to a marketer who would send me e-mails every day without fail and advocated sending a message a day, sometimes two.He was involved in network and affiliate marketing and his information product was about $49. He sent a lot of good info and tips and it seemed that because his product was a low cost informational item it could be bought on impulse on any given day without too much thought or consequence.So it seemed appropriate for an e-mail a day if the content was good.

    we are promoting a product that retails for $300 and is an all in one online business building system for an existing on or off-line business or people looking to start one. The nature of it involves a lot of thought around the direction of your business and is not really an impulse purchase.

    Although i wanted to send out an e-mail a day to our prospects I came to believe that because of the nature of the product and the decisions involved in purchasing it, a longer sales cycle would be needed and e-mails every day would probably be too much. We decided to go for a longer term sale and not attempt to get them to focus on this question every day, but still be there when it is of high relevance and importance to them, which because of the nature of the product and sales cycle, could be at any time , or not at all.

    so we went from 2 to 3 to 4 day intervals as we go. I guess it depends on your target customer and product.

    any other observations would be appreciated

  4. Marc Kline

    11/8/2007 3:37 pm

    So far, we’ve seen three different approaches to scheduling. As I understand them, they are as follows:

    1) Send messages 10 Days ahead of a scheduled event
    2) Email continuously and regularly with varying calls to action
    3) Consider the audience and whether they should be treated with a short or long sales cycle & plan messages according

    Though very different, each is well reasoned and highlights the fact that different approaches can be successful as long as they are taken with an understanding of our subscribers.

    We have readers from many different backgrounds as well, from seasoned veterans to newbies getting running their first campaigns. Some may have given thought to this subject before, some may not. But again, we all sit back at some point and think of when we should announce an event and time a message.

    So, keep these thoughtful comments coming!

  5. Steve Tallamy

    11/9/2007 5:57 am

    Scheduling can be a problem when you sending messages to other countries, even continents other than your own. Getting to know the various holidays and celebrations that may get in the way of your campaign can prove a problem.

    Having said that I suppose that if your content and product or service is
    good enough it should still be able stand on its own and do well.

  6. Anna Paradox

    11/9/2007 8:41 am

    I have two different email cycles.

    I am a writing coach, and I want to respect my subscriber’s time while offering high quality content in my newsletter. So I send that twice a month, to build a relationship over time.

    My other email pattern is to offer frequent reminders as a service to my clients. These I send every day — and I wish I could control the time of the delivery more closely. As a reminder service, these messages would be most effective arriving about the same time every day. Suppose a client is trying to write every day, subscribes to my reminder service, and checks their email every night around 6 pm when he or she comes home from work. If the email doesn’t arrive until midnight, I’ve failed to offer them the level of service I’d like to give. This has been a frustration to me.

  7. Marc Kline

    11/9/2007 9:44 am

    Steve,

    Your comment points out one major way our subscribers can be different, and one way you may consider segmenting a list.

    Here are a couple of resources you may find helpful, should you decided to begin segmenting and targeting based on geographic location:

    Wikipedia article on "Holidays by Country":
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_holidays_by_country

    If you’re an AWeber customer, here’s an article about segmenting newsletters based on their time zone (can also segment specifically by country as well):
    https://www.aweber.com/blog/email-marketing/put-your-newsletter-in-the-time-zone.htm

  8. Marc Kline

    11/9/2007 9:50 am

    Anna,

    Combining follow up messages (that go out automatically) and broadcasts (date and time specific) as you describe is an excellent way to build a relationship then maintain it on an ongoing basis.

    In regards to your comments on the date and time of the follow up messages’ delivery, although they currently go out based on units of days, I can see how more specificity could benefit your campaign. I will submit with my suggestions to our development team a vote for considering ways we might offer such a feature on your behalf.

    Thanks for your feedback!

  9. Anna Paradox

    11/9/2007 9:53 am

    Marc,

    Thank you very much!

  10. Carl Pruitt

    11/9/2007 10:53 am

    I come in from two sides of the issue.

    I use my lists to promote my mortgage business and mortgage training business, so with those I try to limit my messages a little so as not to be harassing people. However, a mortgage is something that moves from the "thinking about" to "doing" stage pretty quickly in the minds of some people. So I keep my contacts fairly close together, but many of those contacts are purely informational with no sales pitch whatsoever. I try to keep the sales pitch down to weekly emails.

    I am also beginning to be involved in affiliate marketing and have signed up to many internet marketing lists. Quite a few of them will send daily and sometimes twice daily emails that are nothing more than "Buy this because the price is going up on Tuesday", no copywriting finesse whatsoever. I find myself ignoring these emails after a short time. There are some good copywriters that send me a sales email every day for the exact same product, yet it is so well written that I actually look forward to reading it every day and wish they would send more emails.

    In other words, the proper interval really boils down to what you are sending and who you are sending it to.

  11. Marc Kline

    11/9/2007 11:04 am

    Carl,

    So true. If our campaigns are geared as a service mutually beneficial to both our subscribers and our business, we’re afforded much more flexibility than if we’re focused solely on putting endless sales pitches into inboxes.

    I couldn’t sum up my own thoughts better than “the proper interval really boils down to what you are sending and who you are sending it to”. There’s a clear dynamic and a balance we need to find among those three elements.

    By maximizing value to our subscribers through an understanding of who they are and what they want from our email, an ideal schedule of messages will most likely come naturally.

  12. › Around The Web

    11/9/2007 2:11 pm

    […] by admin. Posted on Friday, November 9, 2007, at 11:11 am. Filed under Traffic. Bookmark the permalink. Follow comments here with the RSS feed. Post a comment or leave atrackback. […]

  13. Cynthia Powell, Chicks & Cubs

    11/9/2007 9:52 pm

    I struggle with this when I need to get information out in a back to back type of way. One of my groups I did follow-up email #2 just 1 day from the last and then FU #3 two days from that. I started getting a lot of unsubscribes. I changed it to FU #2 for 3 day out and then #3 for 7 days after that and the unsubscribes went down.
    For my particular group FUs too close together was overload and they wanted out.

    As for broadcasts I usually try to do a WAY early and then a reminder right at the very end – catch both ends of that spectrum.

    Great things to think about.

  14. Viola

    11/10/2007 7:52 pm

    Greetings to you, My thoughts are these: By scheduling the emails to customers, having better control over your lists, time and responses is the end result. I mean, if scheduling a day, time and week for say an introductory email, you can then better assess when to send the follow up. I believe it to be a good strategy to follow. Implementing is a problem for me though. Need help staying focused. Yes, scheduling is very good habit to start and stay in.

  15. Ron Passfield

    11/12/2007 1:39 am

    Marc, I couldn’t agree more with your comment, .."understanding of who they are and what they want from our email, an ideal schedule of messages will most likely come naturally."

    I am focused on helping people create and market their Squidoo lenses (websites). I have a 7 day email course designed to help them get up and going – this goes out each day because if it was less frequent, they would be frustrated with the delay (as Anna mentioned above).

    I then have a weekly update on squidoo marketing strategies, tips and tools (with a recommended "product of the week" – free and paid). Any more frequently and they would not be able to handle this information (or do anything with it).

    I receive daily emails from some of the top marketers but I find I don’t have time to process the information that comes so regularly. This is in part because I have a full-time consulting job and my spare time is taken up with daily and weekly scheduled marketing tasks, with developmental activity squeezed in on weekends.

  16. Marc Kline

    11/12/2007 9:52 am

    One of the benefits of sending follow up messages is the fact that, to a large degree, we can “set and forget” them. But for results that don’t just net on the green side, but really take our business to the next level, sometimes some minor adjustments are necessary.

    Still, if we don’t start *somewhere*, then we don’t get anywhere. I’m glad to see you followed this process through and are now seeing improved results. You might also consider split testing sign up forms and broadcast messages in order to get a better understanding of your subscribers and how best to target them.

  17. Marc Kline

    11/12/2007 9:58 am

    Viola,

    We have found calendar and task managing applications (I currently use Google Calendar) to be invaluable to staying focused on emailing our subscribers during busy days and weeks. Managing too many tasks can be overwhelming, and it helps to prioritize the emailing "to do" list quite a bit.

  18. Tom

    11/14/2007 9:34 pm

    What I have found to be very useful is to actually read your unsubscription messages!

    A lot of people were complaining to me that the e-mails were coming too fast for them and left my newsletter. I then switched it from every 4 days to every 6-7 days and I have yet to have a problem.

    I would of never known this if I didnt actually read what my unsubscribers had to say.

    Cheers

  19. Alex Lee

    11/18/2007 1:31 am

    I really disagree with the "everyday" theory. When I get emails from a single source every day, I’ll be off that list in a week. It’s just too much email to process. If you tell your site visitor that you’ll be sending email every day for eternity, I bet your conversion rates would drop significantly.

    Something I saw a large retailer do (it might have been Office Depot), is to ask the subscriber how often they wish to receive specials and offers in their inbox. There was an option for every week, every other week, and monthly. Do you think I’ll ever be able to do that with Aweber?

  20. Dexter Liao

    11/19/2007 12:44 am

    I’ve have the same dilema. I receive tons of email everyday and I don’t quite like to receive to frequent. I personaly feel that once every two to three day may be just fine. Though I understand customer relationship is important, however, if more than that it could seem spamming.

  21. Marc Kline

    11/19/2007 11:09 am

    Alex,

    If you have a very basic understanding of HTML, you can make some custom changes to your in-line form’s HTML to allow subscribers to choose which campaign they’d like to sign up for.

    Each of the campaigns you have in your form can contain a different set of messages with a lower or higher set of intervals between each based on what they choose.

    If the messages will essentially be the same in content, you can use our Campaign Sharing feature to duplicate the set of messages for each campaign, changing only the interval that falls between each message.

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