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Internet Marketing and Web Development in Higher Education and other tidbits…

There is no “best day” to email

11 Aug 2008

written by Karlyn Borysenko

There is no “best day” to email

email message 781232 There is no best day to emailThe question I hear novice email marketers asking more than any other is “what is the best day to send email?” It’s the wrong question to ask. Here is the example I use when I give talks on this subject: Let’s say, for arguments sake, that I think the best day to send email is Sunday and I say so in blogs and at conferences. Now you’ve got a group of people, presumably competing with each other on some level since they are going to the same conferences and reading the same blogs, who are all going to start sending email on Sunday and it instantly becomes the worst day for them to send.

The whole idea of a “best day” is based on the notion that there is a magic day when your audience’s inboxes are empty and will be sitting at their computer at the exact moment the message hits their inbox with nothing better to do than take your call-to-action.  Just look at your own life for a second – is this really a realistic set of assumptions to base your marketing strategy off of? Not only does no such magic day exist, but it also completely misses the point of what makes an email campaign successful in the first place. 

Part of the problem is that there seems to be a general notion that email is somehow special and distinct from other marketing channels and because of that, there is a different set of rules.  It’s not – email is just a medium of communication with advantages and disadvantages like any other. Would you ask “what is the best day to drop a print piece?” Probably not.  The day is not a significant factor in determining the success or failure of the message.  Same with email.  Just because you send a message on a certain day at a certain time doesn’t mean you’ll have the attention of your audience at that exact moment so it really becomes a non-factor in the success of the message.  Instead, put your energy into the following areas:

  • Copy: Is it clean and succinct? Is the call-to-action clear?
  • Design: Does it distract from or enhance the copy? 
  • Segmentation: Is my list segmented to provide a meaningful message to the recipients? 

More important than any of these factors though, is integration with other communications across mediums. You can’t view email in a funnel.  It’s just one of dozens of touch points your institution has with its audience and they are CERTAINLY not viewing it as a singular event.  Instead, view it as a component of an integrated marketing plan:

  • How does the timing of it compliment and reinforce previous messages your audience has received?  
  • What is the progression?  
  • Does your template mimic the design of corresponding print pieces?  
  • Do all the messages look and feel like they are coming from the same place? 

Bottom line: The notion that there is a “best day” to send email is an outdated mindset.  Just because you can get really specific with send days/times through the technology doesn’t mean its an important thing to focus your energy on.  Integration isn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination, but it will ultimately provide you with far more value and ROI than a “best day” strategy ever could.

The content of this post is licensed: The post is released under a Creative Commons by-nc-nd 3.0 license

About the author

Karlyn Borysenko

Karlyn is loving life as the marketing manager for Eduventures and as a staff writer for .eduGuru. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Communication from Boston University, a Master of Business Administration from Norwich University, and is pursuing a Ph.D. in Psychology from Capella University.

To quote a friend of hers: "Karlyn is a super rad ninja marketing genius who will make your target demographic submit to your every whim through sheer willpower. Oh, and she's smarter than you."  We're not sure about the smarter part, but "super rad ninja" is true enough.

Compulsory disclaimer: The views expressed in Karlyn's posts are hers and hers alone, and do not represent those of anyone she earns a paycheck from. Yes, it's true - the girl has a mind of her own. 

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  • Kyle James

    Yup, totally agree. Now one thing I might argue is that Tues/Wed are the WORST days to send email.

    I say this because the majority of the content that is created is published these two days. This is the case because it’s usually what people have been working on the beginning of the week and the end of the previous week. I’ve read a study somewhere that stated this, but find the study results again. And when I mean content created I’m going beyond email to magazine (weekly magazines like times, newsweek, SI all come out by the beginning of the weekend), blog posts (be honest how many professional blogs post on the weekend?), music/dvd (always come out on Tuesday so content is written about them immediately), movies in the theater (written about all week for the late night Thursday release) and so on.

    Of course issues like timeliness and relavence ultimately trump this, but I think it’s definitely something to consider.

    Wow I could have written a whole post just about this… ;)

  • Karlyn

    Hi Kyle,

    I would actually argue that it still doesn’t matter. I think if you’re creating value for your user, they’ll be able to see through the noise. That being said, you and I have discussed emailing on weekends, which I don’t do as a general rule because I think that people just aren’t in the headspace on weekends to be receptive.

  • Paul Prewitt

    I’d like to add one more thing for the list of important factors. A Good “call to action”. This is probably the only really relevant issue with timing an email. Don’t send out something that the audience cannot do! For instance don’t say call when the office is closed on Saturday, and don’t offer a 24hr discount on Sunday if your stats show that your readers are opening more emails on Wednesday.

    All that said I’d like to add the importance of the “call to action” and keeping it relevant to the timing of your message.

  • Drew

    you haven’t really convinced me of anything. I’m still not going to send an email blast on a monday morning or friday afternoon.

  • Karlyn

    @Paul Your comment makes sense, but I would also think that’s part of the copy and is covered in here.

    @Drew – Not really my job to convince you either way but area you really basing this on anything? Do you have any stats to show that monday mornings or friday afternoons are horrible times to mail? I suggest doing an A/B test. The results might surprise you. I’ve done mailings on both those days and have had great results. Just not at those specific times. Like I said in the post, whether or not an email is successful has little to do with whether you have a captive audience at the exact moment you send it out.

  • RoWeb

    I agree with you that you can’t view email in a funnel, but it is part of a marketing plan, which should be careful planned. And because of that I do not think that Friday afternoon is a good moment to call at action – here I agree with Drew.

  • Karlyn

    RoWeb – Again, I have to ask if you have stats to back that up? I’ve seen emails go out on Fridays that have generated a ridiculous amount of responses just not necessarily at the exact moment its sent. However, emails typically take a few weeks to a month to play out. It’s all coming back to this notion of treating email like its a special medium – do you pay all your bills the moment you get them in the mail? do you read your magazines the instant they come? Probably not. Then why on earth would you apply the same standard to email?

    Saying “I believe something to be true” just isn’t good enough for me. Show me some stats that clearly demonstrate that emails sent on Friday afternoons produce less ROI than emails sent on Thursday afternoons and you’ll have my attention.

  • Shelby Thayer


    Great post. I couldn’t agree more. I remember years ago having meetings about this specific topic. We scrambled to do research and do some A/B testing.

    The bottom line is, even if by chance you make it into your users inbox at precisely the right time, if your message is not concise, if the subject line doesn’t compel users to open, or if you have a weak call-to-action, it doesn’t matter anyway?

    Why not spend your time on what you *can* control? Right?

  • RoWeb

    Honestly, what I said it’s based on what I do. I hate to be disturbed in weekend, so usually I say – I will not think about it until Monday; in the most cases that Monday never comes.

  • Karlyn

    @Shelby – Thanks!

    @RoWeb – I don’t think you can base your marketing strategy off of things you do instead of quantifiable stats. A lot of people “believe” that certain strategies are right or wrong online. To me, that’s roughly equivalent to saying that I believe in santa clause and the easter bunny so it must be true. Testing costs nothing and provides you with valuable information about how your users actually behave.

  • Eddie Merille

    I agree. Without data, there is no support for avoiding certain days and one could always make the argument depending on the content and the email.

    For example: If I was to send a message about a happy hour event to alumni, using their personal emails, Friday might be a great day since they will be thinking about unwinding anyway. On the flip side, if I was emailing B2B or maybe sending an email to students about an academic event (via their university provided emails) then Monday afternoon might be best as they are concentrating on the week and focused on work/school.

    A compelling, crafted message that your audience wants is always much more important than when they get it. I personally have no pattern for email. I skim it at all times, especially with it being on my phone.

  • John

    Good stuff. Our readers are going to open our e-mail whenever they feel they have time to leisurely look it over. Just like regular mail, it will sit in the inbox until the user returns to it.

  • Jeremy

    Is there less chance of success around the holidays due to the sheer volume of solicitations?

  • Karlyn

    Hi Jeremy,

    Actually, we have great success around the holidays as long as its a timely message. For instance, at Dartmouth we do year-end reminders that if people make their gift during 2008, there are tax benefits for it. It’s very successful.


    • web design lexington

      Although quite some time, may I say my views on the notion of looking for an ideal day to send an email : there is no perfect day because everyday is a waiting day for fresh mails. I love to receive legitimate emails every minute of the day.

  • Jeremy

    What about New Year’s Eve? I’m always worried that people might be hesitant or think the email is a virus and will wipe out their hard drive or something for the new year. Almost like the rumors about how computers were going to crash when we finally hit the year 2000.

  • Karlyn

    I wouldn’t worry about that. What I would worry about is people not reading the email ON new years eve because they’re off having fun somewhere :-)

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  • Tax Lawyer

    I’ve been active in taxations for longer then I care to acknowledge, both on the private side (all my employed life-time!!) and from a legal point of view since satisfying the bar and pursuing tax law. I’ve provided a lot of advice and righted a lot of wrongs, and I must say that what you’ve posted makes utter sense. Please persist in the good work – the more individuals know the better they’ll be outfitted to handle with the tax man, and that’s what it’s all about.

  • program gestiune

    In most cases, people read their emails monday morning and friday evening.

  • tratament sperma

    in my company we read our emails day by day, everyday. there are some strict rules/policies about answering to all the emails, and in a polite way

  • Brian Collison

    Great post. Can’t wait to read more articles about this subject.

  • David Batterson

    Great points! And considering that there is no way to know “when” a recipient will open the email (if ever) that certainly proves to me that there is really no “best day” to do run an email campaign. Thanks for opening my eyes a bit!

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