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March 31st, 2008

Are you sending your newsletter on the wrong day?

When you’re ready to get real results from your email marketing, turn to the experts to learn about trends, how to do it right, and to uncover what, exactly, “right” means.

For instance, did you know that, on average, “email delivers sales at an average cost per order of less than $7,” according to BtoB magazine. That compares to $12 for catalog orders and $82 for retailers without websites according to Shop.org.

In other words, using email to make sales is really cost effective.

But, that doesn’t mean its without pitfalls. The first of these pitfalls is the seemingly-dismal open rates many publishers get–rates around 50% aren’t at all unusual, with many publishers seeing their rates settle around 30%. Here’s the thing about those numbers though–they’re completely, 100% inaccurate.

See, open rates are based on whether or not your reader views your images. So, since 59% of online shoppers “routinely block images,” (MarketingSherpa.com) it’s likely your open rates are inaccurate–by a huge percentage! What this means for your newsletter is that your open rate may be a full 60% higher than what’s being registered by your open rate. Doesn’t that make you feel better?

Also, according to MarketingSherpa, 64% of “key decision-makers” use mobile devices to read their email which can make a mess of your carefully crafted design–so, if you’re targeting a business audience, take that into consideration with your design.

In the third quarter of 2007, companies saw the highest open rates on Wednesdays (25.4%), Mondays (24.7%), and Thursdays (23.6%) and the highest click-thru rates on Wednesdays (3.9%) and Saturdays (5.0%) (eROI–registration required). BtoB indicates that 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. bring the highest open rates and click-thrus, while eROI says that open rates climb steadily throughout the day.

Does this mean you should send your newsletter at 11 a.m. on Wednesdays, to take advantage of higher open rates and higher click-thrus? Maybe–if Wednesdays suit your overall strategy and readership. (For instance, you wouldn’t send a weekly update on weekend entertainment out on Wednesdays–Thursday would be a better day for that.)

That being said, you can’t chase after the trends. If you change your publication date every time a survey indicates other publishers are getting slightly better results, you’ll only wind up confusing your audience. Also, open rates and click-thrus aren’t the only thing to consider. You’ll want to consider the days of the week and times that are best for your audience (based on your own track record and testing) above what other publishers have found.

My recommendation? Experiment! Try different days and times, ask your readers when they’d like to hear from you (but look to your own numbers over their responses). Test “off” days for mailing like Sundays and Tuesdays.

Ultimately, numbers like these are useful, but you can’t make them the be all and end all of your strategy. Use them as a tool, not as the final say on what you do, and don’t do, and when you do it.

So, what do you think? Will this round up change your approach to email? Does it make you feel better about your open rates? I’d love to hear your thoughts on these numbers! Email me and tell me what you think.

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