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Finding An Email Marketing Groove: Optimize Cadence & Timing for Better Engagement

August 27, 2014

Effective email marketing campaigns rely heavily on establishing effective cadence and sending times – creating both a successful pattern of engagement and reaching out at the times of the day, week, or year that achieve the highest engagement rates. Let’s take a look at how to determine the best approach.

Determining Cadence

Cadence is the pattern of your email marketing program, and there’s more to it than simply establishing an automatic frequency – deciding, for example, to send emails every 2 weeks. That type of automation can even be counterproductive, creating a sense of blind routine and potentially suggesting a degree of thoughtlessness when it comes to the value you’re delivering. So when determining a cadence, thoughtfulness should be the primary driver. The goal should be to nurture communication and engagement with your entire list.

One way to do that is to take various levels of engagement into consideration. MailChimp reports that there is a negative correlation between email frequency and engagement: the more frequently you send emails, the less frequently they tend to be viewed. That means its important to track engagement levels, and build your cadence to respond to different segments. For the most engaged segments, you can send more frequently, relying on their continued engagement as an indicator of their desire for more. For the less engaged, turn down the frequency of your emails in an attempt to drive higher engagement with fewer, more impactful emails, and build trust by not abusing your sending privileges.

Establishing an effective cadence also involves considering how the content you’re sending relates to itself over time. Is there a natural progression that’s geared toward continued conversation and engagement? For example, perhaps it makes sense to send relevant new product updates, followed by coupons and deals on those new products, followed by success stories or news items that relate to them, followed by tutorial videos around them. This kind of logical flow shows your email list that you’re thinking about the value you’re delivering – you’re not mindlessly repeating the same types of content  – and it also stands to increase your conversions, since each email builds off of and responds to the last one.

The Best Times to Send

Apart from cadence, deciding when to send emails is an important factor. MailChimp has a handy tool for projecting best times, but their data shows that, in general, the best time for engagement is 4 PM (which makes sense, as that’s when work is just starting to wind down) and the best days for engagement are Wednesday and Thursday (which also makes sense, as the week is starting to wind down but people aren’t ducking out for the weekend yet).

While this is true in general, it’s best to do your own testing. Because of the large number of email newsletters and promotions being sent these days (the data we quoted above is no secret, so you’ll be competing with other businesses for your list’s attention), some marketers actually see a lift in engagement by sending during the weekend or on other days when there are fewer messages to compete with in the inbox.

For some businesses, it makes sense to build your timing strategy around different times of year, too. For example, perhaps a retail store could try increasing their frequency during peak times of the shopping year, like Christmas, and then back off their frequency to reduce attrition rates and lack of engagement during other times of year. This has two advantages: it demonstrates empathy with the needs and desires of those on your email list (by offering deals or product highlights when they presumably want them the most), while simultaneously pushing your email list the hardest when it matters most for business – namely, at peak shopping times.

That’s it for now. If you’d like to learn more about establishing optimal cadence and timing for your email marketing campaigns, we’d love to help.