If you’ve been wondering when to send out your newsletter, you’re not alone.

Back in ’04, at least two prominent studies concluded that a Monday morning (6-10am) mail-out would get you the highest open rates, and apparently, if you couldn’t make Monday, Tuesday wasn’t half bad either.  The result? Email marketers fell over themselves and worked weekends to deliver a Monday morning newsflash, only to discover a year later that emails sent on Wednesdays through Fridays were enjoying the most clicks.

After that, it seemed no-one could agree.  Some argued that end-of-the-workweek or even weekend mailers were potentially more effective because of the lack of competing emails coupled with the relaxed mindset of readers, others claimed Tuesdays to Thursdays gave the best results, while the rest returned to their Monday delivery schedule.

As for time of sending, the assumption was that your email is likelier to get read at 9am, 12pm and 4pm, because those confined to work desks are either a) still settling in; b) getting ready for lunch; or c) winding down for the day. An electronics retailer tested these timings early this year and found 9am to be the clear winner.  The results were posted by MarketingSherpa, and it remains to be seen if this statistic will hold up after online marketers scurry to implement the 9am send.

Our advice?  Forget the research and conduct your own investigations.

Here’s how:

#1 View your last five sent campaigns’ open-and-click rates, and note the day and time these campaigns were sent.  Or find out what time your mail was read and the links clicked on, and whittle it down to the most popular timings, taking into account time zone differences.

#2 Carry out an A/B Split Test – set two different send schedules for your test group of readers (say Monday 9am for Group A, and Friday 4pm for Group B), and compare your campaign’s open-and-click rates. (For best results, ensure that recipients in your test groups are in the same time zone or location.)

#3 Know your audience – use eConnect Email reporting functions to see a breakdown of your audience by location; find out about typical working hours and national holidays, and adjust your send dates and times accordingly.

Marketers have also suggested looking at each subscriber’s sign-up or view-and-click time and customizing delivery times to match, although the strategy has been criticized as reading too much into a single random event.  To me, this is just plain ridiculous.

Once you’ve obtained your results, make a decision on your send times and stick with it until you feel compelled to conduct a round of tests again.  It’s probably better to focus your energies on producing a newsletter that subscribers will want to read, not whether it lands in their mailboxes at midday or midnight.

About James Trumbly:
Director of Business Development for eConnect Email, an email marketing software company. James enjoys spending time at the beach and traveling in his free time. Follow him on twitter @eConnectEmail