I work with a company that has fourteen equity portfolio companies, and most of them are small to medium-sized businesses. When I started working with each of them, the number one question I got was “When is the most effective time to send emails?” As usual, I pulled out a ton of research on the best open rate times so we had a starting point. Most of them recommended the same times, before or after lunch time, and between 5 and 7pm.

The reason I say they are a starting point, is because the best data is your own data. You have to look at what your email lists are doing. Different industries and customers behave differently. They are on their computers or phones at different times, and certain messages mean more to them than others.

If you want to discover the best times to send emails, TEST! TEST! TEST! I cannot stress enough the importance of A/B testing. Most email clients have this function available, and it can be your best friend in database marketing. Take the same email and split the list so half will get the email at one time, and half at the other. You can also do A/B testing to test out subject line performance, but I suggest only having one variable when trying to measure marketing performance. Continue doing A/B testing for 3-6 months before you do analysis. After this time period you will be able to determine when your email list is more likely to look at your email. You can also tie in email rates to website usage to see if the two times coincide. It can help you determine when to stagger promotion of a new marketing campaign. The only data that matters is your own!