Timing your email newsletters

There is lots of information out there about when is the best time of the day/week to send email newsletters, ensuring that as many people as possible open (and read) your message. We’ve already written about how to come up with a good subject line to increase your open rates and in this post we’ll look at the variety of data that analyses the best time to send your email.

Timing your email newsletters

Time of day

An analysis of more than a billion emails was recently conducted by a major email newsletter company to identify trends in the best time to send marketing emails/newsletters. The results showed that the number of ‘email opens’ increased after 12pm, with the optimum period being between 2pm and 5pm. This suggests that people prefer to read newsletters or other marketing emails once they have cleared the more urgent emails in the morning. It goes without saying that you should aim to send your email within working hours, otherwise they are likely to be deleted in the morning ‘clear out’ of the inbox. If some of your contacts are in a different time zone, you’ll need to take this into account as well.

Time of week

The same study also revealed that Tuesdays and Thursdays are the busiest days for the average person/worker in terms of email volume. With that in mind, it might be advisable to aim for other days of the week (although Mondays are not recommended as ‘back to work blues’ may get in the way), to help your email ‘stand out from the crowd’, or you may wish to stick with these two days as they have been shown to be successful for many marketers. Sending marketing emails at the weekends is not advised, although this may be a good time for you, if your audience dictates.

Know your audience

Your audience is likely to have certain habits, depending on their interests and the information that you are sending to them. These habits might render some of the more established statistics about ‘when is a good time’ somewhat less useful. For example, if you are communicating with a young, technologically-motivated demographic, evening emails may work just as well as ones sent during the day. If your email requires a response, evenings may also generate higher engagement, especially if your email isn’t directly work-related. Similarly, Fridays (which are often not recommended as the weekend is a distraction) may work better if your email is about entertainment and the weekend is about to start.

What about the device?

A lot of the points above are not necessarily applicable to mobile users. A lot of the research tends to focus on desktop users who open emails at work. Mobile users continue to be active into the evening and at weekends. In 2013, a study found that 55% of consumers open their emails on desktops, while only 25% opened emails on mobile devices. With the ever-growing use of (and reliance on) mobile devices, this number is now likely to be much higher. Making emails more ‘mobile friendly’ and responsive will also affect the user’s experience of the content that you send.

So, there doesn’t seem to be a ‘right’ time to send your emails but being aware of these points will help you to choose the best time for your content/audience.

How to streamline your email routine to save a week each year

Email now takes up a significant part of almost everyone’s working day. If you spend more than an hour each day using email it makes a lot of sense to make your email routine as efficient as possible.

If you can save just 15 minutes a day on email you will free-up an hour and a quarter every working week, which is over 56 hours a year… that’s a time saving of over a full working week every year. If you can save an hour a day you will free-up a massive 28 working days in a year!

Macro shot of a watch workings

These figures may seem unbelievable at first but they are accurate when based on an eight hour working day, a 5 day working week and a 45 week working year.

So, how do you streamline your email routine to make it as efficient as possible?

1) Have set times for dealing with emails each day. Deal with your emails when you arrive at work and at the end of the day – set aside time for this in your daily routine. Close your email client for the rest of the day so that your emails don’t distract you from the work that needs to be done.

2) Use the two minute rule when sorting through your inbox. What’s the two minute rule? If you can reply to an email in under two minutes, do it straight away. Otherwise, mark it and come back to it after you have sorted through the rest of your inbox.

3) Use fixed responses if you regularly send similar emails. This can be a huge time-saver. For example, you might regularly type your address, a description of what you do or an email to thank people for payment. The next time you find yourself writing something that you feel you have written before, copy it for use in the future. Some email clients have settings to manage these, such as ‘canned responses’ in gmail. However, a simpler way to manage fixed responses is just to copy and paste each response into a notepad document and put them all in a folder in your desktop. This way, if you ever want to change email client you’ll still have all your fixed responses with you.

4) Unsubscribe from emails that you don’t want to receive… first time. Rather than just delete these emails take a few seconds to open the email, scroll down and click ‘unsubscribe’. This will cut down the number of emails that you receive and make sorting through your inbox quicker.

5) Send the spam to spam. Send spam emails straight to your spam folder and they won’t be a problem again. Before hitting spam though, check that the email is really spam – if it is as list you’ve signed up to or a marketing email from a company who you’ve bought something from, it is much better to unsubscribe.

6) Set up folders in your email client… and use them. Almost all email clients allow you to create folders in which to file emails. Using these is much better than storing old emails in your inbox as you’ll have a nice neat inbox which is easily managed. It also makes it easier to find old emails that slip past the search function of your email client.

7) Use filters to automatically apply actions to incoming emails. You can use filters to automatically put emails from specifc addresses into one of your folders. For example, if you receive a monthly newsletter that you like to read in your spare time you can automatically filter it to a ‘newsletters’ folder and read it when it suits you. These emails will never touch your inbox so you cut down on the amount of email sorting that needs to be done.

8) Use an email list service if you regularly send emails to the same group of people. Simply create an email list and you can send an email to the list email address direct from your email client as normal – the email will be received by the whole group. This can be a huge time saver because it saves you having to add everybody’s email addresses manually. Group email services also come with nice features such as: the ability to prevent members of the list seeing each others email addresses and including the name of an individual in the email (e.g. ‘Hi John’ rather than ‘Hi Everyone’). For more information see this two minute video.

9) Add a signature to all your emails. Most email clients come with a feature that allows you to automatically add a signature to your emails – use this to add a sign-off too. You’ll never have to think about how to end an email again.

If you think that any of these steps could streamline your email routine then make the change straight away – a little time spent now will save a huge amount of time in the future!

Why use a group email service?

Simplelists is a group email manager that allows you to send emails to a group of people using one email address. In this blog post, we list five reasons why we think using a group email service like ours is a good idea.

Why use group email

1. You don’t need to remember everyone’s email address

With a group email service you use a single email address for a group of people. The group email service then forwards the email automatically to your group. This gives you an easy way to contact your group because you don’t need to remember everyone’s individual email address.

2. You can customise and manage your email list easily

Email programs like Microsoft Outlook require you to maintain your email list manually. This means that you need to spend time updating and checking your list before each email. If you have a list of contacts who have given you permission to contact them, you can upload this list to the group email service. Alternatively, people can sign up to the list on a website, using a subscribe form. You can also moderate your list, choosing whether to allow anyone to email your list, or have a closed list so that you can decide who can post to it (read more on moderating your list effectively).

3. Your emails get delivered

Many Internet Service Providers (ISPs) limit the number of addresses that you can send an email to. It might be 100 or 500, or there may be a cap on the amount of data that you can send at once. It is also becoming more common for people to report emails as spam, even if they signed up to a list in the first place. A group email service will fully manage spam reporting for you, ensuring that your emails continue to get through.

4. You adhere to privacy laws

If you are sending emails to large groups of people, it is now a legal requirement to include an unsubscribe link in every email. This gives you group members the opportunity to ‘opt out’ of receiving further communications from you, should they wish. If you use a group email service, this option is included automatically in the emails you send.

5. You have some great, private discussions

If you’re using the list to set up a discussion group, we think that using a group email service like Simplelists is better than other options out there. It is important to know that the content of your email is private and that you ultimately own the content that you share with the members of your list. This is not always the case with other services like Facebook for private groups (read more about why this is the case). The Simplelists privacy policy clearly states that:

“all data, including emails, list content, subscriber lists and any list information, is the express property of the account owner and/or the author of a particular message”.

Interested? Sign up for a free one month trial of Simplelists.

Moderate Your e-mail List Effectively

When your role is moderating an e-mail list, there are a few strategies you can implement to ensure that the job is done effectively. A well-moderated e-mail list will not only be free of spam and trolling but will retain and engage list members, keeping them coming back. Here are some tips for moderating an e-mail list…

Group Discussion

Customise Your List Settings

Taking the time to customise your list settings is a big time saver for moderators – if you set up your list correctly you can almost completely avoid spam and trolling. Pay particular attention to posting permissions – you can choose specific people that can post, allow anyone to post or allow only list members to post.

Open or Closed Lists?

An open list allows anyone to send messages to the list, even non-members. Open lists can be active and attract lots of messages but they also require the most moderation.

Closed lists are easier to moderate – one of the main tasks of the moderator is deciding who can post to the list. The more people you allow to post the better the conversation can be but it is also less controlled.

Each list is different and it should be clear whether an open or closed list suits your needs best.

Avoid Over Posting in Discussion Lists

A common killer of interest in moderated e-mail lists is over-posting by a moderator – even (or especially!) if the moderator is more knowledgeable about the subject matter than most of the list members. If a discussion list becomes a ‘one man show’ then it can lose the discussion factor, which is the raison d’etre after all!.

Be Quick To Remove Spam

If spam messages are left up they can give a bad impression to new members and reduce the quality of the list. Spam is not actually that common in most lists but if you see some remove it as soon as possible.

Use A Light Touch

A list with active discussion can have members with different opinions – debate can get heated but it is important not to jump in too quickly to moderate comments as it can stifle debate. Knowing the difference between a productive argument and trolling is one of the main skills of moderation. It’s important that all legitimate opinions are heard even if you have a different opinion from the person who posted.

Welcome First Time Users

It can be good to welcome first-time users when they make a post. When a new user posts for the first time a warm response can encourage them to be an active member of the email list, while a frosty or criticisive response can turn them off for good. So encourage them by thanking them for posting and welcoming them to your group.

Stoke the Fire

Use your authority as the moderator to encourage new discussions. You can post a question about a current event or a little piece of your mind regarding a specific topic to push users to participate in your moderated list.

Pay Attention To Your Regulars

You’ll notice quickly who your regular posters are. You’ll also notice that these are the people who stoke the fire when you haven’t. Be sure to encourage these users and pay attention to their posts.

Avoid Cliques

While paying attention to regulars is important, it is essential to avoid favouritism or the formation of a clique because this could make other members feel that they are not a part of the group.

Remain Objective

If you do have to step in and remove posts or members, it is important to remain impartial, objective and to put aside any personal feelings you have about those that you are moderating. If you do this well you should gain the respect of the group members.

Explain Your Actions

If you have to remove a post be sure to send the member a private message explaining why you have taken the action. This will help the member understand why their post was removed and should prevent them making a similar mistake in the future. It also makes the member feel like you are paying particular attention to them and gives them a chance to respond to you personally.

Add Other Moderators

If your list has become quite large, and you’re having a difficult time keeping up, you can appoint other moderators to help with the maintenance of your e-mail list. This can be a great time saver.

Which Account is Best For You?

You have a range of choices when deciding which account to use to manage your group email. In this post we’ll take you through your options but… before we start it’s worth noting that we offer free trials for both single and multiple list accounts so if you have a one-off email campaign or short-term project that requires group email management then why not use the free trial – it won’t cost you a thing!

Price and Value word made by letter pieces

‘Single List’ verses ‘Multiple List’ accounts

This choice will usually be dictated by the number of lists that you want to manage – if you manage several different email lists then you’ll need a multiple list account but if you manage one email list then a single list account is usually best. Simple stuff!

However, it’s worth noting that there are some extra features that are only available to multiple list accounts that could mean that you want to choose a multiple list account even if you only manage a single email list. One such feature is the ability to use your own domain to replace simplelists.com in your emails and for your landing pages – this enables you to brand the entire system as your own.

‘Pay As You Go’ verses ‘Unlimited Subscription’

If you are planning a one-off mailshot or have a short-term project that needs group email management then a Pay As You Go account is normally the best option.The exception is when you expect to send a huge amount of data through your account (for example, if your emails will contain large attachments). Under these circumstances, subscribing to an unlimited account for the duration of your project would be the most cost effective option.

If your email management needs are long-term or ongoing then an unlimited subscription is normally best. This is hassle free and enables you to send as much data as you want. However, if you use a small amount of data then a 10GB Pay As You Go data bundle should be more cost effective.

Pay As You Go Price Plans

All Pay As You Go price plans allow up to 20,000 list members – enough even for the biggest lists! You choose a plan based on the amount of data that you wish to send.

For short term projects or email campaigns of less than a month the 1GB and 3GB bundles are a good option – you can send approximately 48,000 plain text emails with a 1GB bundle and 144,000 with a 3GB bundle!

For long-term projects or email campaigns that last up to a year the 10GB bundle offers great value – at only $64 (£40 or €52) for the bundle that lasts an entire year this works out at just $5.33 (£3.33 or €4.33) for each month. This bundle enables you to send approximately 40,000 plain text emails per month, every month for a year!

For very large projects and campaigns the 30GB bundles offer enough data for some serious emailing with large lists.

To make things really simple we have a PAYG yearly data calculator which enables you to estimate the data required for your list – you can see it on our products page.

Unlimited Price Plans

Unlimited price plans are ongoing – you pay a monthly or yearly subscription and receive an unlimited data allowance. The subscription fee depends on the number of list members that you have – there are options for 1000, 5000, 10000 and 20000 members. The yearly subscriptions offer the best value and start at as little as $10 (£6 or €8) per month.

Plain Text or HTML Emails?

With Simplelists you have the option to send emails that are plain text or HTML. So which should you choose?

The answer, as with so many of these questions, is ‘it depends’… on the purpose of the email that you are sending. In some circumstances HTML will be the best choice and in others plain text will be preferable.

First it’s worth considering the pros and cons:

HTML text

HTML Emails – Pros:

The main advantage of HTML emails is that they can look great – you can include colours, pictures, nice fonts and a pretty layout. This means that your email can have visual impact and reading it can be a pleasant experience for the viewer. You can create a professional image.

It can also make the email easy to skim – emphasis can be placed on important points so people receive the important information at a glance. You can effectively steer people towards a ‘call to action’ by highlighting it in a manner that makes people want to click.

You can include logos for your company or organisation, making the email instantly recognisable while increasing the visibility of your brand. It is also possible to include social media buttons that lead to your Facebook, Twitter or Google+ pages, therefore increasing the reach of the email beyond a single ‘call to action’.

Tracking can also be made possible in HTML emails – you can include code to track open rates for the email and click through rates for links within the email.

So HTML emails have loads of advantages, but don’t jump the gun just yet – there are some downsides…

HTML Emails – Cons:

Using templates can hurt your engagement. People get hundreds of emails every week and sort through these, cutting out the irrelevant ones. Most of these irrelevant emails will be made from HTML templates and people subconsciously associate the layouts of these templates with spam. More often than not, people send templated emails to the recycle bin, or worse, the spam folder. In fact, for templated emails if 4% of people who receive the email click on the ‘call to action’ it is seen as a huge success! This excellent blog post gives more detail.

So, it is best to avoid email templates and create your own HTML emails which can be unique enough to be different from the templates.

This takes us to the next point: you have to have the ability to use HTML and CSS code to create the email. Now HTML and CSS are pretty straightforward but there are some unique points when it comes to emails, because unlike web pages which are read directly in the browser, HTML emails are read in an email client, and each email client is a little bit different. However, by following a few basic rules it is possible to make HTML emails that look consistent across email clients.

Another issue is time – plain text emails can be written in a few minutes but creating a high quality unique HTML email will take longer, possibly a few hours.

Plain Text Emails – Pros:

Personal emails are plain text and people are used to receiving plain text emails – therefore people are more likely to read them compared with HTML emails.

They are also very quick and easy to write and with Simplelists you can write a plain text email and send it to your whole list in a few minutes.

Plain Text Emails – Cons:

As you’d expect there are downsides – effectively all the pros of HTML emails are not possible with plain text. You can’t make social media buttons, include a logo or use a distinct layout in a plain text email. You also can’t track open rates with plain text emails (although it is possible to track click through rates).

Conclusion

So, there are pros and cons to both plain text and HTML emails and you should consider these when deciding which one to use.

A good compromise can be to make an HTML email that looks very similar to plain text but that contains the features that you want, such as a social media buttons, a logo and a subtly highlighted ‘call to action’. This way you’ll get the benefits of the personal feel that a plain text email has but with the added advantages that HTML emails can bring.

Above all, avoid HTML email templates as they are likely to be trashed or sent to the spam folder!

 

Why Simplelists Is Better Than Facebook for Private Groups

If you’re setting up a discussion group these days you have a lot of options to choose from. You could use a social media platform, such as a Facebook ‘closed’ group, to host your discussion or you could choose to use a group email service like Simplelists.

If your organisation or business values the privacy of your group discussions we believe that group email is the preferable option. In fact, it doesn’t just come down to privacy – the actual ownership of your content is at stake…

Private or Public Concept

We looked into privacy and content ownership on Facebook and Google+. We considered including Twitter too but decided against it because it doesn’t really provide the equivalent of ‘closed groups’ or ‘circles’, instead being an unashamedly public platform. We have to admit to being slightly shocked by what we found.

From Facebook’s terms:

For content that is covered by intellectual property rights… you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide licence to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP Licence).

It was noted that we couldn’t find exceptions to these terms for ‘closed’ or ‘secret’ groups – it seems that this applies to these groups too.

We did come across the following terms specifically related to privacy options:

Although we allow you to set privacy options that limit access to your information… We cannot guarantee that only authorized persons will view your information. We cannot ensure that information you share on Facebook will not become publicly available.

Google’s terms of service were much the same:

When you upload, submit, store, send or receive content to or through our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works… communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content.

So basically it seems that any content that is put on Facebook or Google+ can be used by Facebook or Google as they wish.

Now compare these to the relevant part of the Simplelists privacy policy:

All data, including emails, list content, subscriber lists and any list information, is the express property of the account owner and/or the author of a particular message.

At Simplelists we love social media – it’s a great place to connect with people and share things that you want everyone to see. This blog post will be shared on Facebook and Google+ shortly after it is published.

However, we believe that there is a time and a place for private discussion, where the author maintains full ownership rights to the content that they produce. You can sign up for a free trial with Simplelists here.

Choosing a subject line

In our last blog post, we explained that your email delivery rates might be reduced if your list members report your emails as ‘spam’. A feature of Simplelists is that we enable the members of your list to engage easily in private group discussion with one another. So, it’s important that your emails get opened and that your members don’t mark them as spam before doing so, whether accidentally or not.

Spam Folder Listing

One way to ensure that list members open your email and are sure that it is from a recognised, trustworthy source, is to make sure you have a good email subject line.

Top tips for writing a good subject line

Short is sweet. It is worth bearing in mind that the average email client can display between 38 and 47 characters in a subject line. A study carried out by Return Path in 2006 found that “click through rates for subject lines with 49 or fewer characters were 75% higher than those with 50 or more”. So, brevity is probably best.

Resonate with your readers. Content-related subject lines that ‘hit home’ with your readers will work better than something more general. You could consider using a teaser: ‘This month: Is it worth buying organic?’ might be more tempting that ‘August newsletter’.

Avoid spam ‘trigger words’. Email clients generally have inbuilt mail filters to automatically file messages in the spam folder. Words like ‘video, trial, sample, mortgage’ are examples of potentially problematic choices. You can study lists of spam words and you can also use websites like EmailSpamTest to test the likelihood of your email being filed as spam.

Avoid repetition and add a dash of intrigue. It’s always a good habit to avoid repeating a subject line you used before, even it worked really well previously. Give people a reason to open the email by focusing on something that ‘whets their appetite’. Use something memorable or funny to catch their eye.

Personalise and localise. There is always an element of ‘what’s in it for me’ when ruthlessly scanning an inbox full of messages. A study carried out by Experian in 2013 found that personalising emails by using words like ‘you’ and ‘your’ in subject lines may help to boost open rates. Mentioning a place can also help to focus people’s attention.

Finally, make it clear who you are in the ‘From’ line. With Simplelists, you can send your email from your own email account , directly to the list address. Check that your name/company name is displayed clearly so that your members will immediately remember who you are and why they subscribed to the list in the first place.