Timing is everything. It’s the gatekeeper to having even a chance of connecting with your target audiences.
If you do connect with your network at the right time – when they are open minded – you have a good chance of motivating action (assuming your messaging clearly conveys the values and interest you share with network members, and the benefit the action will bring to them). If it all comes together, your network will pause, listen and is most likely to act.
But if you connect with your network members at a time when their minds are closed – when they’re getting their kids ready for school, prepping to deliver a key presentation, gobbling lunch or about to finish up for the day – your outreach will fall flat, no matter how well it’s crafted.
That’s why knowing your target audiences’ daily habits and schedule is central to engaging them. You need to pinpoint their open-minded moments.
1) Find the Open-Minded Moments
You’ve told me that few of you actually know how to get to know the members of your network, including what their days are really like (a.k.a. when they are open minded).
Just as you’d show interest and respect in meeting your mother-in-law-to-be, your partner’s colleague, new neighbor or even a stranger you meet at a party, show some respect to your target audiences.
Talk to them, find out what’s important to them and what works for them, and ask your colleagues to do the same. The timing of open-minded moments is just one topic to cover.
Formalize the getting-to-know-you process and make it an ongoing one by taking these steps:
- Involve your colleagues cross-organization in info gathering – anecdotal conversations can be incredibly productive.
- Ask them to help and focus them on the key question of the moment. Right now, it’s the time network members are most likely to dig into an email, click through to an event shared by a friend on Facebook or pick up the phone.
- Train them to ensure they’re most effective at getting real, useful information.
- Make sure there’s an easy way for them to log and share these insights.
- Create personas (in-depth profiles) for no more than three groups or segments within each of three or fewer primary target audiences.
- Each group should share common wants, interests and habits.
- Base personas on individuals you know if you can.
- Flesh out their lives so you have a true sense of who they are, beyond a demographic or giving level.
- Engage your marketing advisory team (or form one if you don’t have one already).
- There are five or 10 folks that you work with who are passionate about your cause and frequently in touch.
- Select those that are representative of your primary target audiences and ask if they’re willing to give you no more than 10 minutes monthly to provide feedback on various marketing questions.
- 90% of them will say yes and that’s instant, valuable audience research.
- Research directly via online surveys and informal phone interviewing and/or focus groups.
2) Then Tweak Your Timing to Your Channel
Once you get to know your target audiences – especially what they want, but also when they are open minded – you’re well positioned to connect with them.
But you can do even more to fine-tune timing according to usage habits of specific channels – from email to Facebook, as long as you remain focused on the open-minded moments.
Here are the two most valuable guidelines that I learned from online communications expert Dan Zarella via his recent Science of Timing webinar.
- Reach out when others aren’t, if that’s when your network is open-minded.
Dan introduced me to this concept of contra-competitive timing. Here’s an example: It used to be thought that the most effective time to send e-newsletters or other mass email was 11am on Tuesday or Wednesday morning. However, as you can imagine, everyone started doing just that, resulting in a very crowded inbox at those times.
- Weekends are the new black. Consider reaching out on weekends when your audiences have more time and attention for you. But ask them first if that’s right, and test your weekend outreach before going all out.
Contra-competitive timing is the opposite approach…looking for the quiet moments as long as they are times when your network is open-minded. Open mindedness is the ultimate criteria for fine-tuning your timing.
Don’t forget that you have to figure time zone into your timing planning. If you reach out to those within a single time zone, just follow the guidelines shared below. But if your target audiences are more dispersed and in multiple time zones, you want to ensure you bridge those time zones in your outreach or are able to segment your list for e-news and email blasts.
BTW, these guidelines are relevant for professional and personal communications. Online communications dramatically reduces the personal/professional divide in open- minded moments.
Here’s how you can do even more with timing your marketing outreach to open-minded moments:
E-newsletter and Email Blast Timing
- Dare to send on the weekend to personal email addresses. Email open rates are higher on the weekends because people pay more attention to emails then. This holds true if your email list is most personal email addresses; not as fully if you reach out to folks at their work emails.
- Send email blasts early in the morning to take advantage of contra-competitive timing (when you go against common practice in email timing to increase your chance to be heard and get your content noticed.)
- Keep content relevant to keep your network engaged. Newer subscribers are more likely to open your emails and click on the links. Make every subscriber feel like your e-news or email blast is relevant every time.
Blog Post Timing
- Post on Monday morning. Page views are the highest point of the week at that point.
- If your goal is mostly to generate conversation, post on Saturday morning. Readers are mostly likely to comment over the weekend, when they have more time. However, post views dip strongly over the weekend. Also, weekend comments won’t flow in if you’re hoping to connect on a purely professional basis.
- Blog more frequently. If you blog less than two times a week, readers won’t be looking for your posts. Just as when you send your e-news less than once a month, readers will forget all about your organization between issues and are less likely to open your e-news.
Facebook Post Timing
- Focus your Facebook posting on mornings and weekends. That’s when most of us are there. Saturday and Sunday till 11am (figure in time zones if you’re reaching out nationally) are primo Facebook times.
- Don’t overload with your own content – Plan on spacing out tweets related to your own content. But if your organization’s goal is to become the next master curator of content on your issue or field, tweet external content and retweet as much as you like.
- Tweet mid- to late-afternoon if you’re seeking retweets. RTs are vital if you’re trying to grow your network.
- Tweet late morning (11am) or late afternoon (5pm) for greatest click-through rates. Click-throughs are key to increasing your networks engagement.
What are your criteria for timing your online marketing outreach?
How do you decide when to email, blog, post on Facebook and/or Tweet? And how do those times overlap with offline outreach? Please share your timing strategies and criteria here.