Does Anybody Really Know What Time it Is? (Or, How Bob Gibson’s Fastball Should Influence Your Email Marketing)

Bob Gibson understood his strengths and his weaknesses. He never let "the Book" get in the way of pitching to his strengths, just as you need to "pitch" to yours.


“What is the best time to send our email?” is a question we field on a fairly regular basis.  The question brings to mind a couple baseball anecdotes, because … well, because baseball is a metaphor for everything* in life.

*and really, if someone tries to tell you it’s not a metaphor for everything, they’re not trying hard enough!

I’ve been reading Reggie Jackson’s and Bob Gibson’s book Sixty Feet, Six Inches, which is a series of conversations between Gibson (arguably the most dominant World Series pitcher of the 1960s) and Reggie (Mr. October himself) about their approaches to pitching and hitting.  The reminiscences are fun, for sure, but they mostly are discussing their craft.

In one conversation, Gibson got to discussing “the book” or, the accepted strategies, about facing certain hitters.  He talked about the challenge of facing Carl Yastrzemski in the 1967 World Series – the first time he’d ever faced him.  “The book” on Yaz was you did not throw him high fastballs.  Yaz killed high fastballs.  Well, in Game 1 of the ’67 Series Gibson wanted to see if Yaz could handle his high fastball.  Yaz did nothing against Gibson that day.  He popped everything up – he hit the high fastball, but, he couldn’t catch up to Gibson’s high fastball to be able to do anything with it.  In Game 2 the next St. Louis pitcher, Dick Hughes, figured he, too, would attack Yaz with high fastballs.  Yaz hit two home runs in Game 2.  Dick Hughes’ high fastball was not Bob Gibson’s high fastball.

And this brings me to marketing. (Of course it does!  This is the Completely Interesting Direct Marketing Blog, after all!)  And it brings me, in particular, to email marketing.

So, I repeat … “when is the best time to send an email?”

Surely Mr. Google has the answer!  I checked.  A Google search for the best time to send an email generates 960,000,000 results!  That’s nine hundred sixty m-m-m-m-m-million results!  That’s … that’s … too many!  When there are 960,000,000 opinions (give or take), it’s safe to say nobody knows.  And, really, that’s my point.  There are a lot of guesses.  There are even a lot of educated guesses.  But too many of the guessers and educated guessers are attempting to put their educated guess – that might just work for their given application – out there as the gospel truth.  What occurred to me?  No one really knows what they’re talking about when it comes to email marketing.

See, stuck in the middle of those 960,000,000 results is the right answer … for someone.  And that same right answer for someone is going to be the absolute wrong answer for someone else, just as “high fastball” in October 1967 was the right answer for Bob Gibson against Yaz, and “high fastball” was a very wrong answer for Dick Hughes.

You have to test to find out what works for you.

In another conversation, Reggie talks about Bert Blyleven, another Hall-of-Fame pitcher, who Reggie always felt he could hit.  Even though Blyleven had a devastating curve ball, Reggie went to the plate knowing he could hit him.  Then, in the course of the discussion with Gibson, the more Jackson talked about Blyleven and the more he thought about the results he had against the pitcher (terrible) he came to realization his approach was wrong.  He realized that for this one pitcher he thought one thing (he could hit him), but, failed to look at the evidence to the contrary (he couldn’t).  He figured out Bert Blyleven owned him … thirty years too late!

Many marketers haven’t been able to separate email marketing for new customer acquisition from email marketing for client retention.  They’re two different beasts and should be treated differently.  The answer to the timing question might be different for each type – so you have to analyze the results for both separately and be willing to accept treating them differently.

And, please, please, please remember this: email marketing needs to adhere to fundamental, basic DM 101 rules.  Goodness knows we’ve talked about that before!  A couple years ago over at the Magill report Ken Magill shared 22 direct marketing fundamentals.  Sure, they’re mostly direct mail centric, but the same rules apply to email marketing.  Awesome Direct Marketers like you know this.

So, when you’re out there on The Google searching for the best send time (or anything else) and you wonder “Does anybody really know the best time?” tell yourself the following:

1) “NO!  NO, THEY DON’T!!!”  (I will be pleased!)
2) “I will test and figure it out for myself!!!”  (Mr. Gibson will be pleased!)
3) “Take measure of my results and be willing to discover they aren’t matching my preconceived notions!”  (Reggie will be pleased!)

Tim Burnell

About Tim Burnell

Tim Burnell, principal owner of Complete Medical Lists, has been helping clients reach their targeted markets through direct channels for over 20 years. He believes offering high quality data and unsurpassed service are the keys to Complete Medical’s success. He also believes all his CDs should be alphabetized by artist and then sorted by release date. Except for the Beatle CDs. They get sorted before all others.
This entry was posted in direct marketing, e-mail marketing and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Does Anybody Really Know What Time it Is? (Or, How Bob Gibson’s Fastball Should Influence Your Email Marketing)

  1. Eric Woolf says:

    What? No Derek Jeter reference?
    Well done Mr. Ballgame.