This article originally appeared in ClickZ on May 29, 2012.
The goal for every marketer is to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time. Ideally, if we had infinite resources and unlimited knowledge on our customers, we would optimize the experience for each customer. However, as marketers, we must make choices. When making the choice between delivering the right message or delivering at the right time, timely communication wins! Let me give a few examples.
Purchase confirmation. The goal of a purchase confirmation message is to validate the purchase, reinforce the brand, and open the conversation for additional products and services. Getting the message into the inbox within seconds is critical. With this message, you confirm the purchase, build additional brand equity, and begin a conversation with your customer. Ideally the message is relevant, but that is an optimization approach, not a must-have. Immediate arrival after purchase isn't just important for meeting customer expectations; it also helps avoid a costly customer service call to track down a missing message.
Abandon message. The goal of an abandon message is to course-correct the consumer and have them continue the buying process. Timing of this message is also critical. I'm not insinuating that all abandon campaigns should be real-time triggered. However, I firmly believe that optimizing your abandon campaign based on time will drive higher response than optimizing based on content.
Time zone segmentation. Email marketing teams are always segmenting their customer base. Understanding the customer time zone or best mail time can be as important as knowing whether the customer is a male or female. Getting the message into the inbox at just the right time works, even if the content is junk. AOL proved it long ago. AOL used to send third-party mail but only when its customer was in the AOL inbox. It was no surprise that these pieces of "junk mail" were opened at extraordinary rates. If you're not AOL, you can learn when your customers engage with email by looking at the email activity.
Sales. Of course, delivering messages in conjunction with the beginning of a sales event is a no-brainer. If you are having a time-based promotion, getting the messages into the inbox quick is much more important than tailoring the communication.
If you need to choose between relevance and speed, choose speed. Make sure you have solutions that are optimized for speed (and ideally relevance too), and your revenue goals will be much easier to achieve.