The 220 Hour Campaign Structure

Veteran marketer Dan Kennedy is famous for saying, “If debt collectors can send mail to people who have no money, offering them nothing, and still collect on debts, imagine what marketers could do if they sent mail to people who had money and offered them something valuable!”

A different campaign structure can help you send relevant messages.

Kennedy’s point is a valid one, and one that bears additional scrutiny from email marketers. While we preach that the core of email marketing is to send relevant, timely, targeted, valuable email to people who asked for it, let’s put aside content for just a few moments to examine email campaign structure.

The debt collector campaign structure is elegantly simple: repeated messages with limited variations on content over a period of time. You’ve seen these: first notice, second notice, third notice, final notice. Debt collectors typically stage their notices a couple of weeks apart, interspersed with phone calls, and the notices are sent on different days. The rationale for doing so is to try and catch people at different times and days.

Apply this same logic to an email marketing newsletter. Start by creating a dynamic segmentation that automatically filters out people who opened, read, or clicked on the current issue. You don’t want to annoy people who have already received your newsletter and paid attention to it.

Next, set up an auto-response campaign that will resend your newsletter to that segmentation (which should auto-update after each send) every 9 days and 4 hours until either everyone has opened/clicked/read it or you’ve reached the end of the newsletter’s useful life (typically when the next newsletter goes out).

Let’s say for purposes of example that your newsletter is monthly. If you send your first issue on a Monday at 7 AM, the next resend will go out on Wednesday 11 AM of the following week, then Friday 3 PM of the following week, then Sunday 7 PM of the following week.

You’ll cover 4 sends total, including the start of the work week, the middle of the work week, the end of the work week, and a weekend day. You’ll also cover 4 different times of day to catch people who check email at different intervals – the early riser type A folks first thing out of the gate on Mondays, the Wednesday lunch crowd, the folks looking for something different on a Friday afternoon, and folks winding up the weekend on Sunday evening.

Is this too much? Not at all. Remember, the segmentation filters out anyone who already saw our newsletter, so we’re only trying to reach the people we haven’t been in touch with yet.

Of course, all of this structure assumes that you have relevant, timely, targeted, valuable email and you’re sending it to people who asked to receive it, right? That said, it’s poor practice to just send an email and hope people receive it and get around to reading it, especially when you have the tools and technical capacity to deliver email at different times to suit different needs.

Christopher S. Penn
Director of Inbound Marketing, WhatCounts

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  1. This is exactly what I needed. Does What Counts have a tutorial for handling segmentation lists like this? Thanks!

  2. would this strategy negatively impact your brand if you promise to mail monthly but end up sending email weekly? also, for anyone that mails more frequently than 12 times a year, would an approach like this work?

    I’ve seen it work wonders to redeploy to non-openers ONE more time, but three? There must be significant diminishing returns.

    Has anyone correlated this tactic with unsubscribe/abuse rates?

    • It would negatively impact if you did not specify to filter out people who had already opened and read it, absolutely. That’s key.

      • problem is, you can’t be sure of everyone that opened if they only read text without opening images :-(

    • We have tested resending to non-opens one more time, but using a different subject line. We will typically get an additional 10%-15% net gain in open percentages. However, we do see approximately a doubling of the opt-out/complaint rate. My guess is that many individuals are opening the messages without images downloading.


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