In the movie Sliding Doors, Gwyneth Paltrow’s character follows two story lines – what happens after she misses her train and what happens after she catches it.

This narrative is hugely popular because so much of life is a result of timing – in romance and life partnerships, in financial decisions, in families and career changes. And, of course, in business. Timing is everything.

When is the best day of the week to send an email newsletter? When is the best time to update Instagram? When should you run this course, that event, this promotion or that marketing campaign?

The rhythm of time doesn’t only apply to your clients’ and prospects’ lives but to your life as well – as the business owner, your personal rhythm has a major impact on what you do.

Knowing your clients and their patterns

Are your clients and prospects mums and dads with young, active families? Or single professionals who value their friends, social lives and their burgeoning career? Or people in the middle years of their lives, less interested in their careers and more interested in grand children, travel and downsizing their living arrangements?

Does your business cater to consumers or to other businesses? Do your prospects tend to be located in the northern or southern hemisphere? What culture is dominant amongst your prospects?

Knowing who your ideal client is and prioritising your messaging to this avatar is imperative if you want your marketing messages to be effective. All businesses have some variety in their client base – don’t let this stop you from narrowing your focus on the dominant segment that makes up your ideal clients.

Reviewing your rhythm

First, look back over your profit and loss statements, month by month. What months have historically been the most business for you? What months have been the most quiet? Why is this? Do you best to review the data as objectively as possible. When you’re making an assumption, note this so that you can test it later.

As a general rule of thumb, it’s far more effective to try to extend the beginning and end of your naturally busy periods than to launch a promotion in the dead of the slow season.

If you can’t take a holiday, some things to do during your quiet period might include: refreshing your workspace; revising your website copy; redesigning any printed marketing materials; revising your product landscape; developing a new digital product; writing a stockpile of blog posts to publish during busier periods; reaching out to industry leaders and colleagues to forge relationships; redesigning your website.

Rather than stressing about business not being busy enough, concentrate instead on setting your business up for the busy period ahead. Or take that holiday – time off is good for business.

Rhythm of the seasons

Throughout the year, the seasons mark the transition between different times when different activities and attitudes are prevalent.

Spring has sprung in the southern hemisphere, so you best get promoting, right? Yes and no. If your marketing budget is limited, it might be best to save your dollars for the lead-up to the busy season. If you work in the health industry, spring has historically been busy – which means now is the time to increase your advertising budget, keep active on social media and offer any discounted passes that will keep clients committed to your business for longer.

The two main transitory periods of the year are autumn (or fall) and spring. These are the two key times of the year when most people are making change or, at the very least, thinking seriously of it. Autumn and spring are the best times for your business to run promotions, introduce changes or new products or services.

In the midst of winter, it can be hard to make change. People tend to be either highly focused on work, or in retreat, hanging out for spring. Winter can be really difficult to transition people into something new. Winter is, however, a great time for business-to-business. Oftentimes, the end of the financial year is very motivating for business owners, who are seeking to spend money before June 30, or improve their profitability, spurred on by a less-than-wowing profit and loss statement.

Conversely, summertime can be very slow for business-to-business. Lots of business owners take January off or significantly slow down. Yet for health businesses, summertime can be the most busy time of the year as people reprioritise their health and recalibrate their priorities.

Rhythm of the week

The beginning and end of the working week are typically the most busy times. Most people are preoccupied on Monday morning clearing their inbox and organising their week, while on Friday afternoons rushing around to finish off anything outstanding and tie off any loose ends before the weekend.

I try to avoid sending a pitch or quotation, or introducing myself to anyone at the beginning or end of the working week. I prefer to wait until at least Monday lunchtime or before Friday lunch.

For email newsletters, there’s plenty of conflicting evidence of the best send times and differing results for open rates (when a recipient opens your email newsletter) versus click-through rates (when a recipient clicks on a link within your email newsletter).

Then you need to consider who’s on your list? Mothers with young children are going to respond to their email at different times of the week to office workers, students or retirees. It also depends on the nature of your business – are your recipients opening your emails because they’re a fun distraction, provide useful, work-related materials, or some other reason?

There’s plenty of great information available, much of which is released by email software providers, who are best placed to be collecting this! Check out this article.

As a general rule, I tend to send my email newsletters or boost one of my key Facebook posts on a Wednesday afternoon due to the nature of ‘hump day’ – people tend to be looking for distractions and an entertaining email, blog post or social media update can be just the ticket.

Rhythm of the day

The time of posting on social media is, arguably, more important for social media marketing than email marketing due to the live streaming nature of social media. Again, there’s oodles of geeky research available and again, much of it is contradictory.

I tend to post at the ‘edges’ of the day, when people aren’t preoccupied with work, children or study: before 8am (commuting time is a prime-time for checking your social media), lunchtime and after dinner. In fact, lots of social media communities experience a surge of users late into the night. While others, notably Pinterest, are most frequented on weekends.

Again, this is determined by key factors pertinent to your business: who’s following you on social media and what times they are typically online; where in the world the majority of your followers are located in relation to your location; the nature of your social media personality and the type of information you share. Don’t make assumptions – look at your data (Facebook provides lots of data for page admins), create a hypothesis and test it.

Your optimum times

As a sole trader or small business owner, if you’re managing your own marketing, your optimum times are key to the success of your marketing too – but it doesn’t have to be.

Scheduling your social media and email marketing is not only far more efficient but also more effective if you schedule for optimum times or times that you’re testing. (I use Buffer). Too many business owners are continually distracted by social media throughout the day, updating their channels on the go. Too many business owners send their email newsletters late at night, whenever they’ve managed to squeeze it in, with little thought as to the best time to press send.

Instead, prepare your social media materials, updates, blog posts and newsletters in batches – not only is this more efficient but it’s far more effective than whenever you can manage it. The creative work – brainstorming, writing and creating graphics – is best done on a scheduled creative day or half-day (once a fortnight is good). The scheduling, after you’ve become familiar with this, can be done during times of the week when you’re feeling unenthused or uninspired – like Wednesday afternoons!