As we move into April, the way forward is murky for brands and customers alike in the short term. No one knows for sure what business and social cultures will look like when we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic.

But we have learned one thing in a hurry: how to use email to communicate most effectively with our customers in a crisis.

Now that businesses are shifting operations to comply with state lockdowns, “shelter in place” or “safer at home” orders and health advisories, marketers are changing their email strategies to address customers’ immediate concerns.

What Brands Are Saying Now

More brands in the FreshAddress Email Creative Archive are using email to report store closures, changes in hours or shipping services, alternate ways to shop or contact company personnel, changes or cancellations of events and plans to make remaining physical locations safe for the public.

  • Our blog post Brands Use Email to Spread Assurances about COVID-19 offers strategies to communicate effectively in email and email examples to emulate.
  • But recent developments have raised more questions about making sure your emails not only hit the inbox but get opened, read and trusted by your subscribers.

3 Tips For Effective Email Marketing During a Crisis

Marketers are talking about these topics in webinars and online discussion groups. Each one addresses a specific point that can help maintain and strengthen email  relationships.

1. Don’t pull the plug on promotional campaigns.

A mid-March survey of email marketers discovered that 71% of email marketers had paused all promotional emails.

Suspending email campaigns might seem like a good idea right now, but several email deliverability experts warn against going cold turkey on promotional campaigns, even for a few weeks, and then turning on the firehose when conditions change.

  • Pull back on frequency if it’s right for your overall email strategy. Then, warm up your IP address by increasing frequency slowly when it’s time to resume operations.
  • A regular mailing schedule helps you keep your email lists fresh because you will continue to remove undeliverable addresses. Adjust your content and sending schedule as needed (see the tips below). Just don’t go dark.
2. Update your message templates and automated messages.

Revise template content. Review standard information like an administrative footer where you list your unsubscribe link, street address and any other information your country’s laws require along with store and customer service hours, locations and other information.

  • Update your templates with this content to reflect changes or disruptions in your operations.
  • You can create temporary templates with this new information, and return to your original templates once you go back to business as usual.

Check triggered messages. Update these messages to include current conditions. One example: If you send birthday, anniversary or welcome messages with incentives or rewards to use in physical locations, update them now – and by “now” we mean “today” – to account for those changes.

Work with other departments to update their emails. This includes:

  • Sales messages
  • Customer-service contacts
  • Appointment and bill-payment reminders, and
  • Any other messages that reach customers, even if they’re not marketing-related.
3. Target and reward your most active customers or subscribers.

Broadcast emails like long-winded CEO letters might make your management and legal team happy. But sending them to your entire email database – and even unsubscribed, lapsed or spam-complaint addresses, as several marketers claimed they were forced to do – can generate higher unsubscribes and spam complaints.

These can undo the work you did to build up your sender reputation and establish strong bonds with your customers and subscribers.

Look for changes in subscriber behavior. Pull reports on your email campaigns more often. Eyeball them more closely to look for signs of subscriber rebellion: unsubs, spam complaints and lower open and click rates.

Retool for the “new normal.” A potential recession, skyrocketing unemployment and stressed households mean sales likely will be down.

  • The same old “Buy this” email sent to your entire database isn’t going to work.
  • How can you revise your second-quarter campaigns to accommodate these cultural and economic changes?

Update segmentation. If you already segment your database, great! But think about layering in subscriber or buying activity. This way, you’ll be able to create super-segments of customers who keep buying or otherwise engaging with your brand. Then, try out new messaging to thank and reward them.

Email Is Still Your Go-To Messaging Tool

The pandemic has unleashed a wave of fear, half-truths and misinformation, especially in social media. Everyone is looking for news they can trust. That opens up a tremendous opportunity for email as the vehicle to establish or rebuild trust.

Use what you know about your customers and subscribers to rework your email program and to explain your actions to management in order to get them on board.

Your friends in the email industry have your back, too. Email marketers have pulled together some tremendous resources in a short space of time to help you navigate today’s choppy water. Here are three:

Remember: We’re all in this together. If you have questions that we didn’t cover here, on list hygiene in stressful times or email marketing in general, we’re happy to help. Call us at 800-321-3009, contact your FreshAddress account rep, or contact us here.

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