Email Marketing During the Unthinkable
Updated: Mar 27
Hopefully, the “A Message from our CEO” emails are almost over (praise be!) but what now? Email marketing during a crisis can feel like walking through a minefield. One tiny, totally innocent miss-step and bam, you look like an asshole.
I saw a very poignant tweet that pretty much summed up the past week of emails:
Let me start off by saying that if you are reading this post, you are most likely responsible or involved in the email marketing process at your company. And therefore, you deserve a huge virtual hug. What a brutal week, huh?
But I’m also going to be real with you. Errors were made. And errors continue to be made. So let’s regroup and do better.
It's easy to get caught up in the monster that is email marketing. Sometimes we forget that behind every email open is an individual and behind every click, a human being.
Empathy will be the key to your email marketing success, now and for forever.
The coronavirus may or may not be a business opportunity for your company, but trying to make it a marketing opportunity for your brand is just downright risky. Consumers are not stupid. They can smell desperation from a mile away. So if your #1 concern right now is you March and April numbers, it’s going to be a brutal next few months for you my friend…
At this point, your “our response to COVID-19” email has gone out. So what's next? Proceeding business, as usual, feels weird but continuously talking about out how gosh damn sad things are right now doesn't really make sense either.
So here’s how I'd tier and structure your marketing campaigns for the next several weeks:
Start with a brief acknowledgment of the current state - i.e. "A little good news to spark some joy" or " Like you, we're also transitioning to the new way of life.."
The meat of your email should provide fun/helpful/interesting content that is unique to your brand AND resonates with your audience - i.e. 5 must-see movies that require a bottle of bubbly on hand"
End with your offer - i.e Enjoy $1 shipping through x date
Once you have your theme, if you can confidently answer yes to these two questions, you’re email is probably good to go:
Am I telling customers something different from other brands versus saying the same exact thing as everyone else?
Is the core message attuned to my customer's needs right now?
If you can’t, step back for a second and go back to the drawing board.
If you have a CEO or boss breathing down your neck to recoup major profit deficits via email marketing, it’s your job to remind them of the bigger picture. More is not better right now. In fact, it’s downright harmful, not just for your email program, but for your entire brand.
Four Final Tips:
Be Mindful of Your Subject Lines "Our NEW Spring Dresses Are Here!!!" elicits a different emotional response than "Need some good news? (Us too!). Remember, meet your peeps where they are right now. I talk about some free email marketing tools here, including some email subject line testers.
Check Your Drip Campaigns If you're being the good little email marketer that I know you are, you have some sweet drip campaign going. Take a peek at them just to make sure they are 1.) not tone and deaf, and 2.) still relevant.
Segment, Segment, Segment I've said it before and I'll say it again: Make segmenting a priority now more than ever. If Cathy activated on your recent promotion, leave Cathy be for a bit!
If You Can Do, Offer Free/Reduced Shipping Shipping costs are the #1 reason shoppers say "Later Gator!" to their cart. I think we can all agree the more barriers we can remove, the better. If you are able to eliminate this barrier, now is the time to do so.
Remember, there is a real human opening your email. They might be lonely, anxious, sad, or worse, sick. Crafting emails that meet them where they are will be a welcome distraction in a sea of email garbage. If you don’t believe me, take a look at your own inbox...
I encourage you to lead with empathy now more than ever and create emails that you yourself would be ok getting. I promise you you’ll be rewarded with so much brand loyalty your boss will forget how sad times March through (god know when) was.
About the Author: Founder. Dreamer. Master of None. It's been 9 years since Jules has been paying off her Master's Degree in Social Work loans—zero years of which have involved doing actual Social Work. Instead, she's built a career decoding the puzzle that is the internet and digital marketing. Experienced. Humble. Often burned by auto-correct. Jules created Rolling Hills Media so she could write her own rules and to help brands do the same.