Email Marketing in Times of Crisis: What you need to know

In times of uncertainty, there’s no better strategy than email marketing - so here’s everything you need to know about conducting it in the right way.

Picture of Lauren Nuttall Lauren Nuttall

Published: 03 Apr 2020

5 minutes read

Email Marketing in Times of Crisis: What you need to know

The COVID-19 pandemic has left the world in the midst of something many of us weren’t prepared for, and never expected to happen. The uncertainty has left a lot of us worried about our jobs, homes and businesses, and as COVID-19 is all you see on the news these days, it’s leaving many people feeling completely overwhelmed. That’s why, as a business, you need to be more careful than ever before about how you approach this unprecedented crisis. Many businesses have turned to email - the most cost-effective way to let your customers know you’re thinking of them - but not everyone is doing it so well. It seems that in the midst of a global crisis, many businesses have forgotten best practices - so we’re here to remind you.

Resist the urge to “send all”

In the past few weeks, our inboxes have been flooded with COVID-19 messages - some compassionate, some informative and some just downright self-serving. For most of us, these emails - for better or worse - are coming from businesses we haven’t interacted with in years. 

This is bad practice.

If someone hasn’t interacted with you in a while, there’s likely a reason - sending them an email all about you and how your business is coping isn’t going to change their mind - they just aren’t interested. Instead of sending a generic email to all of the contacts stored in your database (and likely having to face a LOT of unsubscribers and angry responses), segment them into different lists and send personalised, specific emails to those who were actively engaging with your business before the madness in each group. Not only are these people more likely to actually open your email, it lets them know that you still want to keep in contact with them, and best of all, that you’re not just ignoring the situation entirely. 

Trust us, when it comes to sending out that COVID-19 update email, resisting that “send to all” button is essential - we know it’s difficult, but you’ll be glad you didn’t once all this is over.

Don’t make it all about you 

Again, this seems like a fairly obvious one, but based on the content in my inbox this week it seems a lot of businesses have forgotten a basic rule of email marketing, and well, business in general. In such an uncertain time, you need to prioritize your customers and what they actually want to hear from you - not use this situation as a way to promote yourself. For example, I’ve seen a lot of emails in my inbox this week handling the situation in a terrible way - using clickbait techniques to basically sell their products, or not being completely honest in what they’re doing to combat the impact of COVID-19. 

At this point, your customers are likely to be concerned with:

  • The steps you’ve taken to keep both your employees and customers safe
  • Updates on any changes to normal business that could affect them
  • Practical advice or reassurance

Unless you’re being open with these three things, your readers are likely to lose interest immediately. Customers are concerned about what you’re doing, but honestly they’re more concerned about how it affects them. Being transparent in such a dark and confusing situation is the best strategy for your business right now. 

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Remember ISPs are still watching

Amongst all the chaos, it can be easy to forget that you still have to adhere to rules, regulations and best practices. Just because the world is seemingly lost in panic, doesn’t mean companies like Google and Microsoft have stopped doing their jobs - they’re still monitoring IP addresses, domains and send volume, and have seen an increase in negative email factors such as invalid addresses, bounces and spam complaints. 

The BBC reports a spike in email scams, and now more illegitimate companies are preying on those in vulnerable situations - with phishing at its worst in years. Now, we’re not suggesting that your company is going to do any of these things, but we are advising you to be careful. Now more than ever ISPs will be on high alert, so you can’t risk doing anything that might make your emails feel like spam. 

So to be sure you get your message to the right people, you need to follow these email best to avoid being dumped in the junk inbox, or being categorized as spam:

  • Get permission to email

An obvious, but maybe sometimes subtly ignored factor is whether or not you actually have permission to email those you’re trying to communicate with.

  • Get your engagement rate up

Send emails at the right time, to the right people - and make sure they’re written well.

  • Be memorable

A customer may have given you permission to email them, but if your brand isn’t memorable - you’re going to end up with a spam complaint. 

  • Always have subject lines

We’ve all forgotten to do this when sending personal emails, but please do not make this mistake with company emails. This will almost certainly get you straight into that junk mail. Make sure your subject line is specific and relevant.

  • Include your address

Legally, you have to do this - so don’t forget. 

  • Include unsubscribe links

Sad but true - you need to give people the option to stop communication - especially in the current climate. 

It’s never been more important to ensure your messages are actually being seen; so, if your send, view and click rate is lower than usual - be sure you have the above information in place.

Continue delivering value

Just because we’re all stuck at home, doesn’t mean you should abandon the way you do business entirely. While it can be difficult to promote your business without seeming insensitive, it is possible - you just have to be innovative. 

Even if you’re finding it difficult to actually sell products or services at this time, don’t lose hope. Use email marketing as a way to deliver value to your customers - offer them free content and advice, and even promotional offers if you can. When done right, this isn’t insensitive - if you use this time as an opportunity to educate your prospects, you’ll find they’ll be more likely to consider your product or service once the current situation has calmed down. This poses a great time to try out inbound marketing, and focus your efforts on creating helpful, valuable content and offers that lead your customers slowly through a buyer's journey and nurtures them through email. It’s also an excellent way to drive engagement to your newsletter - which you can master here.

Although the current time is uncertain, it won’t be this way forever. While many B2B companies are abandoning their marketing strategy completely, don’t make the same mistake. We realise money is tight, but this gives you a perfect opportunity to use email - a cheap, reliable marketing tool that will serve you extremely well in the coming months. As always, we’d recommend HubSpot (the drag and drop builder is a life saver) but recommend doing research on what will work best for you in the months ahead. 

To help you get started, we’ve put together a digital marketing bundle - completely free of charge, containing everything you need to plan a successful marketing campaign over three months. Times are tough - but don’t give up on your marketing just yet!

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