How to manage your email marketing operation in a time of crisis

You’ve probably read a lot about marketing during this time of people working remotely and physical distancing. More and more businesses are trying to navigate their marketing efforts and business location updates, all while trying to maintain a positive outlook on keeping their doors open to customers.

There are several useful tactics you can use while considering your next messaging campaign:

First off, don’t panic. This leads to an increased chance of mistakes, which then leads to confusion, and then that leads to poor decisions, ultimately resulting in a bad customer experience. Be sure to take a moment to consider what you’re about to send and understand the impact it will have on both your internal teams and your clients. Poor user experiences may have long-term impacts on customer loyalty and future engagement.

This leads to my second recommendation: put your recipients first. In times of crisis, people are already anxious about the events unfolding around them. Sending communications not immediately helpful or informative t only adds to clutter and the worry they are already feeling. Spend a little extra time to set the tone of your messages and be clear about the information you’re sharing. For example, as a retailer changing to online-only shopping, consider sharing details about shipping changes, or curbside pickup at your stores. Explain how you’re working to make this transition possible for your subscribers and your store-front teams.

Setting the proper tone with your messages are communicating in a clear and easy- to- understand way makes a world of difference. Avoid trying to take advantage of a crisis to promote your organization, as this can damage your brand reputation and the relationships you’ve built with your clients. Avoid trying to Don’t use the current crisis in your messages by tying it to a discount code (ex: covid15, for 15% off) or specific promotional sale with the name of the current crisis associated to it (ex: Free shipping during our Pandemic Sale!).

Customers are looking for added value right now. Far too often, businesses get caught up in the wave of, “Everyone else is doing it so I should, too.” If you plan on sending a crisis communication, be sure to discuss your businesses response, how you’re helping your clients, and the direct impact it will have on how they interact with your brand. Talking about disruptions to your supply chain might seem like a good idea, but your clients are more concerned about access to your stores and products. Consider talking about store hours, shipping changes, and how your staff is adjusting to better help your clients.

Think about the order of information you’re providing in your emails. If this is a sales message with a tie to donations based on the items being purchased, such as buy one for yourself and we will send one to a front-line worker, make this the strong lead of your message and reinforce the connections within your communications. This makes consumers feel good for indulging in something for themselves, because they are providing help to people doing critical work in a time of need.

Lastly, it is probably safe to say you’re not an expert on viral infections, (unless you are, and if so, thanks!), so don’t try to tell people what to do. Instead, be sure to point to the experts on the subject

matter. Share links to your federal government’s resources, or trusted experts like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Not only is this helpful to your subscribers, but it gives a direct source that is trusted, updated regularly, and providing more accurate information about the specific crisis. Also consider suppressing portions of your subscriber base where the impact is hampering your subscribers from participating in your program at the current time, be it due to an extreme weather situation preventing deliveries or in-store visits, or the current viral pandemic preventing people from congregating in large groups in public.

Consumers are busy wondering if their jobs are safe, if they are safe at home and in their communities, and how to access the resources and services they need to support their families, so taking the efforts to provide highly useful and relevant information clearly providing value to your subscribers is something to focus on now more than ever.

Matthew Vernhout, Vice-Chair of EEC Board (Member Advisory Committee)
Director, Privacy and Industry Relations, Validity