We have thought long and hard about sending out an email in relation to our services during the current COVID-19 crisis.
To start with, a few reassuring words: our entire team is able to work from home. There will be no impact on our services and you will still be able to contact our support team as always, which is no more than you’d expect from us.
But what about your own email marketing? Do you actually need to communicate with your customers about the current situation? Can you keep sending promotional emails? Should we even contact our customers by email? What are the first steps you should take?
We’ll do our best to answer all those questions.
Communicating in times of crisis
The global situation with regard to coronavirus COVID-19 is changing by the hour. Insofar as possible, companies are trying to conduct “business as usual” (from home of course). In situations like these it is hard to strike the right balance between respectful communication and safeguarding the financial stability of your business.
Pretending that everything is perfectly fine doesn’t feel quite right somehow, but when you look at your own inbox, jam-packed with emails about the coronavirus, you get the feeling that sending out emails for the sake of it doesn’t really make much sense either.
Businesses and marketeers can have an impact on people’s state of mind and it becomes us all to tread with care and not to fan the flames of panic even further. The flashing headlines of press articles about the coronavirus behind a paywall are one such example of this.
Appropriate crisis communication
Your contacts’ inboxes are bulging with emails about the crisis as it is. The first thing you need to assess is what – and whether – your customers and subscribers actually want to hear from you.
1. Remember that we’re all only human and that no two people react the same to a crisis situation.
It is important to show understanding, both in your proactive communication and reactively at support team level.
2. Is there good reason to send out this email?
Discuss with your team and stakeholders how you want to approach it. What do you need to communicate? As a business, should you react to this crisis? Does the crisis affect the way our customers will use our product or service?
If all you want to say is that you are aware of the pandemic and want to keep your staff safe, it possibly isn’t worth sending out the email. Everyone would expect you to do so anyway. The same applies if your business operates as normal, it would only be news if that wasn’t the case.
In times like these, marketing message designed to communicate your corporate values and nothing more only waste your customers’ time and will do little in terms of developing a long-term relationship with them.
3. Focus on your corporate or brand values and on how they may affect your message.
If you’re in the habit of communicating in an entertaining way, how can you reconcile that with a serious topic such as this? Put your target audience’s minds at ease: we’re all in the same boat. Use unambiguous language, be serious and do not ridicule anyone or anything. But above all, be yourself. There is no need to suddenly become all solemn if your customers aren’t used to that.
4. Who should receive this communication?
Sending out a generic email about COVID-19 (or any other crisis for that matter), does not necessarily amount to a transactional email.
An email from your CEO telling people to wash their hands, to stay healthy and safe and that, as of today, you’re going to disinfect your shop every day (what do you mean, only now?) is not a transactional email and shouldn’t be sent out willy-nilly to everyone, subscribers or not. People who haven’t heard from you in years or unsubscribed from your newsletter probably won’t care.
If you want to notify someone about a change in services, a cancellation or something they spent money on – such as concert tickets – than you’re absolutely talking about a transactional email. Most certainly send it.
5. Do you have your replies and responses ready if customers do get back to you?
As a business it is important that you keep communicating but it is even more important to understand that, in times of crisis, people have other priorities. Perhaps they may not even need to receive any emails from you now.
Also realise that the situation can change continuously. Sit down with your team on a regular basis to check whether something has changed, and to review the impact on your business or email strategy.
Will your customers have any questions after your communication? If so, how can they contact you? Did you include that in your email? And do the people who have to answer those questions also have the relevant information and answers to hand?
6. Review any communication you had in the pipeline with a critical eye.
Examine all your upcoming promotions, campaigns and automation scenarios and check whether they are still appropriate. Does it include any information that would be perfectly fine under normal circumstances but which, in the current climate, may come across as inappropriate or insensitive? Are you promoting travel? Does it include any material about shaking hands, hugging, high-fiving? Are you trying to promote luxury items while people may have to mind their money at the minute? Stop, think and rewrite.
Of course you can continue to promote new services or products. But bear in mind that not everyone is having a “swell” time at home. People are trying to work while possibly keeping their children entertained. Or they may even find it hard to get their hands on certain products. Empathy must prevail.
The context of your message and your customers is changing by the day, and there’s still some way to go before everything will return to normal again. Appropriate communication that helps and supports your customers today calls for speed and flexibility. But if you manage to get it right you will increase your chances of coming through this pandemic with strong customer relationships.
Do you have any questions or issues about email marketing and the use of Flexmail? Unsure about what you want to send out? Or about how our team is working at the moment? Feel free to contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org