By David Luther, senior content writer
⏰ 6-minute read
- In a time of crisis, remember that your brand’s email subscribers want to hear from you – as long as you’re providing value, that is.
- Ensure your email messages address the particular crisis, and pause any campaigns that could come across tone-deaf given the circumstances.
- Use messages from popular brands like Lunya, Chubbies and more as inspiration for which type of information to include -- and how to package it -- in your crisis-time campaigns.
The emergence of a crisis means your business needs to adapt and move quickly on a daily basis, and the most effective way to share these updates with your customers is through email.
But striking the right tone when your subscribers’ inboxes are already filled with crisis-related emails takes a bit of consideration — as does the question of whether to send a message at all.
Just remember, email is personal. Your subscribers have already opted in for your emails, which means they want to hear from you. And if you’re just getting started on your response, remember that it’s never too late to send a crisis-related email. A delay may even work to your benefit by giving your company time to consider what your customers really need from you in a time when so many issues compete for their attention.
Below, we list some best practices to follow for sending your crisis-related emails as well as examples of companies that are doing it right, so you can make sure your emails build trust in a time of uncertainty.
1. Make your crisis emails count.
Don’t send an email just to send one, throwing around phrases like “abundance of caution” and “trying times,” and don’t blast every contact you have on any and all lists. Your crisis emails should be informative, relevant and helpful for your subscribers.
Make sure your emails are error-free before you schedule and send them, whether
you need to send messages about inventory changes, how events have been impacted or just to say your products are available as usual.
Focus on writing to subscribers who open and engage with your messages, and monitor your deliverability performance. If you see an increase in unsubscribes after sending a particular message, then reconsider your email copy and contact lists.
The content of your message is largely up to you. However, in a time of uncertainty, customers do need to know certain things:
- Share any measures your business has taken in response to the given crisis and how they will affect the broader situation.
- Tell customers how your business or services have been impacted and what that means for them.
- Direct them to any customer support lines or pages where they can get regular updates.
If you’re sending a serious, informative message, you should probably avoid any unnecessary calls-to-action that would distract from the messaging. And as always, make sure you respect your readers’ time, keeping the email brief and easy to scan.
2. Review your automated emails.
A crisis isn’t the time for email marketing as usual, especially not “set it and forget it” promotional emails.
Again, make sure that you understand if (and when) your customers need to hear from you during a time of uncertainty. Review your lifecycle messages — welcome series, newsletters, promotions, etc. — in context of the crisis, and ask yourself a few questions:
- Does the message align with your branding and values?
- Is it a message you would actually like to receive during a crisis as a customer?
- Are your customers likely to use the information?
If your answer to all of these questions isn’t “yes,” then you should consider pausing the campaign until things return to normal. And even then, reevaluate: Truly, your emails should meet those criteria even when you’re not in a crisis.
This is also a good time to be selective with your segments; people who haven’t heard from your brand in years probably don’t need to hear from it now. Also, don’t use this opportunity to launch a reengagement campaign, hitting up cold contacts with emails to drum up new business.
3. Study examples of effective crisis management emails.
Here are example emails showing how companies with a variety of business models put these practices into place.
Share what’s going on behind the scenes.
Women’s sleepwear brand Lunya has throttled back its promotional messages and is instead sharing behind-the-scenes content, using this time to connect with subscribers emotionally. From emails sharing what the team is wearing around the house to how their work from home situations are going, the calming email messages are on brand for a chic sleepwear company.
Convey critical information.
If you’re operating an essential service like a grocery store, your customers need to hear from you. UK supermarket chain ASDA’s email is an excellent example of how to send an informative, succinct and scannable message. The company asks for customer flexibility with delivery times and also lets customers know what measures to take if they’re self-isolating.
ASDA followed that message with another email sharing the measures it is taking to support vulnerable customers, one of which includes setting up times in the morning for them to shop.
Etsy reminded its customers that most of the products they purchase from the online marketplace are produced by self-employed sellers and small businesses. The brand also included notes on some of the charitable steps it is taking to support their sellers
In another email, Etsy reached out to its sellers to give suggestions for how they could manage the disruption to their routine, giving advice about shipping delays and information on how to pause their online shops if needed.
Send relevant promotions.
Clothing brand Marine Layer promotes its “shelter-in-place appropriate” products, keeping the tone light and relevant — and offering a discount that makes the read worth their subscribers’ time.
Connect customers with your culture.
You don’t have to offer promotions or words of wisdom to add value. It might not work for all brands, but showcasing your team and brand persona can help: Sometimes, a message that’s comfortingly distracting is what your subscribers need to feel better in dismal times. Men’s swimwear brand Chubbies has always had a light and funny approach to its marketing, and that shows in the brand’s weekly newsletter. The message includes images of the team’s “new offices” in the form of screenshots from video calls and invites subscribers to join a virtual happy hour, complete with googly-eyed robots.
Whether you sell to businesses or directly to consumers, being flexible with your services and product offerings during a crisis is critical to preserving revenue. Subscription-based fitness center 1Rebel used its emails to spread the word about a new online program that allows customers to sign up for sessions with the same instructors they preferred before the crisis.
Communicate with a select audience.
To help its customers and slow cancellations, makeup subscription company Beauty Pie decided to offer its service for free to current subscribers. It’s usually a best practice to share company communications across all channels, but you may want to narrow the audience for some messaging to avoid impacting your broader brand.
If you want to avoid sending your customers yet another somber email about the global crisis, you can send them something helpful or light instead. As always, make sure that it adds value in some way. Womenswear brand Oasis, for example, sent a lighthearted list of entertaining at-home activities that includes a discount.
Remind customers that you’re open for business.
Women’s clothing brand Reformation sent an email early on in the current crisis, letting customers know that it was still operating its e-commerce site and opening a dialogue about the broader situation.
The brand’s next email notified subscribers that it was creating masks for healthcare workers, and instead of just virtue signaling, it gave subscribers an option to contribute to the cause.
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