Crisis Email Marketing For Smal Businesses During Coronavirus - Useful Tools And Best Practices

Monday, May 11, 2020

Crisis Email Marketing For Small Businesses During Coronavirus - Useful Tools And Best Practices
Hasan Saleem,

The coronavirus crisis has annihilated personal interactions between brands and their audience, as well as several traditional marketing channels. As a consequence, opportunities to convert customers and build brand loyalty have been scrapped.

Digital marketing has been invaluable in this situation, from Facebook posts and TikTok videos to Google ads and email marketing campaigns. Email marketing, in particular, has massive potential to reach people on a personal level and convey businesses' messages.

Why Focus On Email Marketing Right Now?

Email is reaching a wider audience than ever before.

Statistics show that the open rates of marketing emails have risen by as much as 25% during quarantine. Weekly increases in opening rates have been as high as 5-10%. Furthermore, people are also opening messages faster. Basically, people are reading their email a lot more - a side effect, no doubt, of being confined at home.

In addition, email marketing offers an unparalleled opportunity for personalization. Apart from the ability to address people by their names, businesses can tailor content to their specific interests through analytics and list segmentation. However, many businesses are not seizing the opportunity. Figures indicate that the volume of marketing emails sent is roughly equivalent to the end of December.

During lockdowns, when personal contact is sparse on the ground, and feelings of isolation are plaguing the population, a personalized message can have a much more significant impact than a post on social media that targets thousands.

This demand for reliable, personalized, and long-form content is also evidenced by a considerable drop in social media traffic. Even though it might seem counter-intuitive, social media platforms have seen a drop in overall engagement from an advertiser perspective.

In March, Instagram saw its advertiser engagement rate lowered by 14%, while Facebook Inc FB 1.96% saw a decrease of 13.5%. Twitter Inc TWTR 3.39% was somewhat less affected, but still saw a decline of 7%. The reasons for this are open to speculation. The shift away from social media may be due to people preferring to video call friends and family, or because they are wary of coronavirus panic postings.

One thing is certain, though - email has emerged as a high-potential channel for brands to connect with their customers during the pandemic. 

The Dos

So what can brands do to step up their email marketing game during COVID-19? Apart from following the general precepts of effective email marketing, here are a few pointers on how to adjust to the current circumstances.

Keep your message on point

In a recent interview with digital marketing experts, the New York Times found that sticking to one central message, and preventing it from getting muddied are the most important points for effective email marketing during coronavirus. Strategically choose one aspect to highlight.

Demonstrate social responsibility

Brands need to demonstrate awareness of the challenges that individuals and communities face during the current crisis. Showing empathy and giving shout-outs are excellent ways to display that in email marketing. Even better is showcasing ways in which your business can contribute to the efforts.

Offer information and help

A focus should be put on what information customers need. Whether it is updates on how the pandemic will likely affect the services that businesses provide, or offers for delayed payment for people who have lost their income, center email marketing efforts on the most pressing issues that customers face is key.

The Don'ts

Sticking to the status quo

Keep calm and carry on may be a good piece of advice generally. But in the case of email marketing during a pandemic, businesses cannot continue as usual and risk being tone-deaf. The situation needs to be acknowledged, and content adjusted accordingly.

Exploiting the situation or making light of it

One surefire way to antagonize potential customers is by capitalizing on the current crisis, or dismissing it. Promoting coronavirus sales or pushing products that are in short supply will have detrimental outcomes. Humor can be used sparingly, but it may well be walking a tightrope.

Not impressed that @VennStRecords @NorthcoteRcrds have used #covid19UK as a cheap opportunity to email me to say they've got loads of hand sanitizers and so are business as usual. So much for safe distancing. I won't be back :(

Sending emails just for the sake of it

While email marketing presents a potentially profitable opportunity right now, businesses need to avoid sending emails just for the sake of it. A mail lacking a dedicated message is more likely to annoy potential customers than to convert them. They will clog inboxes, irritate, and become repetitive.

The Tools To Help Businesses Succeed

Many businesses most likely already use one of the popular standard email marketing platforms, such as Constant Contact, Mailchimp, or Sendinblue.

If not, it is high time to review global email marketing tools, and to devise a strategy to build a mailing list and engage potential customers.

Here is a list of resources that offer a coronavirus discount or make their services available for free for the duration of the pandemic:

  • Benchmark - Offers a free trial of their email marketing solution.
  • BirdEye - Offers the opportunity to communicate with customers via text, chat, and email, as well as an online reputation management platform. Two months free access.
  • - A collaborative email design editor tool with a free plan and remote-work features.
  • Hatchbuck - Free trial of the integrated sales and marketing platform, including CRM, email marketing, and marketing automation.

Finally, it is important to keep the future in mind when choosing tools and designing campaigns. While free resources may be a great in the tight spots that many businesses currently find themselves in, if you’re planning to bank on this marketing channel in the long run, it might be worth investing in professional integrated email marketing solutions from the beginning. 

The Bottom Line

During the coronavirus crisis, email marketing is a powerful tool with a high potential for brands to reach their customers and convey their message.

By showing empathy, social responsibility, and an awareness of the needs and fears of their audience, and with the right tools, businesses can harness email marketing to navigate the pandemic. To emerge stronger on the other side, and with a more engaged and loyal audience.