Emily McGuire is the owner and Chief Email Marketer at Flourish & Grit, an email marketing and automation studio based in the US. She helps businesses uncover hidden revenue in their email lists by using data to better understand what moves customers to convert.
Gaurav Sharma is the founder of Attrock, an Indian digital marketing agency that offers services like influencer marketing, content marketing, SEO, online PR, mobile app marketing, conversion, and sales funnel optimization.
Expert Diaries from Zoho Campaigns connects avid email marketers to the experts in this space, and help them learn some best practices and tips. Our aim is to connect email geeks and form a community that learns email marketing from one another. Check out our amazing line-up of Season 1.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown that followed has changed the way marketing is being done.
Traditional methods will not necessarily work, as the way marketing is done digitally has changed drastically.
Digital marketers around the world are tweaking their plans of action in terms of strategy, content and intent. These changes are likely to continue in the long run, even after the lockdown is over. This will bring about a change in many social norms, including the way we communicate and interact.
We have two email marketing experts from two different parts of the world – Emily McGuire and Gaurav Sharma to help us understand how email marketing can be useful in times like these.
These two experts have shared their ideas and perspectives on email marketing during these unprecedented times.
When going digital is the only option
Emily: We’re lucky enough to live during a time when digital communication is widely adopted and easier to access. We are avoiding in-person interactions to avoid the spread of this virus. If you are ignoring digital media right now, you’re missing the opportunity to have conversations with your ideal customers and current customers.
This situation could lead to new opportunities. That means we can also get creative with our events by moving them online or finding other ways to create a community in a digital space. It means we can shift our focus to how we project our brand digitally if it hasn’t been a priority previously.
Gaurav: Given the situation we are in, digital media is the only way to stay connected with your audience. Brands need to invest more time, money and efforts on leveraging digital media channels to engage their audiences and encourage sales.
I recommend that brands and marketers take the time to streamline their marketing strategies for social media, SEO, email marketing, affiliate campaigns, and so on.
Why email marketing?
Gaurav: Email marketing is one reliable way for brands to stay connected with their audiences. You should spend time creating engaging drip email sequences and use advanced level marketing automation to keep your audience updated.
Emily: We are more digitally connected than ever as people turn to the internet for their news updates. That also means people will be spending a substantial amount of time in their inboxes.This also means you have a lot of opportunities to get in front of those people as they’re checking their emails multiple times throughout the day.
How to overhaul your marketing strategy
Gaurav: It is definitely crucial for brands to communicate with their audiences (both paying customers and subscribers) either via social media or other digital channels. Some of the most popular mediums are emails, blog posts, and press releases published on a news site or on an authoritative website in your niche.
Afterall, communication is the key to building strong relationships. And brands need to understand this well in order to overcome the current situation and win more customers.
Emily: It is always important to communicate regularly, but it is equally important to ensure that communication makes sense for where people are at with your brand and within the context of the current cultural climate.
Also, if your primary audience is disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 (for example the healthcare industry), and you’re trying to launch a new product to them, you might want to consider postponing (unless that product helps with treating COVID-19). They are already overwhelmed with responding to what’s going on and preparing for what’s to come.
Sending out an email that feels totally out of sync with what’s happening in the world right now can turn off your prospects and customers.
Additionally, if you haven’t emailed your subscribers in a while, and you want to send out an update on how coronavirus is impacting the way you serve your clients or customers, then consider sending it to ONLY active customers and hot leads. These are the people who have the most vested interest in their relationship with your brand and how it is going to impact their level of service.
Sending a coronavirus email update to people who haven’t done business with you in years, can, again, seem tone-deaf.
What kind of content works?
Emily: Definitely send out an update on how COVID-19 is impacting how you serve your customers (to current customers). Always lead with empathy. Put yourself in your subscribers’ shoes.
Is there a way you can better serve them through digital communication?
Can they expect any delay or disruption in their service?
Are you offering new ways for them to engage with your brand virtually?
Make sure to do this in a way that starts with the customer at the center. Wait to promote any services or products that might help your customers in a follow-up email.
Sending your email as a letter from the executive leadership of your brand can make your message feel more human.
If it’s particularly relevant for your business, for example, if you are hosting events in the next month or two, you might want to let your attendees know what happens if you have to cancel, and any other plans you might have to take your events online.
If you’re a service-based business, talk about measures you are taking to comply with guidelines from the CDC or your local health department.
And most of all, and I can’t stress this enough, send this content to the subscribers for whom this matters the most. That is, your current clients and any warm or hot leads.
Your inactive contacts do not need to know about how a service or product they aren’t using, is handling the COVID-19.
You can also consider adding a banner message at the top of your homepage that links to your updates on the COVID-19.
Gaurav: To run effective email marketing campaigns, brands should leverage multiple types of content. Some of the most popular types of content that can help boost your campaign ROI include:
- Relevant tutorials and tips
- Your brand’s story in relation to the current crisis
- Discount offers (with emotional copy to show empathy)
- Collaboration emails (working with another brand or influencer to co-create great content)
- Automated lead generation emails
It is important for you as a brand or marketer to decide what your campaign objectives are. Once you’ve finalized your goals, you can plan the type of content to use accordingly to hit the sweet spot of your audience.
Empathy is the key
Emily: All marketing requires empathy. If you don’t consider where your audience is coming from, or where they are in your customer lifecycle, then you risk sending messaging that’s way off base, which can damage your brand more than it helps.
When thinking about your content, make sure it is relevant to your subscribers RIGHT NOW. Meaning, again, if they are an active customer or are in a warm or hot phase of being a prospect, then yes, make sure they know how stopping the spread of COVID-19can affect the service they might receive.
And if you’re in doubt about whether or not to send an email about COVID-19, wait a few days. People are being inundated with these emails right now. You don’t want to add to already packed inboxes. Your message will irrelevant and lost.
Monitor how people are talking about the COVID-19with social media listening, and see if and how it relates to your brand. If something sticks out to you on how your business can help, then consider sending out a message.
Anxiety is high right now. We don’t want to overwhelm the already overwhelmed. Ask yourself if your email campaign is helping your customers genuinely. If it’s not, then consider waiting for the right moment and message to be relevant.
You don’t want to overreach here. You don’t want to send out an email that sounds disingenuous and self-serving as we all collectively come together to keep each other safe.
Gaurav: As responsible marketers, it is important for you to understand the sensitivity of the situation and act accordingly.
I believe that marketers should focus on creating educational posts to help their consumers stay safe. In fact, you can also make your consumers feel better by sending them free giveaways or special discount codes for their favorite products.
If you show empathy to consumers who are suffering because of this pandemic disease, there are higher chances that you’ll get returns in multiple folds. That’s because of the Principle Reciprocity by Dr. Robert Cialdini that states, “human beings are wired to return favors and pay back debts – to treat others as they’ve treated us.”
How the experts did it themselves
Emily: I have many clients across a wide range of industries.
One client is launching a new product that targets HR professionals. We are revisiting our messaging and timeline. HR professionals are most likely overwhelmed with trying to coordinate communications to their employees and handle the transition of office workers to remote teams.
This product launch campaign could easily get lost in the inbox due to the attention that COVID-19 needs right now. We are currently game planning on how to best address that.
I have another client who’s had to cancel some events, so we are segmenting and sending messages to the multiple types of attendees with tailored messaging to all of them.
And then one more client who is a small brick and mortar store who has a light and fun brand voice. Crafting email copy that reflects that voice and also understands the levity of this situation is delicate. But we came at it from a place of helping and concern for health and safety.
All email communication is acknowledging this unprecedented event while also still serving customers from a place of offering value. That might be content that gives access to resources to get through challenges people are facing. That might highlight products or services that can lighten the mood.
Whatever it is, we can’t ignore COVID-19. We have to work within it and around it in our offers and marketing.
We came up with a strategy to educate our subscribers and clients about what they need to do to overcome the COVID-19 situation.
We sent this email, which received a 26.7% open rate and a lot of positive (overwhelming) responses from our 11K subscribers. Also, we are giving heavy discounts to our customers to help their businesses grow during these difficult times.
In the end, it is all about understanding the needs of your customers.
In the mean time, stay home, stay safe and communicate.