Good news for email marketers: according to a 2019 Twilio study, email and SMS are customers’ preferred methods of communication. The survey, which covered about 2,500 global buyers, showed that 83% of consumers preferred emails over other communication channels (although texts were more popular for urgent messages like delivery notifications or appointment reminders).


While the study is definitely favorable for email as a channel, it uncovers quite a few warning signs that can help guide email marketers through shifting strategies during a crisis—like the one we’re currently experiencing with the COVID-19 pandemic. In the study, 94% of consumers reported that they were annoyed by many of the current communications they receive from businesses. The reasons include everything from high communication frequency (61%) to irrelevant content (56%), not remembering opting in (41%), and being contact via the wrong communication channel for the message (33%).


Which brings us to crisis mode: if consumers are frustrated with marketing communications that miss the mark during normal times, marketers should be particularly careful with how—and what—they send to their audience during periods of disruption.


You can keep email among your audience’s favored communications by leveraging the following checklist:


Review Your Offers

In the first few weeks of the pandemic and subsequent shelter-in-place orders, the email geeks channels overflowed with examples of brands emailing discounts that were only valid in-store. If you’re running campaigns that offer discounts that require your subscribers to redeem those offers in person, put a temporary hold on them, extend their expiration dates, or consider how they might be applied to an online purchase.


Review Your Automated Campaigns

Think beyond offers—is your onboarding series still relevant if your workforce is remote? Do you need to update requests for coffee or meetings in your B2B nurtures? Are your secondary CTAs promoting in-person events or offers that require in-person visits? It’s a good idea to review your automated campaigns a couple of times a year (if not quarterly) for tweaks and updates anyway, but given the current climate, you don’t want to devalue your messaging with an email that can’t be properly acted on.


Review Your Tone

Remember that suggestion that you should always be yourself? That’s not necessarily true during a global crisis. Revisit your tone and messaging to see if you’re striking the balance between being you and being insensitive. Consider the impact of “stocking up” or the potential blowback of “going viral” in the current landscape. If you’re walking the fine line between clever and insensitive with your brand voice during normal times, it’s probably a good idea to walk back that messaging for a few months. That doesn’t mean abandon your brand voice, but during a crisis, it’s a good idea to approach the marketplace with sincerity.


Review Your Value

Did you really need to know how every brand you’ve ever engaged with was handling the pandemic? Our Email Strategist Jana Hainey offered awesome tips for how—and when—to send a COVID-19 email in our blog post here, which is to say that not every brand needs to send COVID-specific emails. As you review the content of your emails, it’s more important than ever to think about the value of that content. Does it serve your brand? Or your purposes? If so, then think about how you can revise that content to serve your recipients. What can your brand do to help them through a pandemic? How can they rely on you to make their lives easier?


Review Your Timing

Whatever times worked well for scheduling or automating emails before—well, those may no longer apply. With people working from home, sheltering in place, or feeling generally upended by their personal schedules, review your recent send metrics and see if you’re noticing an impact on when people are opening or engaging with your emails. Are you seeing dips? Surges? Try scheduling your emails at different times based on your findings, and of course, watch engagement closely over the next few months as groups return to normal working hours and/or working conditions.


Review Your Agility

In the midst of so much uncertainty, there is one thing we do know with certainty: none of us really know what will happen next week, or the week after next, or the week after that. Give yourself some grace and practice your agility. You might need to rethink portions of your strategy or shift your content calendar, or maybe crumble up your carefully laid plans and start over. Try some new channels. Try new messaging. And know that it’s okay to be genuine, real, and human right now.


Finally, Mind the Overload…

These are good reminders for pandemics and for normal times, but you don’t have to send an email just to send an email. Check in with yourself—are you feeling overwhelmed? Is your inbox overwhelmed? Are you sick of seeing emails with the subject line of COVID-19? Yes, we’re “in this together” and living “in these uncertain times,” but you don’t have to say so just because everyone else is. Tap into value, authenticity, and mind the overload many of us are feeling.


Email is a wonderful relationship builder with so much potential for personalizing messages to your audience—just remember as you review your campaigns in the midst of a pandemic (or any crisis) that the sender and the recipients are both humans. Treat your relationships with care, and you will be rewarded for the effort.

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