How to Adjust Your Marketing Automation Messaging During a Crisis

Marketing automation messaging during a crisis

People are working from home, organizations are reshaping their offerings and customers are rethinking their needs. As governments impose social distancing guidelines and health officials promote safety measures, many people are prioritizing safety and sanity above all.

Your customers want to be reassured by the businesses they rely on. They are looking for guidance on how to use your tools to best satisfy their newfound needs. 

Reaching out with pre-crisis offerings may come across as tone-deaf and incite negative reactions. Your marketing automation messaging must be tailored to fit the current climate. 

In this article, we’re going to give you practical tips on how to adjust your marketing automation messaging to ensure it aligns with your customer’s needs during this difficult time.

What’s in this article:

What to communicate to your customers and when

By now, you’ve likely communicated with your customers about the COVID-19 crisis. If you’ve not done so already, you should update them on your business’s actions, outline what you are doing to keep your employees and customers safe and practice empathy and transparency above all.

Next, it’s important to continue to communicate with your customers periodically to keep them informed. Explain what tools you are optimizing as well as any features that can be applied to new use cases. Provide actionable advice on how to best use them to simplify your customers’ experience.  

For example, you may have realized that a redundant tool from the past could be repurposed to serve your customers during this pandemic. Perhaps a previously unpopular feature of your product is exactly what your base needs right now. Or maybe you can tweak an existing feature or accelerate the launch of a new one that fits the bill.

If so, promote this feature and explain how your customers can get the most out of it. Create a tutorial, offer free demos and extend personalized support. 

As you continue to update your products and services, both old and new, communicate your progress to your customers. Avoid being overly salesy. Instead, shift your focus and tone to one of helpful support.

This applies not only to your customer-wide communications but also to your segmented automation messaging.

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Why automation messaging must be adjusted

It’s easy to adjust your voice and tone for one-off email campaigns during this crisis. It’s harder to remember to adjust emails that are triggered through automation.

However, adjusting this messaging is perhaps the most important action you can take during a crisis. If you fail to do so, it will come across as robotic and emotionless.

Automated messaging is designed to scale the relationship between your brand and the human you’re communicating with. Failing to update it will shine a negative spotlight on valuable behavior-based automation.

That’s because behavior-based automation is one of the most useful tools in email marketing. Behavior-based automation triggers communications based on actions that people take. The messaging is targeted, rather than broad, to capture a prospect or customer’s attention with personalized messaging. Humanizing automation is imperative in order to scale without jeopardizing performance. 

Most customers intuitively understand that many marketing campaigns are automated. However, they accept this reality because the appearance of personalization is more important than the tool behind its transport. 

The effort and intention are valued, as long as it’s executed well. 

But that mirage can easily crumble in a crisis. One tiny mistake can throw your entire operation off balance and ruin the hard work you put into building your automation workflows.

Imagine sending your customers an automated email about a deal on a gym membership at a physical location based on their scrolling behavior on your website. They may have been searching for digital classes but clicked a button that triggered an old email series. As there is a stay at home order, your customers would look at it with confusion, dismay and perhaps contempt. 

Let’s look at a real-life example. Here’s an email automation from Planet Fitness pre-COVID-19: 

automation email planet fitness

If this email automation was triggered during a lockdown, it would spark bewilderment. The customer would know that the gym was closed and potentially look negatively on the company for the insensitive disruption.

Here’s how Planet Fitness has updated their email automation messaging due to COVID-19:

They immediately take note of the crisis with a strong headline: “United We Move”. This makes the company more relatable and humanizes the message.

They go on to offer encouraging at-home workouts. The messaging is topical, motivational, helpful and empathic, which makes it acceptable that they are promoting their services.  

In order to avoid unnecessarily upsetting your customer base, update your automation messaging sooner rather than later.

How to update your automation messaging

Audit your active automation emails and evaluate the messaging. No matter the workflow, inject honesty, humility and helpfulness into the conversation.

If you are running an educational series to provide your customers with relevant information about product updates, for example, update the messaging to include a supportive note about the crisis. Explain that we are all in this together and outline how your product will help ease the strain during these unprecedented times.

Perhaps, like Planet Fitness,  you are running a gym and have shifted your classes online. If so, you can create a new workflow to promote this new service. Within the workflow, explain how the digital classes will work, how your customers can sign up, costs and benefits.

Alternatively, if you already have an online business you can update your abandoned cart and checkout workflows, for example. In your abandoned cart series, you can draw attention to alternative products that will help in the crisis. In your checkout series, you can expressively thank your customers for their purchase and include a link to your updated knowledge bases (if applicable) for additional support.

If you are running a win-back campaign, include empathic messaging that demonstrates that you do not expect your customers to continue with your product or service if they are unable. Simultaneously, promote a repurposed tool that could be of use. 

Draw attention to the fact that you are working hard to optimize products that will help them get through this crisis. Reengage customers not by offering incentives or gifts, but by extending encouragement and support. They will thank you for your constructive efforts and feel invigorated.

Organizations and people are looking first and foremost to survive, so any tools and communications that can help them be more efficient and effective will be welcomed. Anything that feels material and unnecessary, on the other hand, will be discarded.

Analyze engagement and continue making adjustments

There is no one-size-fits-all way to respond to this crisis. Rather, tweak your marketing automation to the best of your ability and then watch how it performs.

Are your open rates increasing or decreasing? What about your unique click rates? Is there an uptick in unsubscribes? What response is your team getting from customers who are receiving your updated messaging?

How your prospects and customers interact with your emails will show you what they want from them. With a tool like Mailigen’s campaign tracking and analytics dashboard, you can track all these interactions and get a clear understanding of why your recipients are interacting in the way they are.

If the response is negative, go back to the drawing board. Evaluate what changes you made and adjust the messaging to be more supportive, effective and transparent. 

Did you accidentally sound too salesy? Do your customers feel they are still being pushed to buy something when they don’t currently have the budget? Make note of this feedback and make the necessary changes.

Similarly, what messaging is performing well? Is your re-engagement series outperforming your educational series? Perhaps you can blend the two. 

Focus on quality over quantity, and continue to adapt and fine-tune as you go.

Wrapping up

Personalized messaging is key during a crisis. But that doesn’t mean that automation messaging needs to be turned off.

The key is to adjust your voice and tone to match the current climate. Understand that the world is hurting and update your messaging to embody support and humility. 

Turn off any automation workflows that don’t make sense given the current governmental and health restraints and safety measures. Create new workflows to highlight helpful products and services and reengage customers with actionable advice on how to make the most out of your products or services.

Once adjusted, evaluate and analyze how your customers are responding to your communications. Make any necessary changes to ensure you are giving your customers what they want and need.

Monitor automation performance thoroughly and continue to update your customers with helpful information. Your customers will thank you for your ongoing efforts and keep you front of mind when the world overcomes this crisis.

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