Connecting effectively with customers is one of the biggest challenges marketers face during the COVID-19 outbreak. While email is often regarded as the best channel to reach them, the question is in knowing what to say.
If you capitalize on a bad situation, you risk coming across as “tone-deaf.” But say nothing, and you may be remembered as a brand who sat back in passivity. Or worse, not remembered at all.
Personalization is a principle that can prevent you from taking the wrong steps in your email marketing. The principles are built on understanding your customers and adapting your message to them. For this reason, it’s the best place to start when shaping your messaging.
In this article, we’ll explore some approaches and mindsets to use when implementing email personalization to engage with customers during a crisis.
1. First, know your customer
The term “tone-deaf” has been used liberally during the COVID-19 crisis. Marketers and salespeople don’t want to come across as unempathetic during a time of global uncertainty. And while it’s great advice, what exactly does it mean?
To us, it’s a matter of applying good customer-driven marketing principles to every aspect of your messaging; know the customer and their current situation.
Understanding your customers and serving them appropriately is a different ball game during a crisis. Consumer habits and priorities in job roles can change dramatically.
In order to adapt your marketing message, you must first understand what your customers are experiencing during this time. Why? Because personalizing your email marketing will come across as disingenuous if it doesn’t acknowledge this.
For example, you may run an ecommerce brand selling to mothers. During the COVID-19 outbreak, the majority of parents are spending almost every waking minute with their children. This fact cannot be ignored in your messaging.
The same goes for B2B buyers. Priorities can change as new challenges emerge. Being mindful of those challenges, and providing assistance to help people overcome them, will help you maintain relationships during a crisis. It will also strengthen them once it’s over.
Personalization, therefore, is a matter of striking a balance within two areas:
Sharing your own story
Adapting to your customer’s situation
Indeed, personalization can help you connect with your customers on a more personal level. It can also demonstrate that you understand their situation.
Do this by digging deep into your buyer personas. Look at what their priorities, challenges and desires were before the crisis. Put yourself in their shoes, and consider how this situation may have changed their behaviors.
2. Use your journey to tell a story
Your customers are going through a difficult period. But so are you! Now is the time to step up and show the face behind your brand. This can be as simple as sharing how you are adapting to this emerging crisis.
This is what Pipedrive’s CEO, Timo Rein, sent in the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak:
If it fits with your brand tone of voice, you can share areas of your personal life to add context behind your emails. For example, Rick Nucci, CEO of Guru, shares an example of how he does this when reaching out to customers:
“I’m writing to you from my house in Philadelphia, where my wife, two daughters, and I have been working, schooling, and generally adjusting, as everyone has been these last few weeks.”
He goes on to share examples of what his company is doing to help those in need during this time. This includes providing free Guru accounts to schools, resources and help for remote teams and how they are investing new funding.
Share your journey by explaining how you’re adapting to the same challenges your customers face. For example, if you sell software to HR professionals, you can create an email (and supporting content) that explains how you’re assisting staff and adapting your processes in your own organization.
This also works for B2C brands. Going back to the ecommerce for mothers example, you can use your email messaging to share how you’re managing the permanent presence of children in your day-to-day life.
These examples all share the same principle: you’re going through the same journey as your customers. Show them this is the case in a way that’s contextual to your business.
3. Adapt to the new normal
If one thing the COVID-19 outbreak has shown, it’s that the situation can quickly change.
This means that your email marketing, as well as overall messaging, must do the same. Some elements of your marketing automation can be applied to the entire duration of a crisis (e.g. shipping policies and customer service hours).
Elements of the way we live and work will also be shifting and adapting. The longer a crisis lasts, the more this will be true.
Putting this into practical terms is tricky, as it’s something that’s different to each business and individual. Instead, use it as a mindset to apply to your marketing.
Adapting to the “new normal” means two things:
Evolving as the state of the world changes
Adapting to customer sentiment and serving them
Listen to your customers, and you’ll have the insights to fuel compassionate and personalized email marketing campaigns.
4. Demonstrate new use cases
A crisis can also affect the way we work and how we execute tasks on a day-to-day basis. The influx of people working from home as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak is a shift that has affected most professions.
How can your product or service adjust and adapt to these changes? For example, if you’re selling a project management SaaS product, how can certain features help your customers adapt to remote working?
Executing this well goes back to understanding your customer personas. How do you expect their priorities to shift and how can your product bridge the gap to help them overcome new challenges?
Gearing your email marketing in this way can help retain and close new customers. But your motivation should come from a place of service. During a time like this, your marketing should exist to help your customers first.
We’re not saying you should sacrifice your business goals altogether. The best thing about a service-first approach? You’ll naturally strengthen your brand and attract new customers as a result. That’s because loyal customers are 5x more likely to purchase again and share their positive experience with their friends, sending new business your way.
Find out how people are adapting to changes in the way they work. Provide them with the tools and content on new use cases. Go one step further and pioneer new approaches to survive and thrive during a crisis using your products, services and content.
Be remembered well
A common question people are asking themselves during the COVID-19 outbreak is: “how do we want to be remembered?”
For brands in all markets, the answer to this question will depend on how you communicate with and serve your customers. Will you be remembered as the brand that tried to capitalize on a bad situation or one that helped customers when they needed it most?
Email marketing provides a direct line of communication between you and your customers. Understand what they need most and use email to satisfy those needs with content personalized to their situation.
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