Do your emails just blend in or do they stand out in the crowd?
In case any of us wondered which email lists we were subscribed to, we found out as soon as COVID-19 showed up. Every brand on the planet seemingly sent out emails about their changes due to the pandemic — or to simply give encouragement. Because I’m sure we were all waiting on pins and needles to hear from every company we’ve ever interacted with about their thoughts on the virus. But were any of those email campaigns truly memorable?
Messages like, “In these uncertain times,” and, “We’re here for you,” still continue to flood inboxes several months in. And it’s not just emails that have started to sound the same, but it’s also commercials, with their somber music, empty street shots, and focus on things like family and social distancing. Just watch the video montage below to see what we’re talking about.
With so many brands saying the same thing right now, how can you ensure your emails stand out from the crowd? We’ll look at things you can do with your next campaign to cut through the noise.
1. Meet a need
One of the best ways to catch your customers’ attention is by giving them something of value. Most likely, that’s not another email telling them your brand understands what they’re up against.
This might be a little easier for industries like healthcare, government, financial services, and nonprofit organizations right now, considering they are seeing open rates on the rise and their unsubscribes dropping. But no matter your industry, you can make your emails essential to subscribers by following these practices:
- Give actionable information, instead of just telling them what has changed for your brand. For example, tell them the steps to order online or pick up a purchase. Even if this isn’t new for your company, it might be for customers, so walk them through the process.
- Meet them where they are. Show customers you understand their new pain points and provide information to help resolve those issues. Apple created content around preparing their devices for working remotely. That shows they understand their customers’ needs and are doing something about it.
- Tell them what they need to do. For example, emails like “5 must-read books you need to read now,” “Organizations that need your support right now,” and “Top products to get you through the week,” create a sense of urgency and importance for the message.
- Make it fun. We all need a break from what’s going on around us, so send them an email to show your brand can give them just that. Some brands have sent out links to downloadable coloring sheets (because parents need all the help they can get right now), DIY activities, and information on online scavenger hunts on their site. Make hashtags people can use to share your activity to increase engagement. Here’s an example of how The Birmingham Candy Company created coloring pages.
2. Share something positive
There’s no lack of gloomy news out there, so let your emails be a bright spot for subscribers. Have an employee who did something amazing? Or, did your company do something to help out customers or the community? Anything positive you can share right now will stand out from the other “a message from our CEO” emails.
As Mr. Rogers told his television viewers, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” And now more than ever, people are wanting to see who those people are and if they can be a part of that change. Do312 sent an email showing where service industry workers could find donated meals, showing a service and also a feel-good story.
3. Walk the walk
Socially responsible content marketing is even more important now during the pandemic, especially in the wake of causes like Black Lives Matter. When messages are done correctly, they can catch subscribers’ attention and make them more loyal to the brand. Consumers want to know what brands stand for, and 75 percent are likely to start shopping with a company that supports an issue they agree with. But, creating a campaign based on a movement or value only works if it resonates with your brand.
People want to see authentic messaging, not a brand trying to attach itself to a cause because it’s a hot topic. For example, McDonald’s earned some backlash for its “One of Us” campaign that spotlighted black victims of violence.
It wasn’t about the content itself, but people took issue with how the company has been perceived to not take care of their employees — who are predominantly black — during the COVID crisis. The campaign also states the company will donate money to organizations but doesn’t give more specifics than that.
To show consumers your brand walks the walk, only create campaigns around causes that align with (and make sense for) your brand’s values and customers. The messaging shouldn’t sound forced or like it’s coming out of left field. Find a way to relate what you’re supporting to the brand, like how personal-care company Dove created a campaign around ending hair discrimination.
Give real examples of what the company is doing to support the cause — and bonus points if you can include images or videos in your emails with examples of what the brand has done.
4. Show brand’s expertise
The best email campaigns showcase why your brand should be their leading source for products, service, and information. With so much unknown right now, people are looking even more for answers. So, use your emails to highlight your brand’s expertise.
Realtor.com has created content around the coronavirus that relates to the home market. The topics obviously are relevant to the brand’s industry, as well as current events. When you can create content that makes your brand sound like a thought leader and resonates with readers, you’ve found the sweet spot in email marketing.
Ask yourself how the virus or other current issues have affected your customers and then create campaigns that provide information and guidance on those topics. You can also get an idea for topics people are interested in in your industry by searching keywords related to your brand on Google (ex. real estate). From the Google Search page, scroll down until you see the “People also ask” section. This will show you what questions people are asking related to your search words so you can proactively answer them.
Just don’t make this mistake
Planning ahead has become nearly impossible in recent months, and it could actually be a bad thing for your email marketing. If you have any scheduled posts that were created before COVID, you’ll need to go back and make sure they are still relevant and sensitive to the current way of life. Also, make sure not to use words or phrases that don’t go over well now, like killer (ex. killer deals), sick, survive, or fears.
Even if the content works for a pandemic, make sure the images do as well. Seeing photos of large crowds or other current no-no’s might not sit well with your audience. Every brand is in the same boat right now trying to figure out how to weather the storm. So, watch what other companies are doing right (and wrong) with their email marketing, and see how your brand can incorporate those strategies.
We really are in this together. But, let’s all get a little more creative with how we tell consumers.
Lauren H. Dowdle is an award-winning writer who lives in Hoover, Ala. She creates engaging content on marketing trends, best practices, and the green industry.