As the world disengages to try to contain the coronavirus known as COVID-19, one location is even busier than usual: the inbox. A rising tide of brands is taking to email to reach customers directly with news and information about their response to the pandemic.
Email is a logical choice because the intimacy of the inbox gives brands the direct connection they need to reassure and inform customers directly. They might not go to a website, see a tweet or read a Facebook post, but more often than not, customers will get the email.
A quick survey shows many brands are ditching their regular email templates for a stripped-down letter, usually over the signature of a CEO, VP or customer-facing executive and a subject line with “A Note From” or “A Message from.”
This one from the Kroger Co., with the subject line “A Message from The Kroger Co. CEO Rodney McMullen About the Coronavirus – We’re Here for Our Customers & Communities,” is typical of many in the archive.
These two steps will help you send a worthwhile message that will hit the inbox, where you intend:
1. Be sure your mailing list is as up to date as possible.
If you need to send your message out soon, you might not have time to do a full list cleanse. Review your most recent deliveries and be sure that any undeliverable addresses or addresses that generated spam complaints have been removed.
You can do a quick check to see what shape your list is in by using our secure Free List Check tool to gauge how much of your list includes valid addresses, duplicates, undeliverable and deliverable but problematic addresses.
Consider segmenting your list and sending only to your active customers, especially if you’re a high-volume sender. These are the people who will be most interested in your information.
Then, after you send, track deliverability closely to track activity, especially unsubscribes and spam complaints.
Also, resist the urge to send your message to every list you own, including some you have not messaged in months or years.
2. Design a message that will build your brand equity, not ding it.
Many of the emails we found in the Archive look and sound more like legal briefs than one-to-one conversations with customers. Consider these ideas:
- Your legal team can specify what content your message should include, but let your marketing team handle the creative.
- Send the message in a format your customers would expect, as well. Use a message template that you have tested and thoroughly debugged instead of creating something new.
- A little humor and personality is great, but avoid anything that could be perceived as cringe-worthy.
- Make your message useful. Everybody is monitoring the latest news on COVID-19. What are you changing, like procedures, adding protocols or canceling events or shipments? That’s what customers want to know. Include a link or phone number people can call for information or reassurance.
- Get to the point. Use headers, bullet points and boldface to organize your message and make key points stand out.
- Write an attention-getting subject line. Look at your inbox and count how many emails start with variations on “A Note from.” Need ideas? See our list of 10 notable subject lines farther down in this post.
5 Emails to Copy
Subject Line: Get Coronavirus Information and Updates.
This health-focused email speaks to the issues that are top of mind for consumers: how to get information and what they can do to stay healthy. The flu-shot recommendation is an excellent example: It looks like a sales pitch but it explains the benefit: not getting unnecessarily tested for COVID-19.
Subject line: Preparing for Coronavirus… We’re On It.
This email combines both the reassurance customers are looking for and new policies the company has implemented to manage shortages. We also like seeing the list of low-supply or out-of-stocks at the bottom of the message.
SL: Connect with Calming Puppies
Orvis’ email is more a response to the current climate of doubt, fear, uncertainty and worry than a legal brief, but we’re good with that. And we will bet the rent that the subject line delivered a great open rate.
Subject line: A letter from our CEO
So, your executive team wants a message that looks serious and not like a promotional email. Okay, you can deal with that. This email from Subway retains the look and feel of the brand and organizes the text information for easy reading.
Subject line: Staying in? Save on the staples you need.
It would be easy to accuse Big Lots of trying to cash in on panic buying, but as more companies cancel events and send workers home, it just makes sense to focus on the products your customers will be looking for. If we had designed this email, we would have moved up the “Buy online, pick up in store” promotion higher, but the design encourages scrolling, so people likely will find it.
10 subject lines to consider:
COVID-19: What You Might Need If You’re Quarantined at Home
What we’re doing to keep you safe.
Keeping our eyes on the horizon
Create a boredom-free indoor zone PT: Goods to help drive away the stir-crazies if you’re stuck indoors
DUN-DUN! WE’RE ALL GOING TO GO STIR CRAZY IN QUARANTINE
Announcing Non-Contact Deliveries
What’s the word on COVID-19 from Virgin Hotels
Keeping Our Eyes on the Horizon
Keith, we’re working to keep your travels safe
Packers to close public operations at Lambeau Field, Titletown for two weeks.