Email Marketing During A Crisis

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I have been talking with many clients about email strategy during the current COVID-19 crisis. How much to email? Who to send the emails to? What to say? These are all tough questions and the answers vary depending on your type of business.

If you are a non-essential business and you have had to temporarily shut down, a simple notification that you are offline, a number or email to use in case of emergency and a promise to notify all concerned when you are back up and running is the best plan. The majority of businesses are either essential or offering limited services during this challenging time. The discussion below is for those businesses.

1.  Be a resource to those actively engaged with your business.

COVID-19 messages are designed to go to those customers that you are actively engaged with so don’t send them to your entire database. Restrict it to active customers and those that you have engaged with within the limits of your normal sales cycle. If these guidelines do not make sense, use 6-12 months as a guideline. The risk here is high opt-outs, spam complaints, and general recipient malaise which could negatively affect your ability to use email to communicate with your customers during these difficult times.

2.  Be honest about the reality of the current situation.

Inbox activity is up 27% according to World Data. People are opening and reading emails that acknowledge the current situation. They are at home staying in touch via email and opening and reading communications that provide information on the things that are important to them. Let your customer base know what you are doing to keep your customers and your team safe during these unprecedented times.

3.  Be a solid resource for your customers.  Be a good neighbor.

Respond quickly to changes in status, and be sensitive and compassionate to the realities of sheltering in place and maintaining social distance. Making jokes about the current crisis is risky at best and offensive at worst. Provide solutions to the unique challenges of sheltering in place and working from home. If you have a product in high demand or can provide a service over and above your usual set of services, provide it and be sensitive to the effect that raising prices or overcharging could have on long term customer relationships. Be careful about being perceived as capitalizing on fear, but rather try to provide services and perspective that make your customers feel safer and less afraid.

4.  BE a believer in the metrics.

Use the data on your email program to analyze how your COVID-19 emails performed. If clicks and opens are low, re-evaluate what value your email is providing your recipient. If opt-outs are high, evaluate your content to be sure that you are providing solutions and helpful information. Don’t ignore what your audience is telling you about your email approach.

Bottom Line:

Email inboxes are literally overflowing with COVID-19 messages. Be sure to communicate with those who NEED and WANT to hear from you. This is not a time to promote your brand or pat yourself on the back for following the government guidelines. Give helpful information and keep your engaged customer base informed. Remember that this will not last forever, and you have an opportunity for your customers to remember how you supported their needs during a crisis. Please do not squander that opportunity.

Here are some resources that I would recommend for additional information on this subject:

Email Marketing for Sensitive Times 

Really Good Emails, Emergency Email Collection 

Email First: The New Normal for Keeping You Connected to Customers in Challenging Times 

Eric Van Cleave is the Co-CEO and Digital Marketing Director for TIV Branding


TIV Branding is a boutique branding firm in Sonoma County, California. We specialize in building brands by using traditional, social and digital channels in unison. If you would like to discuss a project or find out more about how we do what we do, please email us at